I currently live alone in a 100-year-old, two-family house. I live in the downstairs apartment, which is quite large and reasonably comfortable, but it comes with some issues. The major one is that the commode in my tiny bathroom leans to the right. Political jokes aside, what I mean is that the wood floor beneath the linoleum is disintegrating due to a leak. Thus, the only support the toilet has on its right side is the linoleum flooring.
Obviously, this isn’t my responsibility to repair. My landlady has been notified and she’s been in search of a contractor who will rebuild the floor, and a plumber to fix the leak. The latter is the easier of the two, but it’s the former who has been difficult to find, in part because of equipment needed to do the job right and a contractor who is affordable.
Although I live alone, if you are sharing a home, what is your responsibility when there’s a major repair and how can it be resolved in a timely and amicable manner? How can you take care of your needs in a shared home?
Big Repairs and Who Pays
Let’s say you find yourself in a shared housing situation. For the most part, everything is going well, but one day as you turn on the dishwasher, which includes your home-mate’s dirty dishes, who also happens to be the homeowner, and a horrible stink comes out of it because its regurgitating sewage (this happened to me in another rental, but it was the washing machine). Who’s responsible for the repair? The obvious answer is the homeowner. And this is a repair that cannot be ignored because most likely it means that the septic tank needs to be emptied. Big repairs of this nature are always the responsibility of the homeowner or the management company if you both rent from another entity.
Now what if your mischievous dog hid one of his toys in the dishwasher and the ball damaged the dishwasher? (Yes, that happened too; it was a melted rubber ball). Who’s responsible? The dog’s legal guardian. When you, the dog, or a grandchild, or your visitor is the cause of the break, you are responsible for the cost.
As my father used to say, “Accidents will happen, but don’t kid yourself that neglect is an accident.” When tree falls onto a roof during a storm that’s an accident caused by an act of nature. A spongey floor due to a leaking commode is neglect. Accidents can be covered by homeowners insurance, providing the insurance company knew there was a housemate in the house. Sometimes home-mates who don’t own the home might decide they want renter’s insurance as protection for their personal belongings.
What if you find yourself with a situation such as my leaning commode and your home-mate isn’t taking any action to get it repaired?
Then you need to find out what’s going on, which requires a conversation. If you follow “do it while it is easy” (one of the principles of living well with others) you notified your home-mate as soon as you noticed the issue. You also spoke up as it became more of an inconvenience that you possibly wouldn’t have a working toilet and a big hole in the floor. Remember, your home-mate is not exempt from following the Golden Rule, and should be interested in making it all work for you too. Yet, sometimes there are conflicts. If you’ve asked numerous times that a repair needs to be made and it’s not happening, you have three choices: offer to help get it done, decide you can live with it (and don’t complain about it!), or simply find a new place to live.