Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective
Broken Pipes

Creative Commons License photo figure credit: Remy Sharp

A week or so after our new tenants moved in, it was reported to me that their toilet wobbles.  A quick inspection found that the screws that hold the toilet down were not tight, so I tightened them.  It took about 2 minutes in total to diagnose and fix the problem.

Fast forward about a month: ScrapperMom discovered that a leak had developed in the basement ceiling, almost directly under the tenant’s bathroom.  The leak was at the low spot in the ceiling, which happens to have an access door built into it for reaching some shut-off valves and other stuff.  My immediate fear was that when I fixed the toilet, I broke or unseated its seal.  

This was just before we had our baby, so I was not in a good position to try to investigate and repair the problem myself. I resorted to calling a plumber.  After investigating, he said that there is a leak at the seal in the toilet, but that it wasn’t the bulk of the problem.  It seems that our approximately 90 year old cast-iron waste drain stack had rotted clean through just below where all of the tenant’s fixtures drain into the stack.  The plumber fixed the toilet seal and applyed some temporary epoxy to patch the hole in the stack.

The plumber returned today to permanently repair the hole.  The first thing he had to do was to cut a hole in the wall in the tenant’s apartment and then cut another hole in the ceiling in the basement.  Then they had to cut out a section of the old pipe and install the new one.  They did a nice job minimizing the collateral damage and cleaning up after the fact, but plumbers don’t typically repair drywall.

All together, both plumbing repairs came to nearly $1,400, and the drywall isn’t even fixed yet.  We have an emergency fund, but because we also put a little bit away into a slush fund every month, we did not have to dip into it.  I’m not happy about spending $1,400 on something that I can’t really enjoy all that much (not that I don’t REALLY enjoy indoor plumbing).  But that’s life.  I guess this is another one of those little things that reminds me that I’m an adult now.

Now I need to go investigate the weird noise the car started making last week…

Have you had any unexpected expenses lately?  How did you deal with them?  Leave a Comment below!

5 Responses to “Spending a Lot on Stuff We Take for Granted”


  1. Sandy Says:

    At least you get to deduct the expense of the plumbing on your Schedule E at tax time. You will recall that Wayne fell thru the ceiling while trying to install a recessed light in my hallway niche area, 39 inches long, Thank God for a son-in-law who is extremely handy, and it only cost us a piece of drywall, some paint, quite a few hours and humiliation on Wayne’s part for falling thru. Unexpected expense. Before that he fell down the front brick steps and broke two bones in right foot. Minor expense at hospital. Then he ran the golf cart into the brick wall around the garden area, bricklayer, $400, unexpected…. Then somebody, (nobody fesses up) ran into the brick wall guarding the drain ditch, $250 bricklayer job. Then he started a fire accidentally in the woods near our house, while trying to burn brush. Call to Fire Dept. thankfully free. Then he dropped 50 inch plasma TV, VERY EXPENSIVE REPLACEMENT. And now he lost his very expensive wedding ring, about 3 weeks ago. We are doing terrible on unexpected expenses. But we are trying to be more careful and moving on. Wayne has also been delegated to laundry with no privileges of bleach for a while. Allk this since he retired 8.5 months ago.


  2. Jason Says:

    Our unexpected expense was a pet emergency. Our youngest dog, Odie, who at 30lbs is about as small as you can get without being a lapdog, ate a sock. After emergency surgery and about $1,000 later, he’s recovering nicely.

    Because of Odie, I blogged a similar post as this, including how we covered our emergency expense, but an emergency fund, along with a revolving “pet health care” line-item in our monthly budget, plus monthly budget surpluses, helped to defray our costs.

    Needless to say, we’re doing our best to keep all clothing put away while we’re out of the house :)


  3. MITBeta Says:

    Sandy: Good luck to you guys. I hope all the bad luck is behind you guys.

    Jason: I’m glad to hear that Odie is okay and that you weathered the storm pretty well.


  4. Cara Says:

    Just stumbled on your site and I’m enjoying the practical tips and stories. I had to chime in here on unexpected expenses. Ugh! We have had quite a few in the last few months, all at the time when my freelance work has been slimming way down. Dog to the vet for mysterious spinal injury ($$$!), car window not working, huge tax payment due in April… then there were several little UEs not budgeted for that are adding up. Thankfully, we have a nice emergency fun for these types of occasions. Thank goodness for the emergency fund! Everyone should have one; it has saved us more than a few times.


  5. MITBeta Says:

    Hi Cara, thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. I agree: An emergency fund is an indispensable tool.


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