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Septic Issues and my LandLord

CrowlestonCrowleston Registered User regular
edited January 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I've been renting a house for a while now and about a month after I moved in the Septic tank started having trouble. (It was filling to the top with Pads and Tampons) We called our landlord and got it pumped, at her cost as my roomates (all female) do not flush those products and there is no way we could have filled that thing up in a month even if they did. It ended up getting pumped 3 times for seemingly the same issue until the excavating company finally came to the conclusion that there was trouble with the leach field. Our landlord told us she was pricing options and would have it fixed over the summer, which is now last summer, and still today no fix. I've called her to ask what's up and she gave me a story about how she's in the process of selling another property of hers to pay for the fix. Apparently because it's such an old tank and we have about 4 big oak trees on the lot it's going to cost upwards of 10k.

We have it scheduled to be pumped every three weeks, and we can call to have it pumped when we feel it needs it. (All at no cost to us.) Even though it's pretty well maintained, we occasionally have to limit when we can do laundry, who can take a shower and when, and when we can do the dishes. It also occasionally smells, however we've recieved no complaints from any neighbors. My question is, what can I do to make this fix happen now? We pay a lot in rent and I feel like we aren't getting our rents worth as we have a large backyard that we can't use due to sewage flooding, and as stated we can't do anything water related without checking to see if it's alright. Isn't part of my rent for a large (would be) nice backyard? A friend suggested an anoymous call to health and safety so they'll force her to do it, but I'm worried that could make it so I now have nowhere to live. Any Advice?


tl;dr: Septic tank is busted and landlord is dragging her heals on the expensive fix. What should I do?

Crowleston on
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Posts

  • SipexSipex Registered User
    edited January 2010
    Not much you can do if she's telling the truth. Threatening legal action might work but going through with it will just draw the process out longer. At least she's being co-operative about the short term fix.

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  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    If your lease expressly mentions that you are paying for use of a back yard (it probably doesn't) you could probably get a reduction in your rent.

    She's remedying the situation, just not in a way that's to your liking. She's doing her best to ensure that it doesn't affect the habitability of your house, and until it does you probably don't have much of a recourse legally.

    FYI--replacing a septic tank and leech field is a long and disruptive process. The current situation may well be better than having your entire yard excavated with heavy machinery. Not to mention the fact that you will be left with a dirt covered lot that your landlord may or may not reseed/sod in a timely manner. And even they you'll have to wait for grass to grow back in.

  • UsagiUsagi Feminazgul ~*special snowflake*~Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Look up your renters laws in MA and talk to the town you live in, but if the ground is frozen it's going to be almost impossible to properly replace a septic tank and fix the leach field.

    Jormungandr? Damn near killed 'er!
  • FyreWulffFyreWulff Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited January 2010
    If the leech field is fucked, they have to tear it up, which means a crapton of money and excavation.

    At this point it's going to take her a bit of time, but her getting it pumped when you need it is pretty good of her.

    You're just going to have to wait.

  • edited January 2010
    If the landlord was making you pay to have it pumped out then I could see you'd be able to get something done, but as she's not, you probably can't do much until, as Usagi says, the ground thaws.

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  • CrowlestonCrowleston Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    All good stuff and pretty much what I thought. Thanks folks, you've been helpful! She's a sweet and cooperative lady and we'd like to rent the place again when the lease is up, (if said problem will be fixed of course) And I suppose all of that will come down to some sort of renegotiations which I've never had to do before, but I'll post another thread when that comes around.

    THANKS!

    edit: I am such a dope for not going through these tenants rights earlier in my life. There's a lot in here that I should have documented that I currently don't, so thank you Usagi.

    useless but necessary objects of society.
  • MrMonroeMrMonroe Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    The tank is continually being filled with tampons and pads and you're not the ones flushing them? Is there a second residence hooked up somehow?

    If you want to rent the place again after this lease, there is pretty much nothing you can do. If that is at a premium, there is nothing you can do to expedite the issue.

    Consider how much longer you have on your lease and whether you believe it will be fixed before the renewal. If you want to keep the place, continue to put personal pressure on the landlord. If not, you have numerous options. MA is an extremely tenant-friendly state. The easiest option is to call the health inspector. You need not do it anonymously, nor will an anonymous complaint fool your landlord. Tenants evicted in MA within a certain time period after notifying the inspectors can recover not insignificant damages. It was six months when I last checked this past summer.

    You have other options (including reducing your rent payments without the consent of your landlord) of course but unless you have a lot of time on your hands and like reading the MA general code (I know I did, but I'm a weirdo) you are best served consulting an attorney over the matter. You may want to search the code on the phrase "Loss of enjoyment" if you're looking for options.

  • FyreWulffFyreWulff Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited January 2010
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    The tank is continually being filled with tampons and pads and you're not the ones flushing them? Is there a second residence hooked up somehow?

    I was going to point this out, but I think someone at the house just doesn't want to fess up, because the only way for those to get in there is another house is hooked into it.

  • JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    You have other options (including reducing your rent payments without the consent of your landlord)
    This is NOT an option unless you don't mind getting evicted. As far as I know no state allows tenants to reduce rental payments due to landlords failing to repair toilets etc. You DO have specific rights in those situations that vary from state to state; choosing to stop paying all or part of your rent without reaching a new agreement with the landlord is NOT one of them in any area I've ever heard of.

    Bottom line: when dealing with a landlord, assume you are dealing with the scum of the earth and you will not go wrong. Get everything in writing, and keep copies. Anything you might even conceivably need to be able to prove YOU said later, send with a sign-on-delivery confirmation (and keep copies).

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  • CrowlestonCrowleston Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    This is far down the list, but I had jury duty yesterday so wasn't able to see/respond to any of these comments. Regarding the feminine products, that is not a continual occurrence and only happened the first two or three times the tank was pumped before they realized there was a bigger problem. Sorry if there was any confusion there. The assumption is it was from the tenants before we moved in. I won't be withholding rent, but thank you for the advice, I've since been digging through tenant laws and such.

    useless but necessary objects of society.
  • Dr. FrenchensteinDr. Frenchenstein Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    JihadJesus wrote: »
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    You have other options (including reducing your rent payments without the consent of your landlord)
    This is NOT an option unless you don't mind getting evicted. As far as I know no state allows tenants to reduce rental payments due to landlords failing to repair toilets etc. You DO have specific rights in those situations that vary from state to state; choosing to stop paying all or part of your rent without reaching a new agreement with the landlord is NOT one of them in any area I've ever heard of.

    Bottom line: when dealing with a landlord, assume you are dealing with the scum of the earth and you will not go wrong. Get everything in writing, and keep copies. Anything you might even conceivably need to be able to prove YOU said later, send with a sign-on-delivery confirmation (and keep copies).

    If the situation is unlivable (or makes living there a severe inconvenience) you are able to pay rent into an escrow account that the LL can't touch until he fixes stuff. However you have to inform him/her and give 60 days, as well as a bunch of other stuff. it sounds like a huge pain.

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