Beware of unfair rent deduction

Leaky toilet snowballs into $600 water bill

Q: My husband and I own a duplex. Our situation is that we have a tenant who had a leaky toilet, and the water bill was in excess of $600 for two months. She deducted half of the amount from her rent and claims that it is our responsibility to pay half the bill.

First of all, she waited about a month before she called my husband to say the toilet was leaking. Second, it leaked so much that we also had to replace the ceramic tiles on the floor. Third, can she just deduct amounts from her rent without discussing it with us?

Also, she is by no means a good tenant. She is always late with the rent; we have settled for less back rent than she owed; and we will not renew her contract when it is up. So, is it our responsibility to pay for the water bill because of the toilet?

A: You are responsible for the water bill only if you were aware of the problem with the toilet and did not make the necessary repairs in a timely manner. It sounds like your tenant pays her own water bill directly. This is generally a good idea and one I recommend — unless your rental property has a yard with landscaping, and then you run the risk that the tenant will not sufficiently water the grounds and you would lose your landscaping.