Toilet back up

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Latest post 05-25-2008 1:06 PM by adjuster jack. 26 replies.
  • 05-20-2008 9:43 AM

    Question [=?] Toilet back up

    I'm a landlord of a 4 plex in Pasco, Washington.

    I had a toilet back up right after check out of a tenant and before another moved in. The whole two bedroom unit(1200 sq. ft) was under water. The tenant had moved out a week prior. The property manager had maintainence persons inside the unit after check out to fix some things .The handyman states the toliet was not used by him. The property mgr states she didn't use it. No other keys would have been avaiable.

    The plumber came out intially and found nothing but replaced some working parts in toliet. After repairing the entire apartment the new tenants moved in and complained the toilet wasn't working properly. The plumber went out again and found a child toothbrush lodged inside the toliet pea trap.

    The previous tenants had 3 children. The apartment is newly built and this tenant with children was the first tenent ever to occupy the unit.

    The property management company as well as the tenants didn't want to take any responsibility for this loss. For simplicity for all - I routed this through my insurance carrier. The loss was denied due to overflowing toilet not covered -so they said.

    Please help me determine who is actually at fault. I'm a very fair person and have tried mediating this with all parties but nobody wants to be held reponsible.

    What are your thoughts???
  • 05-20-2008 10:31 AM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 49,519

    re: Toilet back up


    While the source of a jammed toothbrush may be obvious in your fact pattern you may still have some problems to prove it. That said, I don't see why you don't claim the damages against your prior tenants security deposit and bill them for any excess--and be sure to follow your state rules for security deposits. And you most likely will wind up in L-T court so follow the rules to a T.

    We have no clue what you insurance coverage says in the fine print--but rest assured you become a candidte to get dropped and blackballed for small claims--sometimes even if you drop them you remain flagged.

    Being fair won't get $$ collected for you.



  • 05-20-2008 12:00 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    "The loss was denied due to overflowing toilet not covered -so they said."

    "So they said"?

    What does that mean?

    Are you accusing your insurance company of lying to you about your coverage?

    Insurance companies almost invariably cite the terms and conditions of the policy that apply to the denial.

    Were you actually to read your policy, you'd be able to confirm whether the loss was covered or not.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 05-20-2008 2:22 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    I believe that it falls under flooding but not sure.

    I agree; making a claim can be a major hassle if they drop you. I had a fire, made a claim, they dropped me and It was 3 years and thousands of dollars in "High Risk" insurance before I could get a reasonable rate again.

    Some thoughts on the Tooth Brush. While they could be liable for the costs of the plumber to remove the brush, I would argue that the fact the unit was vacant and the toilet allowed to flow for days on end without being checked is not my fault. I would also wonder how a stuck tooth brush could possibly cause the tank to continue to run.

    Generally the toilet would overflow but only a few gallons until the float inside the tank shut the water off. I would argue that the faulty tank part is normal wear and tear and not my fault.

    The last person to flush could be liable but proving who did and if they were negligent for not staying until the water tank stopped filling. Most reasonable people would normally not stand there and wait.

  • 05-20-2008 2:51 PM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: Toilet back up

    I may add that I have a Property Manager since I'm an out of state investor.

    We have done what you suggested but the tenant choose not to pay and hired an attorney for protection. The funny thing is that the move out walk thorough didn't indicate any toilet issues or any during her occupancy. So the security deposit was returned. The damages are nearly $3000 but the property managent nor the prior tenant wants to take responsibility.

    Any more help?
  • 05-20-2008 2:54 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    I agree that the toilet valve failing to close would probably be wear and tear unless you found evidence that it had been tampered with, and you didn't mention it, so I assume it hadn't.

    And I think that is where the flooding had to come from.

  • 05-20-2008 3:04 PM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: Toilet back up

    First off- I'm a retired insurance executive so reading the policy before I made the claim was a given. I never indicated that any insurance company is lying to me.

    I gave my agent the details and my apprehension to file a claim due to the water loss nature. My loss was $3000 give or take and possible future cabinetry replacement. He stated this would be a loss that would be covered and that you have been a paying client for many years -claim free. So I filed based upon that.

    I have a property manager since I'm out of state. I was told by their plumber that the childs toothbrush caused the overflow and damage. I filed the claim based upon that knowledge. As I said --I was denied.

    Since the property manager doesn't want to take responsibility- they are stating as of yesterday that it may have been something other than the toothbrush.

    Most policies cover over flow sudden and accidental-at least that is what I understand!




  • 05-20-2008 3:04 PM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: Toilet back up

    First off- I'm a retired insurance executive so reading the policy before I made the claim was a given. I never indicated that any insurance company is lying to me.

    I gave my agent the details and my apprehension to file a claim due to the water loss nature. My loss was $3000 give or take and possible future cabinetry replacement. He stated this would be a loss that would be covered and that you have been a paying client for many years -claim free. So I filed based upon that.

    I have a property manager since I'm out of state. I was told by their plumber that the childs toothbrush caused the overflow and damage. I filed the claim based upon that knowledge. As I said --I was denied.

    Since the property manager doesn't want to take responsibility- they are stating as of yesterday that it may have been something other than the toothbrush.

    Most policies cover over flow sudden and accidental-at least that is what I understand!




  • 05-21-2008 2:40 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    "Most policies cover over flow sudden and accidental-at least that is what I understand!"

    The typical wording for that coverage is:

    "Accidental Discharge Or Overflow Of Water Or Steam. This peril means accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or auto-matic fire protective sprinkler system or from within a household appliance."

    The typical water damage exclusion says:

    "Water or water-borne material which backs up through sewers or drains or which overflows or is discharged from a sump, sump pump or related equipment"


    If the toothbrush caused the overflow by preventing solid waste matter from being flushed, then there would be no coverage.

    If a malfunction of the toilet mechanism occurred there would be coverage.


    As to who is responsible, the unfortunate consequences of being a landlord is that the landlord often gets stuck with the bill no matter who is responsible. Been there many times while owning rentals for 20 years. It happens.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 05-21-2008 8:41 PM In reply to

    Question [=?] re: Toilet back up

    Thanks for the info Jack!

    There is some clear question now. The plumber indicated it was the cause but two attys feel possibly malfuction in combination.

    Your explanation was exactly what my policy reads.

    Is it worth my while to revisit the claim now that my property managers atty is stating that in fact a toothbrush most likely couldn't cause that kind of damage. Most likely a malfunction as well. They have advised me to revisit.

    This loss happen at Thanksgiving time last year.
  • 05-21-2008 9:12 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    "Is it worth my while to revisit the claim now that my property managers atty is stating that in fact a toothbrush most likely couldn't cause that kind of damage. Most likely a malfunction as well. They have advised me to revisit."

    I agree.

    If there is any evidence that the toilet mechanism malfunctioned, I'd certainly call your claim rep and have him take another look at it.

    As a claim rep, I reopened claims hundreds of times and reversed my decisions based on new information, even many months later.

    Trouble is, I wouldn't have done that based on what an attorney said about plumbing.

    But something has crossed my mind about your earlier post. You said the plumber replaced some parts that were working. Why did he do that? Was it done after the flood? And do you have the invoice showing what parts were replaced? Were the old parts retained?


    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 05-22-2008 1:15 PM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: Toilet back up

    After the flood- our property manager handyman went in to check the toilet out. I believe that he changed the flap but I will confirm with them. I think he replaced it just for safety sake but unsure. At this point, my manager stated nothing more was found at that time.

    Another new tenant moved in 1 week after the flood clean up-she called the manager to say the toilet was slow. At this point - we told her send out a plumber to view the toilet. That is when he found a child toothbrush in the pea trap. He felt this was the cause but I'm sure he was guessing.

    The building was newly build (2006) before the prior tenant moved in with 3 children. She was the first tenant to live in the unit after the building phase. She lived there for 1 year with no plumbing issues in the unit. Upon move out the property manager did a walk thorough and cleared any issues and refunded the security deposit. Then my property manager had a handyman in the unit that claimed he didn't flush the toilet. He stands adament to that fact. So the PM doesn't feel any responsibility.

    So we are just trying to determine where the fault lies. Any input from you would be helpful.
  • 05-22-2008 4:27 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    Did the overflow water contain effluent or was it clear?



    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 05-22-2008 6:51 PM In reply to

    Feedback [*=*] re: Toilet back up

    I am not certain. But I believe it was clear since I wasn't told otherwise.

    The property managment company did tell me her handyman found a bit of sand material but not great amounts in the toilet.
  • 05-22-2008 11:39 PM In reply to

    re: Toilet back up

    Sounds like that management company is keeping you in the dark about a lot of things.

    As an adjuster I didn't analyze without facts. And neither should you.

    You need to find out for sure what the water condition was and what/why the plumber replaced some parts.

    And now this business about sand. I have no clue as to what that's all about.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
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