Here is a question to the blog clinic from Madge (not her real name) who is a tenant
I am a tenant in a house sharing with 3 others. There are two bathrooms in the house, I rent the room on the top floor and ‘share’ the bathroom with a male housemate.
At the beginning of the month, the toilet blocked and disgusting water seeped up the plughole in the bath. A plumber came out and removed the mess, he then showed me something called a sani flow which was hidden behind a panel in the wall. I had never heard of this thing until then and had no idea it was there. He explained that it pumped away ‘waste’ from the toilet, shower and sink.
He told me that it had been blocked with ‘female hygiene products’ and the motor had burned out. He then lectured me about what I should and shouldn’t be flushing down the loo.
The next day all of us received an email from the agent telling us that ‘sanitary towels’ had been found in the ‘drains’ and we would have to pay the plumber’s charge plus the cost of a replacement sani flow.
No sanitary towels had been flushed down the toilet, the ‘female hygiene products’ were in fact tampons which I have flushed down the toilet since I was 12 and no one has ever said anything about it before.
The sani flow has still not been replaced – there is a Do Not Use sign on the door. The agent has sent us a quote for a new sani flow, it cost us over £500.
My question is – do I have to pay for all these costs if:
a) I was never told there was a sani flow in the bathroom
b) Flushing tampons down the toilet is not an uncommon practice.
c) The agents report alleges that sanitary towels were the cause, but this was incorrect
d) The report was completed by a MALE plumber whose use of a toilet is much less complicated than a woman!
Or should we just go to the council and report the landlord?
I think I agree with you on the whole. It all boils down to what is reasonable conduct.
First – if the toilet is especially sensitive to ‘female hygiene products’ then you should have been told this and warned not to flush them. I also think you should have been provided with a separate bin to put them in.
I agree that it is common for tampons to be flushed down the toilet, whereas it is generally understood that the considerably larger sanitary towels are likely to cause problems.
Which means that if tampons were going to cause problems, you should have been specifically warned of this.
My advice to landlords on this point is to warn new tenants in writing and maybe attach a copy of the written warning to the tenancy agreement. And put up a notice in the toilet. Prevention is always best..
As you had not been warned, then it was probably reasonable for you to flush the tampons, meaning (in my opinion) it is up to the landlord to cover the cost of repair. (Although as you now know about the problem, you should not flush them in future).
Whatever the cause, the landlord should arrange for the repairs to be done promptly as a toilet is an essential requirement in the home. So if it looks as if it is not going to be replaced, then yes, speak to the Council about it.
I think there is a strong argument for refusing to pay, or if you have already paid, for deducting the cost from your rent.
However if you do this, and if the landlord then deducts the cost from your deposit – bear in mind that this is not something that (if the dispute goes to adjudication) the adjudicator can deal with and he will probably find for the landlord.
So in that case you would need to ask for the dispute to be dealt with via the courts, as the Judge is empowered to deal with disrepair disputes and can also award compensation to tenants, if he considers it justified.
However court claims are more complex and take a long time so you may not want to do this.