Starting Your Rental Empire? What Plumbing Arrangements Should You Make?

Whether you've recently chosen to place your own home into rental service after moving to a new place or have decided to purchase a home to rent out to others, you may be equal parts nervous and excited about officially becoming a landlord. Although regularly receiving rent checks each month can seem like easy money, there are also a number of logistical arrangements you'll need to make before selecting your renters -- from drafting a lease agreement to turning on utilities to painting or recarpeting. If the house you're planning to rent is one with older pipes or kitchen and bathroom appliances, you may want to have a thorough plumbing inspection before placing this home into rental service; you might also want to develop a business relationship with an area plumber to ensure you have access to emergency plumbing services at all times of day and night. Read on to learn more about the plumbing issues you'll want to consider before renting out a home.

What are your duties when it comes to plumbing maintenance of a home you rent to others? 

Although it's perfectly fine for you to require that your tenants pay their own water or sewage bills, there are still a few legal requirements and restrictions when it comes to water and plumbing access. This first legal restriction is habitability. Failure to maintain a habitable residence could allow your tenants to stop paying you rent or even to sue you for monetary damages in civil court. This type of habitability violation can span everything from lack of heat in winter (or air conditioning in summer) to no working plumbing, rickety or broken stairs, or a vermin infestation. If you fail to address a habitability issue in time, the tenant may be legally permitted to hire his or her own repairperson to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost of these repairs from his or her next rent check.

This means that if your tenants are dealing with a plumbing problem for more than a few days and must vacate their rental as a result of this issue (or while the plumbing problem is being repaired), you could be required to pay the costs of your tenants' temporary lodging or face a lawsuit for liquidated damages due to your tenants' inability to remain in their home while the plumbing problem is being treated. You're also required to ensure that your rental home's construction complies with all state and local building codes. Certain code violations can result in hefty civil penalties, so a periodic inspection of the rental property (or at least a cursory exterior inspection) should help you keep an eye on whether your employees or tenants are following the law.

What are your most cost-effective options when it comes to keeping your rental home's pipes flowing?

Few aspects of being a landlord are more frustrating or inconvenient than having to tackle a plumbing emergency late at night or on the weekend. Because of this, it can be beneficial to make prior arrangements with an emergency plumber who can work on your rental property's plumbing, rather than having to try the DIY approach while your renters watch. By paying a modest retainer to your favorite plumber each month (regardless of whether you actually use his or her services), you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that a plumber is always on call to handle any of the plumbing issues you may be having in your rental homes.

Preventing plumbing problems is also key. If your rental home has a septic tank, you'll want to encourage your renters to throw used toilet paper away in the trash can, rather than flushing it and increasing your likelihood of a major clog in the pipes.