who is responsible??

aug0829March 28, 2010

Hello. We recently moved into a new apartment, in PA, on 3/13/10. I require a handheld shower head due to a disability. I bought the shower head and tried to install it but found out that the current shower head is corroded onto the pipe. I informed the land lord and she said that she would have someone come and replace the shower head for me. The person came to the house and did not fix the shower head. A few hours later I received an email from the landlord stating that "yes the pipe is corroded" but "no she will not fix it". She claims that I am responsible for repairing this since I am the one who wants to put on the new shower head. She also stated that if any further damage occurs as a result of me installing my shower head that I am responsible for it. Obviously the person who came to switch the shower heads noticed a bigger problem that the landlord does not want to deal with.

I understand that I am responsible for supplying my own shower head for such a request but am I also responsible for her corroded pipes to be repaired so that I can fit my shower head on? It is impossible for me to bath safely and properly without having the hand held shower head. I'm not sure what my rights are here. Any ideas?

Thanks for your time.

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Short answer: no it's not your responsibility, do not touch those pipes any more till this gets resolved, save that email. ;)

It's a structural issue and IMHO a tenant should not be responsible for a plumbing repair of that nature. (I'm not an atty, am a LL, and this is just common sense stuff and your LL is really stretching it.) Suppose you didn't have a disability, or someone else were living there instead of you: if the shower head failed to function down the road at some point (it happens), LL would have to replace it, right? It would be discovered at that time the shower arm pipe was corroded (or had mineral deposits on the threads). So any new shower head would not work until the pipe threads were cleaned well or pipe replaced if necessary. It wouldn't be any tenant's fault that a pipe had developed issues of this nature over time (which also happens), so wouldn't be their responsibility to make that repair. It would have been discovered sooner or later. The only reason it's come up under your tenancy is because you have a specific need that has shed light on the problem.

See this link, from U of P School of Law. It will give you info toward the top about your rights as far as disabilities and PA contact information at the bottom, far better to ask your questions there. (I've linked to the quick view version, if you have Power Point on your PC, click the optional link at the top of the page, it presents much better in PPT format.)

Back to that pipe, it could well not be a big deal at all anyway. Sometimes mineral deposits develop on the pipe threads from sweating or small drips over time. Could be something s simple as that, unless the pipes are ancient and rusting. Which could get more costly if it's degraded further down the line at other connections. Sometimes it's just the short shower head 'arm' pipe that comes out of the wall that needs to be replaced. Arm pipes can be a PITA to replace, but it's not hard, I've done it myself. Here is a workaround attempt using vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits. (I am not suggesting or condoning you try that at home. Please don't. Mess up the plumbing worse and yes, you'll probably be paying the bill.) I'm just illustrating that it could well be an easy fix. Hopefully it is. Let's say worst case it does get more involved. That dreaded domino effect rears it's head, where one repair leads to yet another. (That happens a lot.) You didn't cause any of it. Where is the line drawn over what's your 'responsibility'? If LL tries to shove it all off on you, then you could end up paying a tidy plumbing repair bill for pipes that you didn't damage, don't own and will be there many, many years after you're gone. You didn't ask about that, but it's always good to be as informed as possible when presenting or discussing a problem.

So first thing tomorrow I'd suggest you make calls to the agencies in the link above, take notes, document, and keep everything from here on out in writing. And don't mess with those pipes! I'd even encourage you to take photos as is (don't remove anything again), just so you've got a record, because LL's reasoning here is a bit off-kilter.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 9:12AM
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As usual, moonshadow is WAY off base and giving completely false information.

Unfortunately, aug0829, the landlord is not at fault in this situation and is not responsible to fix anything.

The fact of the matter is that there is no problem with the current plumbing, it is working correctly. The corroded fittings are not hindering the use of the shower, it is only stopping you from using a different shower head which is NOT protected by any law.

In this situation it IS your responsibility to change the shower head if you need it done, but ONLY with your landlord's permission. Your landlord can legally forbid you from changing the shower head if they choose.

If your landlord gives you permission, you are responsible for any work required to install the shower head and any damage that might be done in the process.

The current shower head will most likely last for another 10-30 years. The only plumbing issue here is the one that YOu brought into the situation (needing a different shower head) and there is NO reason why the landlord should have to pay that fee for you.

It's not right that you walk in and start making demands that are going to cost the landlord money. If you have a realistic need for this different showerhead, you should have gone over this before you signed the lease and worked it into the contract.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:27PM
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um, since you just signed up today am puzzled where this "as usual" comes from. (Must be a chronic lurker or took on a new ID?)

Obviously you missed the most critical part.

If you read the OP's post, this was not a frivolous change of a shower head just for kicks. They stated (repeatedly) they require the use of a hand held due to a disability. (As do many people with disabilities, that often necessitate sitting on a bath safety bench because their disability prohibits them from being able to stand safely in a shower/tub. Let alone with a steady stream of water blasting them from overhead. )

And since you apparently didn't check out the link I posted (kind of important), I'll paste the relevent part below and make it extra easy by putting applicable terms in bold font:

Community Economic Development Clinic
University of Pittsburgh School of Law

* A landlord cannot discriminate based on race, sex, age, religion, national origin, family status, and handicap.
* Tenant rights are protected under:
o Civil Rights Act of 1968

  • Makes discriminating against an individual illegal
  • Civil Rights Act 1982: applies only where it can be proved that the person had an intent to discriminate
    o Civil Rights Act 1988 Amendment
  • Bans discrimination against the handicapped and families with children
    # Americans with Disabilities Act
    * Forbids discrimination against the handicapped and requires handicap-friendly premises
    # Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
    * Similar to the aforementioned federal law
    # Various Local Laws
    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 5:03PM
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moonshadow said:

"(As do many people with disabilities, that often necessitate sitting on a bath safety bench because their disability prohibits them from being able to stand safely in a shower/tub. Let alone with a steady stream of water blasting them from overhead. )"

Exactly, and in that case, it is NOT the landlords responsibility to install a shower bench and pay for all the related costs.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 6:43PM
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This is another one reminiscent of dialog with fotostat, just going in circles and not helping the OP. I'm not going to spell out what I said again.

aug0829, as I said above, I'm not a lawyer, and this is my humble .02. I still stand by my original opinion but would really urge you to contact one or more of the agencies in the link I posted above.

I took a look at the ADA. I'd encourage you to take a look at the section almost halfway down, under the Fair Housing Act.

Here is the part that impacts you:
The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. (The landlord is not required to pay for the changes.) Then it goes on to address things like wheelchair access, etc.

So the hand held shower is a reasonable, access related modification. LL doesn't have to pay for it, but you already stated you purchased it yourself from your own pocket. No problem there. However, because of the situation with the pipe, you're not able to utilize the modification that you need and LL says if you want it, you have to repair her plumbing. I'm just not convinced a disabled tenant should be forced to foot the bill for a structural issue that precludes use of the modification they need. (Again, that shower head on there now could need to be replaced at any time, no one can say with certainty how long it will last. And a tenant should not be expected to repair the plumbing that holds a standard issue shower head.) As an alternate example, let's say your shower head needs a special arm. One that is not commonly used. I can see in that case how the disabled tenant might be required to pay for that special plumbing fitting. But that's not the case here.

Anyway, I hope the contact info at the link in my first post above will get you headed in the right direction. Because of the nature of your question and legalities involved under Federal and State law, this is something that needs to be addressed outside this forum, by someone actively involved and proficient in this particular area.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 8:10PM
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You can argue and repeat yourself, but the fact is that you are WRONG and giving out false information.

The landlord is NOT responsible to provide the tenant with a specific showerhead. If the tenant requires one, the tenant needs permission from the landlord to install it and must cover all costs incurred.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 11:45PM
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I'm not arguing with you, I'm offering my very humble .02 to the original poster's question.

Your last post would indicate you have missed the very key word that takes this situation away from the typical LL/tenant obligations: Disability

But I'm not averse to admitting I'm wrong. And I certainly would not want to mislead anyone. So, since you accuse me of giving out false information, what can you offer as evidence that you are right and giving out factual information? (Other than just taking your word for it.)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 5:32AM
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For the 5th time, a tenant having a disability does NOT entitle them to ANYTHING that they want.

A showerhead is one of the many items that is NOT covered.

Stop arguing, you are wrong.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Both of you stop it! You sound like 5 yrs old.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 7:08PM
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I sound like a mature adult who is giving factual information.

Don't come into the thread and take it off topic with your drama.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 8:39PM
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To aug0829: I'm going to offer one last link, make a correction and wrap it up. In checking a bit further found a Guide to Disability Rights in Housing. It's from Lancaster County but they refer to Federal Housing & Urban Development. I'm having trouble getting Adobe to render it properly, in case you have the same issue here is the web view version. Scroll down a bit till you get to housing rights.

Knowing you might not be in Lanc Co., the reason I'm offering it is because it offers some pretty good illustrations and examples as to what's going on in disability and housing scenarios. Not all of it is clear cut black and white, but they offer various examples and illustrations of both parties' responsibilities, examples of 'reasonable accommodations' and then addresses who must pay for it: "The answer depends on the type of housing you are renting and the laws that apply to it." So some of those blanks are filled in on a case by case basis.

And now I must apologize! I double-checked the U of P link above and there are no State level contacts. (My bad, I had been checking multiple sites that day and failed to include one of those links.)

Here is one containing PA Human Relations Commission info. Quote from that site: "If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations, you may discuss your concerns with a Commission staff member, who will answer your questions and help you decide whether you should file a complaint with the Commission."

Contact info by region is at the bottom of the page.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 9:36AM
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