On Wednesday, a service plumber came to my house to jet the drain for my kitchen sink. He came around 9 a.m. and by 9:30 had pushed his hose beyond the clog. Then he spent 3 hours trying to get his hose out. He went to lunch and came back with a helper (his boss, I think) and they spent another 3 hours trying to get the hose out. They finally left, leaving my kitchen drain open and the water off. They said they couldn't be back Thursday, but would be back Friday. Meanwhile, I was supposed to have the septic tank pumped so that they could look into it and see if the hose was in there. (They also wanted to cut 4-inch pipes in the basement to see if the hose had gone other places.)

Thursday, I paid a guy $750 to pump out my septic. Then I had another guy, recommended by the septic pumper, to do more work. He had to cut a hole in the top of the (cement, 60-year-old) tank. $450. The hose had somehow wrapped and knotted itself around a pipe. See pic. The last guy and I were able to untangle the hose and I pulled it back about 6 feet into my kitchen.

Friday, the two original buffoons showed up, finished pulling the hose out, cleaned up, put my trap back on and now the kitchen sink is functional. Now comes the bill. They want to charge me for the 9 man-hours these two spent failing to get their hose out of my drain. I am not so inclined. I spent $1200 already getting their hose out for them. They ought to be paying me.

If there had been some problem with my line, like the pipe was crushed or broken, then maybe it could be my fault. But in this case, the pipe is fine and the problem was that he ran the hose way too far into my septic tank, where it jetted crazily around and tied itself in knots. Inside Septic Tank

You can see the hose wrapped around the horizontal PVC at the upper left in the pic. I feel like I should bill them for part of he $1200. The tank was full and needed pumping, so I can eat the $750. But the $450 was done strictly for them to get their hose back. Then, it seems bizarre to me, that they'd try to charge me $2000 for their screw up and their failure to correct the screw up.

So my question is: Who should pay and what? Are my perceptions correct or am I all wet?

  • 6
    They pay. They are supposed to be trained on how to use their tools. They goof up and/or damage/cause more work, it is their dime. Should only pay for the first half hour or estimated job cost. Plumber really had to work to do that.
    – crip659
    Jun 16 at 22:57
  • 5
    Most places have governing bodies/associations that license plumbers/electricians/contractors, so people don't get burn by Joe down the street. Most of them need to leave your house/property as it was or better. Most TV stations have a consumer unit to help people against corporations/licensed contractors/businesses. They might tell one person to (something) off, but they bend over backwards to help when their name is on TV
    – crip659
    Jun 17 at 0:24
  • 3
    You paid $750 to have your septic tank pumped? Around here (MN, USA) it's usually around $200 or so. Seems quite extreme even considering regional differences. Jun 17 at 1:19
  • 3
    Yes you are correct, and they're desperate. Unfortunately the building boom and the Great Resignation have combined to create a great shortage of competent tradesmen - the good ones are neck deep in large contracts and you and I are left to scrape the bottom of the barrel. People who should not be businessmen or perhaps even plumbers. Jun 17 at 1:45
  • 2
    You definitely should not pay them one dime. Request reimbursement for the expenses you incurred....in a reasonable letter like your post (without the word buffoons). Minus, of course, the original cost of the job. Any money you give them would be money down the drain. Jun 17 at 4:40

4 Answers 4


WOW! So you got a plumber to unclog a drain, he screwed up and got his hose stuck, then wanted to cut pipes to find it, then wanted you to pump the septic tank to see if they could find it there. WOW, just WOW. And then you had to get involved with the filth of a septic tank. Geeze. I dk how much you've already paid, but if you haven't paid the alleged "plumbers", I wouldn't pay them a G D dime and if they didn't like it, take me to small claims court. If you're a nice guy, you might compromise by offering to pay for the initial service call, but not the followup work to retrieve their precious hose. But if it were me, I'd tell them to pound sand.


Unless they roll over when you tell them to pound sand (they should!) I'd try to get a quick consult with someone versed in the laws of your area. Maybe get a strongly worded letter from them on official looking letterhead.

The problem with not paying your bill is that someone could potentially slap a lien on your property, which would cause all manner of bother.

  • 5
    Good call. A sternly worded letter from an atty can go a long way to getting this resolved. To reduce legal fees, in the past when I had a conflict, I drafted the letter with all the details, gave it to my atty for final editing and printing on his letterhead. Works well. I even had to do that with the IRS one time. Jun 17 at 0:35

I do not think there are any lawyers here.

But you have the evidence (the photo)

IMHO: With it you can ask the plumber to pay for repairs and getting it out.

Unless it is some cowboy, he has a license and has to be insured.

Or get ready for this in your state.

How to File a Complaint with the Contractors State Licensing Board

He would not risk losing his licence and will probably have his insurance pay.

  • Even where not required by law, any reputable plumber will be insured (perhaps even bonded). After all, if they flood your house and ruin your floors, they don't want to pay for that out of pocket. If they're not insured, make a big stink about it and they'll likely back off for fear you'll sue for the costs involved on your end.
    – bta
    Jun 17 at 15:24

Don't communicate with them except over email. They are liable for the amount you had to spend to rescue their equipment and get your drain working again. Tell them if they don't pay up your expenses, you will file a complaint with the BBB and take them to small claims court.

Do not send them a dime. Keep your communication cordial but not friendly -- this is business and you will get screwed.

Without justice, these bufoons will keep on doing the same stupid S4¡t to other unsuspecting homeowners.


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