Is this plumbing bill reasonable?

I recently had the main line under a home freeze and break. I called out our usual plumber and he replaced the line, and heat taped and insulated it. The plumbers didn’t ask me for any preauthorization on the job, and just sent us a $1,000 bill for the job, which I find absurd. I called up the plumbers to complain and they said it took them all day and the price is fair, and they warned the onsite manager it would take a while he said it was fine and to go ahead.

  1. Is $1,000 ridiculous for this type of job, especially without prior authorization?

  2. If so how would you go about fighting this invoice?

This is a problem that all park owners encounter once in a while. We all know that big ticket items require three bids – but what do you do when there’s an emergency and you can’t wait to get three bids? The truth is that, in some instances, speed is more important than lowest cost. This guy was there and he got it done. What if a different plumber had bid $500 and not shown up? What would that have cost you additional in terms of water bill/damage to the park/tenant retention/city inspector issues, etc.? Let’s assume that three bids would have shown the lowest cost to be $500. Then you are paying a $500 premium for immediate service. Even Fed Ex charges a rush charge based on how fast you need delivery. So I would not go on a three state killing spree over this bill, but look at it as an extreme service charge. It may be that the low bid would have only been $900, and it’s also possible that the this guy WAS the low bid.

If you call and complain too much, then they won’t go out again, and you could get stuck without a plumber who can arrive fast. What you need to do is to call the plumbing company owner and see if you can amiably cajole them to lower the price. Tell them "I got your bill in the mail and I had a heart attack and I had to get a pacemaker put in. So, since your bill cost me thousands in hospital bills, do you think you can lower it a little? Can you give me a break? Most good businessmen will give reductions just to keep their customers happy. But don’t have a fit no matter what happens, because word gets around and you may find yourself without a plumber when you need one the most.

The invoice might, or might not be all that bad. I think it is a good idea to have plans for things like this when they happen, and this is a good learning op for that.

I will say- this is right in line with what I would expect to pay if a main line break in our parks. I would not bat an eye if this were an outside contractor cost. They come in with a backhoe- maybe in freezing weather etc… threading pipe, shut offs, new riser…

really- as I type- for calling a plumber you have not worked out a set price for repairs with, this is about spot on.

Big freeze, outside work, emergency call; that is combat pay.

Yes, it is in the range of reasonable (assuming they did a good job, and used PEX not CPVC).

I just had nearly this exact same situation come up two days ago. I’ve trained my manager to only authorize $300-and-under repairs. So he called me, because this was a bigger job, and he had already had one plumber come out to inspect (great - he was being pro-active), and we had a bid of $3,900 for a complete re-pipe of the house.

So I said ‘wait!’ even though this was a near-emergency. We called another plumber, he gave us a bid of $700. So I said ‘go!’ without waiting for a third bid.

The other way to manage this process is to tell the plumbers themselves (and all tradesmen) that they have to talk with you first for any amount over $300 (or whatever threshold with which you are comfortable).

Make sure your manager and tradesmen have your mobile number so they can text you with emergencies. That way you can dispense advice and guidance, even if you are doing something more important - like speaking at a conference, or moderating an online forum or something. (:P)

To your continued success,


I didn’t explain myself very well in my first post, this was a trailer plumbing line, not a park plumbing line (the tenant is disabled and too incompetent to take care of these things herself, so I had to take the initiative). There was no digging involved. It also wasn’t an emergency, when it froze and broke we just shut the water off to her house. If I had known the plumber was going to charge me $1,000, or if he had asked me before hand, I would have absolutely called around, and I highly suspect I could have gotten a lower price.

OK, in that case you were completely ripped off. So you have three options: 1) never use that plumber again 2) call the plumber and see if they will amiably lower the bill or 3) sue them for over-charging you. If you don’t need to use that plumber ever again, you might go with #3 if #2 does not work (I would always try the amiable path first). Did you pay with a credit card? You might be able to dispute the charge in that manner – claiming it was not a valid charge in that you had never agreed on the amount – but the problem is that the plumber may file a mechanic’s lien on the park (which is their common attack strategy). It would cost you maybe $200 to file a small claims court suit and show up in court. But only go that route if you can get a signed letter from another plumber that the work should have not exceeded $300 or something like that. In court, the paper trail wins the day, and you will need something that shows, without question, that you were ripped off. And it can’t be $200 lower or something or the judge will just think you are a crackpot and you’ll lose the case. Sometimes, by filing suit, the plumber will cave in and lower the bill to settle it. But you can only use this strategy if you will never need the plumber again, since your bridge is completely burned, You better also tell your new plumber about the case, as when he hears you sue plumbers, he may bail on you.

If this is a bill the tenant is paying- I would contact one of the watchdog groups that advocates for people with disability’s and explain the situation. From what I understand, these groups can be pretty tough on businesses that take advantage of people with disability’s. They might get traction really quick…

The conversation would go something like this-

Thanks for taking my call, I am a bit concerned for a tenant in a mobile hoe park I own. They had a water line freeze in their home, and a plumber came out and charged $1000 to fix it. The repair should have been like $150 or $200 tops, I have several other plumbers that have quoted me the lower prices. I think this plumber is just taking advantage of someone that is disabled. Do you all get involved on behalf of the disabled person, or do you have anyone I can help this tenant turn to?

If you hear heavy breathing and the sound of sharpening claws on the other end of the phone- you have called the right place…

Just a thought…

Thanks for the response and ideas Frank and Jim.

I have been invoiced for $1000, but have not paid the invoice yet. I’ve tried calling the plumber to work it out amiably but didn’t get anywhere.

I think my plan will be to not pay the invoice, take photos of the job site, and see if I can get another plumber to sign off that it was bogus. That way if the plumber files a mechanics lien I’ll be prepared to challenge it in small claims court.

No on has asked this question so I will. Who ownes the home, you or your tenant ?

The tenant owns the home, but is disabled. The manager noticed her plumbing line had broken and was running water so he shut the water off to her house. We left her a note telling her she needed to restore water to her home. After she failed to do that we called out the plumber who made the repair, then sent us a $1,000 bill for it.

Wow, major mistake going beyond your business responsibilities. There was absolutly no reason for your manager to initiate the repair simply because the owner did not unless the homowner authorised the repair.

You have placed yourself in a difficult position. The responsibility for the repair was that of the home owner not you. Since you initiated the repair without the authorization of the home owner you are on the hook for the cost not the owner if they do not agree to pay.

Since there was no urgency in regards to having the repair done (the owner was prepared to do without water) and your manager did not get estimates I see no way you should be balking at the price.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Your good intentions may have been misplaced in acting the way you did but the fact is your wallet needs to step up and pay the piper. In the future you may be better off sticking to your own business responsibilities instead of acting as the Good Samaritan and let residents take care of their own business.

P.S. if you thinking of fighting this bill you should be aware the plumber should be placing a contractors lein on the home not on the park. He may not know this but if he finds out you do not own the home that is exactly what he will do. I suggest you simply pay up (it isn’t that unreasonable) and save yourself and the home owner the hastle of fighting over a few hundred dollars. Lesson learned.

Thanks Greg,

I could be off base on this, but I’m pretty sure it actually is my responsibility. Shutting a resident’s water off and allowing them to continue to live on the premises without water is a health code violation, and as the community owner I think I could be jointly responsible for that violation. Either way with a severely disabled tenant I think it’s a prudent business decision to help out a resident who pays like clockwork.

I didn’t get multiple bids because it was a routine, basic repair that every professional should be able to complete within a few hours tops. I don’t ask the plumber for an upfront price when we have a line that needs to be snaked, I just call him out to do it because it shouldn’t take him more than 1-2 hours. And if it does look like it will take more than 1-2 hours, I expect him to give me a heads up and ask for permission first, and I don’t think that is an unreasonable expectation.

Everything above ground under a home from the park shut off is the responsibility of the tenant as well as the septic line to the point it enters the ground. If they do not fix the problem you can not turn the water back on. That is their problem not yours. Disabled or not it was your managers responsible to determine what the tenant wanted done before authorizing any work.

It would be no different if the leak was inside the home, you don’t turn on the water until the home owner fixes the leak and lets you know.

Without the home owners permission and approval you do not touch anything above ground under a residents home.

You did a good deed but you can not hold the plumber responsible for the amount of the bill if he was instructed to do the work by the manager without any instructions regarding providing estimates…

Your manager needs some guidance in regards to how you want him to proceed in the future.

I’m a licensed general contractor and stuff like you mentioned give us all a bad name. I don’t care if the job is $15 or $15,000, I ALWAYS let the client know cost before proceeding with the work and so should every contractor. In this day and age with e-mail and cell phones it’s not that difficult to make a quick call to an owner and let them know what something will cost before starting even in an ‘emergency’ situation.

Noel S Wrote:

I recently had the main line under a home freeze

and break. I called out our usual plumber and he

replaced the line, and heat taped and insulated

it. The plumbers didn’t ask me for any

preauthorization on the job, and just sent us a

$1,000 bill for the job, which I find absurd. I

called up the plumbers to complain and they said

it took them all day and the price is fair, and

they warned the onsite manager it would take a

while he said it was fine and to go ahead.


  1. Is $1,000 ridiculous for this type of job,

especially without prior authorization?

  1. If so how would you go about fighting this