Plumbing “service fee”

Question from Jude updated on 8th August 2014:

I’m renting a property while working in another city. The toilet blocked recently and the property manager made me pay for the repair as sanitary items had been flushed down the toilet. He added a 10% service fee to the plumber's invoice. Can he do this? It was not mentioned to me when I rented the property (from the previous property manager) nor is it mentioned in the tenancy agreement.

Our expert Juliet Robinson responded:

If the plumbing blockage is caused by your carelessness then it is reasonable that you should reimburse the property owner for the cost of having it cleared. Many property managers charge their clients a service fee for arranging maintenance by contractors and paying their invoices. Typically this is a percentage of the contractor’s bill. If the normal arrangement between the property manager and the owner is to charge 10% of the plumber’s bill, then the resulting total cost to the property owner is able to be on-charged to you. The basic principle here is that the owner should not be out of pocket for any costs caused by the tenant’s carelessness or negligence. You are not paying the plumber in this case rather you are reimbursing the property owner for costs incurred.

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