Rental issues-- wha...
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Rental issues-- what is fair?

Posts: 21
Eminent Member
Topic starter

I am in search of advice regarding a problem with my home and the owner of the house.
There are various people who work on the running of the properties owned by
one person.

The owner, Jack, owns numerous houses and businesses spaces.
Joanne serves as secretary for his affairs.
John is the general handy man for plumbing or other indoor issues.
Wiley decides what things need to be done to the outdoors of the properties.
Me, I moved down to USVI for a job a few months back and loved the house.

There are a couple of snags :

1. pest control
When I moved into the lovely house it had been inhabited for a bit. The place had a good number of pests. I asked Joanne and John the handyman about what the pesticide setup was. He said the owner handled the outside and I should pay for the inside. Joanne said that the people who do the outside would do the inside. I never got a hold of those people. They never showed up to do inside or outside. Never saw them or heard from them. There were roaches and centipedes, brown recluse spiders, and finally rats. So, I got a contract with Terminix to come each month at 90 smackers a visit.
In December my landlord tells me that I should have paid for the pesticide people all along and he wants me to pay the backpay for the people who I never did hear from, never did see, and certainly never let into my house!
I told him that they never came.
He insists I have to pay him for these services he thinks have been rendered.
What do you guys think?
I plan on saying I want proof that they visited my house and I will pay from now on if and only if I see them come and perform their work under my supervision. I loathe the idea that people were supposed to be wandering about my house without my knowledge!

2. More difficult situation
Two weeks after moving into the house my water faucets spout mud. I learn from Wiley that the Cistern went dry. John the handyman scolds me for using too much water and says he will buy water this time but in the future I'll have to do it myself. Only 10 days after it is filled my mother who is visiting ends up with no water mid-shower. I ask Wiley what is going on. He explains that the electricity had gone out and when that happens we can't use the water. Since my mother had turned on the water a switch was triggered and now that switch would have to be manually turned on. He took care of that.
What I didnt know at the time is that the water that will come out of every faucet in my house afterwards comes through the toilet tanks.
WHen they flip the switch they check the cistern and learn the water had dropped considerably suggesting we have a leak.

So, they detach my cistern.
They hook up the garden hose from my neighbor Wiley's house to the garden faucet of my house and turn on wiley's garden hose to push water into my house from my outdoor faucet.
Needless to say the water pressure quality and general reliability of this (Wiley still needed to use his hose and he didn't want to have his water running 24/7) was unsatisfactory to say the least. For WEEKS this was the set up for my water supply for a rental that I pay over 1,000 dollars for! At some point I plop bleach cleaning tabs with blue cleaner into my toilet tanks while cleaning the house.
The next time I go to take a shower the water comes out bright blue. I have impressive photos! Suddenly it becomes clear that the water that comes from the shower, the faucet, the kitchen faucet, etc. runs through the toilet tanks for some reason. These toilet tanks are not new. Remember the house was inoccupied for long stretches of time--months, years?. Those tanks have all kinds of algae and such in them. Plus the bleach chemical cleaner I had put.

I tell everyone. Only when I send pics to people believe it. It is strange and incredible to John and Wiley but they come out and try to figure out what is happening. For days this continues. Meanwhile I am paying full rent for a place that has no running potable water! They claim to fix the problem. A few weeks later, the water is blue coming out of the faucets again.
At this point they come and try to fix things again.
Despite my request that they employ a real plumber only John works on the problem.
They have determined that when the pump switches off during a WAPA outage, the water will be suctioned out of the toilet tank backwards when next it comes back on. So, as long as I don't try to use water during a WAPA outage things should be fine.
Still. I am not a plumber and would prefer a plumber make an assessment.
I also now want the water to be chemically tested to ensure that it is safe for bathing. I don't drink it or even cook with it.
I've asked the owner of my property to have the water tested and to credit me a portion of rent for my weeks spend with little or no water supply. He does not care to do so. He wants me to do the chemical test and pay for it myself. He does not think I was inconvenienced in any way and so have no claim to any kind of compensation or rental credit.

I really wanted this wrapped up before I return from a trip off island.
Apparently I will return to a home where I will still not be sure what the quality of my water is.

Posted : January 3, 2015 11:46 am
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

The first issue is (and before an answer can be given to most of your questions), do you have a lease and, if so, what does it say about maintenance and repairs? What does it say about utilities and water?

The water problems render your unit legally uninhabitable and you certainly shouldn't be required to pay for water testing.

Lease terms first before getting into general habitability/maintenance and repair issues.

Posted : January 3, 2015 12:45 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

Move if the situations with your rental and landlord cannot be rectified. Document everything as you may have to go to small claims court to get your deposit back or any reimbursements.

I've never heard of a situation where water that will come out of every faucet in a house comes through the toilet tanks. That's bizarre!

Since the landlord won't pay to have the water tested, you may wish to go ahead and do that yourself, if concerned (and I would be) about the quality of the water. You can ask for reimbursement if you go to small claims court.

You can have Terminix come every other month which is what I do for my property. I am pest free with this service.

It sounds like the cistern needs to be cleaned and resealed as it probably has a small leak if you're going thru that much water.
Additionally, the pipe for the cistern water should not be so low to the bottom that your sucking up muddy water when it's empty.

You can't run the water when the power goes out as it will empty the water in the pipes and create a vacuum. Sometimes, you can use the switch on the pump to restart but it may also have to get bled in which case, call a plumber.

The court can decide whether you should be reimbursed should you and your landlord not be able to come to an amicable terms.
Read your lease carefully to see all the situations it addresses.

The landlord is going to have the same problems with a new tenant so it would behoove him to resolve them, IMO.

If going to court, take pictures, document expenses and correspondence.

Posted : January 3, 2015 1:12 pm
Posts: 1914
Noble Member

I'm no plumber, and this shouldn't be your responsibility but,.......If water is syphoning back, the check valve (foot valve) in the cistern could be the culprit.

If the water IS syphoning back you should have very poor water pressure when you first open a faucet, then it would get better as pressure built back up.

The foot valve is attached to the suction or feed line in the cistern. Generally you can access this pipe from the cistern lid. If you can access it, see if it has a coupling or is threaded on. Either way, see if you can detached the pipe and pull it up. "careful not to drop it !" Then fill the pipe from the top and see if it drains out the bottom through the foot valve.

For the toilet water to back up though,....?? Water cannot be "routed through the toilet." It seems that the fill valve is leaking by. Which could be why all your water is gone??? Does the toilet "run"? A very small leak can waste tons of water over time!!!

If both the foot valve and toilet fill valve are leaking, "Blue" water could back all the way into the cistern.

Both of these are relatively easy and inexpensive to check and repair.
Ask the guys if they have ruled these out.

Posted : January 3, 2015 2:22 pm
Exit Zero
Posts: 2460
Famed Member

Document what the problems were - consult the lease for your responsibilities - and find a new house while you decide if you have spent enough money fixing things on your own to go to small claims court for reimbursement.

Posted : January 3, 2015 3:26 pm
Posts: 2138
Noble Member

Before going to small claims court, first try to resolve the matter directly with the owner. It may save you the extra work of going to court.

Posted : January 3, 2015 5:16 pm
Posts: 2437
Noble Member

.If water is syphoning back, the check valve (foot valve) in the cistern could be the culprit. .

Regarding the plumbing details, toilet tanks aren't toilet bowels and the two are only connected by a gravity feed in residential toilets. The water is not going through the toilet tanks to get to the faucets but it could flow out of the tanks in reverse back into the supply lines.

If you lose pump pressure in the system then gravity may reverse the flow of water into the supply lines from wherever is a higher pressure, i.e. higher elevation. This could be from the cistern if it's higher than the supply lines or from toilet tanks or hot water heater. The problem will be made more noticeable if you open a faucet at a lower elevation and the water may be drawn from higher elevations, either from the higher pipes or any tanks.

This is the reason why back-flow prevention valves are required under current plumbing codes on irrigation systems and outdoor hose bibs. If your outdoor hose bibs had back-flow prevention valves you would not have been able to connect the two houses together with a hose. Toilet tanks are not considered a source of contamination and therefore back-flow prevention is not normally a concern. The toilet tanks are probably no worse than the cistern.

The flush valve could be leaking which could explain missing water from the cistern as well as reverse flow from the tank into the lines. Or someone could have tried to flush the toilet while there is no pressure which could allow some water to flow in reverse if it doesn't all make it to the bowl first. It won't take much blue dye from the tank to be noticeable in the supply lines.

So it sounds like you (landlord) need to determine if there are any leaks and address those, check/replace any leaking toilet valves (not expensive), and perhaps check the plumbing at the cistern to make sure it's proper after reviewing your lease to figure out who is responsible for what. There are other threads talk in detail about water filter options as well.

Posted : January 3, 2015 10:02 pm
Posts: 74
Trusted Member

Life is too short to be constantly enduring such unresolved maintenance issues. However, there are always two sides to a story and many of the issues depend on the written lease.

My first apartment in STT had a rat living inside the kitchen behind the stove. The landlord did nothing!!! I caught several rats inside the apartment during the two years that I lived there. I also removed hundreds of yellow jacket nests under the patio. It was easier to do myself than the stress of waiting on landlord.

Hopefully, you can resolve matters with your current landlord. If not, you should probably find another rental property where you can live without the maintenance stress.

Posted : January 3, 2015 11:10 pm
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

Bugs are one thing - maintenance issues such as plumbing are never a tenant's responsibility and should never be done by a tenant unless with the explicit written permission of the landlord..

Posted : January 3, 2015 11:16 pm
Posts: 21
Eminent Member
Topic starter

I have continuously pointed out that the toilets in both bathrooms have leaks. Indeed the infamous "blue" water made it quite clear as it turned the floor around the toilets blue about a foot in circumference.

They bought new toilets and stuff (according to John) but they still run and leak. It is time for a freaking PLUMBER!!!

About the lease. I don't have it with me so I'll have to go from memory.
It states that I am supposed to contact their preferred handyman, John who will take care of things. If I hire a plumber or an electrician instead then I will pay the professional and I am NOT supposed to subtract that amount from my rent.

The lease says that I pay for my WAPA portion by giving my neighbor, Wiley the property chief, the sum he announces I owe him at the start of the month. He and I are on the same bill so he splits it with me paying a little less than half since he has a wife and child.
The water is taken care of unless I waste water and then it is on me to buy water to fill the cistern.

Honestly I am dreading returning to STX to a house that will be overrun with who knows what kinds of critters, that will not have a welcoming shower after 26 hours of traveling, that will not have WIFI or other means of communicating with the people I love who I will be once again far away from.

I just moved in.
It was only in November that I put my bookcases and hundreds of books in order. Moving elsewhere would be exhausting. Plus I'm broke now anyway.
I'm really bitter and sad. Defeated.

Posted : January 3, 2015 11:38 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

As a landlord, I always have my tenants call me, if there are any plumbing or electrical issues or any other problems. I have a lease that addresses most issues that arise. I rent my properties in "maid clean" and operable condition. It's better to deal, immediately, with situations that arise, than neglect or ignore them or to be unhappy with the tenants or have them unhappy.

I've also had to go to court when tenants have not been even close to being responsible and causing damages to the property.

Luckily, I have a great LICENSED plumber, electrician and others I trust to deal with any maintenance issues.

Also, presently have great tenants for the last few years. Hard to find!

Posted : January 3, 2015 11:49 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

Just read your latest post.
Yikes! Sounds like John's got a good deal.
As a landlord, I would have water and electricity usage split between the amount of people who are using it.

I believe in treating people, fairly.

Posted : January 4, 2015 12:00 am
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