“I think we’re on the cusp of a plumbing disaster.”
The voice on the phone wasn’t FEMA (they wouldn’t have been in on the front end); nor was it the Corps of Engineers warning about imminent flooding in the Green River valley; it was my son and anchor tenant, calling last Sunday morning from my new rental house
Turned out that sewage had backed up into the downstairs shower and was recalcitrant about leaving. I went right over, and we used a plunger and discussed various middling measures involving Drano and a rented snake, but I knew that the real solution was going to involve more sweeping action.
That this was happening on the very day that our last tenant was moving in was particularly inauspicious; that it was happening on a Sunday seemed downright mean. Amid a small army of people moving enough stuff in that I wondered if our new tenant was downsizing from something the size of the Biltmore estate, I was dialing around unsuccessfully trying to find a plumber who worked on Sunday. This was also the day I’d selected to bring everyone’s leases over to be signed. My mention of a “plumbing surcharge” did not immediately elicit chuckles.
Finally, one of the three companies that had promised to get back to me called and said he’d be there within the hour. Upfront, he said the weekend rate was $225 for the first hour, $185 for each hour thereafter. I was thinking that we were in for 4 hours at a minimum, and I was indeed regretting that I hadn’t squeezed every last dollar out of the monthly rents.
Our savior arrived as promised. We located the main cleanout to the side sewer (since we’d only owned the place for a month, I only had a vague idea where it was), and he went to work, lowering an infrared camera into the murk to try to disclose the problem. As I had suspected, the culprit was roots pushing into the seams between pipe segments in the side sewer. I helped our guy heave a 300-lb piece of equipment down the narrow stairs, and he started hacking his way through the side sewer towards the street.
Upstairs, meanwhile, the moving party had finished unloading the several vehicles they’d arrived in, and begun to actually party, procuring beer and pizza. This, as it turns out, is a circumstance that is inherently incompatible with plumbing that cannot be used.
Happily, our friend finished his task in an hour and a half, and left me with a thrilling VHS tape of a trip down my side sewer and a bill for $350. I felt fortunate, both for the size of the bill and that the facilities became operational just as the revelers were reaching their various capacities. It shot the day, but it gave me an opportunity to show that I was going to be a responsive landlord.