A landlord provides a habitable house, apartment or other rental unit for a tenant. One aspect of a habitable residence is the plumbing system. The plumbing system must be in good working order and attached to a sewage disposal system. When a public utility is not available, a septic tank located near the residence collects the wastewater.
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Description of a Septic System
A septic tank is an underground tank that collects wastewater from a house. The heavy solids sink to the bottom of the tank, where they are partially decomposed by bacteria. A pipe directs the water from the septic tank to a distribution box and into perforated pipes. The wastewater then seeps into the soil underneath the pipes.
Landlords are responsible for providing a working toilet, washbasin and bathtub or shower. All of these devices are attached to the septic system. If the plumbing system doesn't work properly, the landlord makes repairs. The landlord also provides regular maintenance for the septic system. It may be necessary to have the tank pumped every few years to remove excessive sludge.
Tenants are required to operate the plumbing fixtures properly. This includes keeping paper towels, disposable diapers and other large objects out of the drain. It also includes not pouring fats and oils down the drain and running the water unnecessarily. Outside, tenants should not drive or park vehicles over the septic system or plant trees close to the system.
Signs of Problems
When a septic system begins to malfunction, septic odours are often noticed. The toilet may work slowly or back up. Drains in sinks and showers fail to drain water. Standing water may be observed over or near the septic tank.
Notification by Tenants
If the septic system doesn't work properly, the tenant must notify the landlord immediately. The landlord makes the repairs quickly, especially if the toilet, sink or shower drains aren't working.
Landlord Fails to Repair Septic System
If the landlord does not make repairs to plumbing facilities in a reasonable period of time, the tenant may have a few options. Depending on the state laws, the tenant may make the repairs or hire someone to make the repairs and deduct the bill from the rent. If the problems are very serious and make the rental unit uninhabitable, the tenants may move out or withhold rent until the repairs are made.
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- California Department of Consumer Affairs; California Tenants Book: Dealing With Problems; 2010
- California Department of Consumer Affairs; California Tenants Book: Having Repairs Made; 2010
- University of Maryland; Septic Systems and Their Maintenance; Thomas H. Miller; April 2007
- University of Georgia; Septic Tank Maintenance and Care; Cecil Hammond, et al.
- Tacoma-Pierce County Washington Health Department: Searching for a Healthy Home