Who’s at fault when it comes to a blocked drain, landlord or tenant?

blocked drains sydney tenant or landlord

Blocked drains are a common plumbing problem that can cause a lot of inconvenience and frustration for both landlords and tenants. But who is responsible for fixing them and paying for the repair costs? The answer depends on the cause of the blockage and the terms of the lease agreement.

According to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, landlords are obliged to provide and maintain the rented premises in a reasonable state of repair, which includes ensuring that the plumbing and drainage systems are working properly. Tenants are obliged to keep the premises reasonably clean and notify the landlord of any damage or repairs needed as soon as possible.

However, there are some situations where the tenant may be liable for a blocked drain, such as:

– The tenant caused the blockage by flushing inappropriate items down the toilet, such as wipes, sanitary products, nappies, etc.
– The tenant caused the blockage by pouring cooking oils, fats or grease down the sink, which solidify and clog the pipes.
– The tenant caused the blockage by letting hair or other debris accumulate in the shower or bath drain plumber.

In these cases, the tenant may have to pay for the plumber’s bill or reimburse the landlord if they have already paid for it. The tenant may also be liable for any damage caused by the blockage, such as water leaks, stains, mould or odours.

On the other hand, there are some situations where the landlord may be liable for a blocked drain, such as:

– The landlord failed to maintain or repair the plumbing and drainage systems, resulting in deterioration or corrosion of the pipes.
– The blockage was caused by external factors beyond the tenant’s control, such as tree roots, storm damage, collapsed pipes, etc.
– The blockage was present before the tenant moved in or was not caused by the tenant’s actions or negligence.

In these cases, the landlord has to arrange and pay for the repair of the blocked drain as soon as possible. The landlord may also have to compensate the tenant for any loss of amenity or inconvenience caused by the blockage, such as reduced water pressure, foul smells, health hazards or inability to use certain facilities.

If there is a dispute between the landlord and the tenant over who is responsible for a blocked drain, they should try to resolve it by communicating with each other and providing evidence of the cause and extent of the blockage. They can also refer to their lease agreement or contact their property manager for guidance. If they cannot reach an agreement, they can seek mediation or apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a binding decision.

To prevent blocked drains from occurring or recurring, both landlords and tenants should follow some simple tips, such as:

– Avoid flushing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet
– Dispose of cooking oils, fats and grease in a sealed container in the bin
– Use a drain snake, strainer or hair catcher to prevent hair or food scraps from going down the drain
– Clean the drains regularly with natural products such as baking soda and vinegar
– Contact a licensed plumber if you notice any signs of a blocked drain, such as slow drainage, gurgling sounds, unpleasant smells or water backing up


The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) decides a range of civil and administrative cases in New South Wales.

NCAT commenced operation on 1 January 2014 consolidating the work of 22 forme​r tribunals into a single point of access for specialist tribunal services in NSW.
The law that establishes NCAT and governs its operations is the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013. NCAT provides a simple, quick, and effective process for resolving disputes and reviewing administrative action, including:

  • services and processes to support self-representation by parties in most matters
  • plain language forms and documents
  • simplified processes
  • a range of alternative dispute resolution methods.

The types of cases dealt with by NCAT are broad and diverse.  These range from tenancy issues and building works, to decisions on guardianship and administrative review of government decisions. NCAT’s broad and diverse jurisdiction and case types are generally managed through its Divisions. NCAT’s Appeal Panel provides a timely and cost-effective mechanism to enable prompt reviews of most Tribunal decisions.