Landlord Threatens Tenant with Eviction Over Cat Litter and Cereal

A Reddit user is under so much pressure after being threatened with eviction due to Boo Berry Monster cereal and cat litter in the pipes, the source of which is unknown to him.

Posted by u/grammatiker on Reddit’s r/legaladvice forum, OP related that his family has been residing in a multiplex townhouse-style apartment that was constructed in the 1970s. And that since 2018, they have had seven incidents of sewage line blockages that caused raw sewage to back up into their unit.

He further added that the concerned sewage line is shared between them and the adjacent unit. In 2020, the original cast-iron plumbing system under their apartment was replaced with PVC except for the cross-line connection that joins the unit.

Photo: Pexels/Daniel Nouri

OP described his dilemma as follows, “The problem is that we’ve repeatedly been blamed for the blockage, as the plumbers report ‘cat litter’ in the line each time they’re called. We do own a cat, and the neighbors do not. The issue is, we absolutely do not flush our cat litter, and never have. This last time the plumbers had to come out, they listed ‘cat litter and cat food’ in the line. I was able to identify the supposed cat food, all of which was flushed from the neighbor’s side of the system, and it turned out to be Boo Berry Monster cereal… Now the property manager is trying to push the $650 bill on us.”

Moreover, this property manager warned that, “If we must repair the plumbing again due to kitty litter or other foreign objects being flushed down you unit’s sewer line, this will be considered a grievous breach of the lease contract and you may incur a fine, hefty bill, or could nullify your lease agreement.”

In the past, according to OP, this manager had also left aggressive voicemails about this issue. But in their last phone conversation, he told OP that he had been hasty and they were dropping the matter.

Photo: Pexels/Scott Webb

However, the issue has resurfaced and OP said he is ready to defend himself in court. And he is asking fellow Reddit users for legal advice since he wanted to prove that they are not the cause of the problem.

And here are the responses to his call for help:

From yungmoody: “I don’t fully understand why they’re so convinced it’s kitty litter. Most types of litter would be hardly distinct enough from any other vaguely similar material to clearly identify it in this situation, right? It could easily be another type of human food. Surely the misidentification of the ‘cat food’ would allow you some leverage to argue that they very likely have it wrong. Have they sent you images of the ‘litter’ so you can show them a side by side with the litter you use?”

A more detailed advice from danheskett2022, “You are doing the right things. Be prepared to defend yourself, in Court. If you get a fine/fee added to your account, investigate with a local tenant rights lawyer how to pay it without admitting guilt, or how to pay everything but the fine/fee, and contest the fee/fine. Meanwhile, start building your file of evidence for your defense.

“Ultimately the standard of evidence here will be basically “50% plus a feather” that the plumber’s diagnosis is correct.

Photo: Pexels/Cats Coming

“I know it’s awful, but consider filming yourself disposing of the kitty litter daily, and retaining the footage, from here on out. Even if you do not film it, keep a contemporaneous log of the date/time of your litter changes, how you disposed of it, etc. on a clipboard you hang over your kitty litter box. What you want to create is a contemporaneous source of data that shows you are conscientiously not doing as alleged. You just need to tip that scale a little tiny bit away from “50% plus a feather” to “50/50 even.

“Other steps to take:

“Write a letter and keep a copy to your management company disavowing the cause of each of the past backups. State clearly you do not flush cat litter or any other prohibited materials. State clearly in one or two sentences that the alleged cat litter from the last incident was not cat litter but allowed organic materials/cereal.

Photo: Pexels/Timur Weber

“Suggest, also in writing, that they switch to a different plumber, and offer to pay 1/3 of the cost (split between you, the other tenant, and the management company) to have the entire system inspected for defects. Ask for a response in writing. If they reject this, send another letter and offer to pay 1/2, split between you and the management company. If they reject this, send another letter and offer to pay entire amount, but they reimburse you if a defect in installation is found. If they reject this, send another letter and offer to the pay the entire amount as long as they authorize the inspection.

“Suggest, also in writing, that they run a dedicated line from your unit to the sewer main. Suggest they cover the cost, ask for a response in writing. If they decline, write back, and offer to cover the cost split into twelve parts, over the course of a lease extension.

“Again your goal is to shift the balance of evidence away from the presumption that the plumber/management company is correct and instead create a presumption that you are not the cause.”

Meanwhile, Knever wrote, “Ask them to show you the ‘kitty litter’ next time. You might be dealing with some bozos who can’t tell the difference from kitty litter and some other innocuous material.”

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