How Safe is Your Water: Renter’s Clean Water Rights

in Health & Safety on by

You can live in a city with perfectly safe drinking water and still find that the water coming from the taps in your apartment isn’t safe to drink. Maybe the pipes are old and contain lead; maybe there is bacteria in your water. No matter what the problem is, though, your first point of contact should be your landlord.

Your landlord’s responsibility to provide you with clean drinking water varies from state to state. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, for instance, a landlord must ‘maintain in good and safe working condition all plumbing’ as well as ‘supply running water’. At least in that state, that requirement is generally interpreted to mean that tenants have a right to safe drinking water.

Even in situations where a landlord might be able to legally get out of fixing pipes or taking other actions to ensure that tenants have clean drinking water, many apartment building owners will take the necessary steps to improve drinking water if only to guarantee that tenants won’t want to break their leases.

When you approach your landlord about a water problem, it’s important to be clear on exactly what you want. While you may simply want the problem resolved, plumbing matters are not always that simple. There are any number of reasons that replacing old pipes might legitimately be delayed and you should ask your landlord to help you find clean water during that time.

You can ask your landlord to provide you some sort of filtration device or bottled water — or you can provide such items for yourself and request that your landlord reduce your rent during that time. You should be aware that not all drinking water issues may be considered your landlord’s concern. If, for instance, a local gas station’s underground fuel tank has contaminated your drinking water, your landlord is unlikely to be considered at fault.

If your landlord refuses to take action on your water problem, you may have grounds to break your lease or take legal action. There is likely a local tenants’ rights group in your city; you can often find them through the mayor’s office or the local housing department. Those groups can advise you on the actions you can take under your state’s laws.

You should also make sure that you have a thorough record of the situation: water test results, a written request for your landlord to fix the problem and any other paperwork your lack of clean water has generated.

Have you had water problems at your apartment? Share your experience below!

6 Responses to “How Safe is Your Water: Renter’s Clean Water Rights”

  1. October 11, 2016 at 5:52 am, R B said:

    What can I do if my landlord keeps putting to much bleach in our well, we have 15 place that all run water from this well and its been 3 or 4 days since he bleached it, but it is so bad u can smell it and it burns our eyes


    • October 25, 2016 at 7:26 am, Dan said:

      > What about a landlord that insists on softening the water?Even the cold water is way too soft to drink. I get out of the shower feeling like I swam in the ocean and Ive changed my shampoo a number of times. I simply smell like wet dog.
      I've told them about the problem but they insist that the issue has to do with the city's water supply. Is there anything that I can do to get them to dial the softener down? I feel disgusting and find that my shower time has expanded from 15 minutes to almost an hour.


  2. October 26, 2016 at 7:28 pm, Laura A Bryant said:

    Our water is undrinkable….it comes out of the tap yellow and cloudy. I won't even give it to my dogs. Even boiling it doesn't get everything out.


  3. November 26, 2016 at 7:05 pm, sheila calopietro said:

    my landlord had us to put bleach in the well 4 weeks ago cause of caliform where there is feces in the water after 2 weeks water was back smelling like shit water have told land lord about it well a week has pass and have heard nutting from, him what should i do who do i talk to just moved here from tn 3 months ago and don't know who to talk to.


  4. December 07, 2016 at 3:22 pm, Sylvia Covey said:

    I did a test on my well water for my rental property and found Coliform Bacteria. My land lord has turned into a slum lord. He had his so call property care taker to pour 4 gallons of bleach into the holding tank. I have not been able to drink water from this well in over three week's, been drinking bottle, three days after pouring bleach into the holding tank, I took a bath and it sit me on fire. Please I need HELP…. I'm 73 years old and the City of Conroe, Tx. and the Country of Montgomery will not help me….. Says the state of Texas favors the Land Lord. I have lived here for 8 years! Please if anyone could help me!


  5. December 21, 2016 at 4:52 pm, Bobby Naylor said:

    My septic is 50 ft. from my well my water was contaminated with coliform.Well they bleached it and now it taste like poo and the sulferbthat was there for 15 years is gone..what can I do?Called DEC and water shed plus health dept.DEC responded probably because of a dump above me with no liner…


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