ABC13 Renters' Rights: Who's responsible for plumbing issues?

Courtney Carpenter Image
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
ABC13 Renters' Rights: Who's responsible for plumbing issues?
A tenant in Baytown paid a $435 bill for plumbing issues she says she didn't cause, but management has yet to explain why she's to blame and is still living with clogged appliances.

BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- You may have heard that laws generally favor landlords over tenants in Texas.

ABC13 has a warning for renters after a Baytown woman got stuck paying more than $400 for a plumbing bill due to an issue she says wasn't her fault.

"I just want to use my kitchen sink and my bathroom, wash my clothes, live like a normal person," Traci Owens, a renter, explained.

It doesn't seem like too much to ask. But for months now, this is Owens' reality.

Her kitchen sink is so clogged she can barely use it. Owens said her washing machine backs up into the shower, and her toilet sometimes flushes.

This all happened after she was stuck paying a $435 plumbing bill she wasn't expecting.

"The owner said it was my fault. So I had to pay the bill," Owens explained.

Typically, landlords cover plumbing problems unless they are caused by the tenant.

ABC13 reached out to 360 Realty and Property Management, and they doubled down, saying they believe Owens caused the plumbing problems.

Management said she has to pay the bill, though they have yet to give Owens an explanation or the plumber as to why the issues were her fault.

On that same phone call, though, they told ABC13 they were planning to replace all of the plumbing pipes at the townhome.

Is this a coincidence? Eyewitness News asked an attorney.

At this point, since Owens has paid off the bill, there's no easy path to any recourse.

Here's what you need to know if someone comes to make a repair where you rent. Document what you can and do your best to get the cause of the problem in writing.

If you get stuck with a bill from your landlord that you don't think is your responsibility, you can tell your landlord you'll be paying under protest and take the issue to a justice of the peace court.

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Do you have questions about your rent? Are you struggling to get help from a landlord? Send ABC13 your questions, and we will look into it.