Removing a Garbage Disposer in a Rental Property

Garbage DisposerIf you are a homeowner, you likely have a garbage disposer.  You may use it all the time.  In a rental, it is a different story.  It can be a constant maintenance item, it can leak, need to be replaced, or just plain smell bad.

Here is what I recommend on a garbage disposer in a rental property.

Garbage Disposers Are Not Necessary

There was a time when there was no such thing as a garbage disposer.  People gave the scraps to the dog, threw them in a compost pile, or put the food out for any critters in the back yard.  They may have just put it in the burning barrel.  A garbage disposer was not even invented before 1927.  As far back as 2009, only 50% of household had them.  In Europe and Canada, they are virtually non-existent.  New York city has even banned them.

For some reason, people think they are a necessity now.  Think again if you are a landlord.

The Garbage Disposer can be an Emergency Fix

A disposer that is not working might be considered an emergency fix.  If the sink still drains, it is not an emergency.  If the disposer is clogged, it can be considered an emergency.  It would be like any other sink drain clean out, it cannot sit for too long.  The disposer may not be working, and a lot of food was put in it, so now you have an emergency.

You need to clean out the disposer, replace it, or hire a plumber to do it.  It may be your expense, or the tenants.  Either way, it is your headache and you need to deal with it.


Renters do not Rent, or not rent, because a Garbage Disposer

Across hundreds of showings in my units, I have never found that having a garbage disposer, or not, made any difference in the rent-ability of my apartments.  I have had a couple of prospects inquire about the lack of a disposer, but they did not make the decision to rent or not based on the presence, or not, of one.  Most renters do not even think about it.

I have told anyone that asked, “If that is a deal breaker, I will put one in”.  I can put in a garbage disposer for less than $100, having a plumber do it would cost $250+.  It might be worth putting one in as a one-time spiff to a solid tenant.  It can be taken out very easily too.  Spending $100 and about an hour of work to sign up a solid tenant is a worthwhile investment for your money.


The City Sanitary Sewer Department doesn’t want a garbage disposer

Call your Cities sanitation department and ask them what they think of a garbage disposer.  The ones I have spoken with do not like them.  They send too much food down the drain, and use a lot of water.  A disposer encourages tenants to put grease down the drain, another bad item.

Garbage disposers require using a lot of water, which typically cost the landlord more in water bills.  Get rid of the disposer!


Garbage Disposer and Kids do not mix

I am not worried about a kid’s hands in a garbage disposer.  If you are a parent you should be.

Kids do not respect the fragility of a garbage disposer.  They put anything down the drain.  Plastic, small rocks, toys, scrub pads, utensils, etc. all go into the disposer.  Any one of those things can kill the garbage disposer.

I have seen a garbage disposer with aquarium gravel in it.  Only a few small pieces will kill the disposer altogether.  The parent dumped most of the gravel elsewhere, but a few very small pieces were in the aquarium and got rinsed down the drain into the disposer.  The small rocks got jammed inside, and the unit refused to turn.  A new garbage disposer, and 30 minutes of labor, was needed.


Fixing a Garbage Disposal

If the disposer still spins you may be able to fix it.  A shop vacuum can be used to suck out small bones, rocks, plastic and other noisy items from a garbage disposer.  If the disposer does not spin, you are likely looking at a replacement.

You can fix a leak by tightening the plumbing fittings that lead to and from the garbage disposer.  If the disposer itself is leaking, you are likely looking at a replacement.

If you do not have a garbage disposer, you will never need to fix it.  Remove it between tenants to remove the possibility of that maintenance ’emergency’.

Garbage DisposerThis is how a sink should look.  A nice clean area, without the disposer.

How to Plan the Removal

Get rid of the garbage disposer after a tenant leaves!  It will save you maintenance and water.  If the tenant moves in with a disposer, you should fix or replace the unit if it goes bad.  Once the tenant moves out, remove it right away.  That means taking out a perfectly good (for now) disposer.  Give it away on Craig’s or throw it away.

At first, you will not want to take it out, but you will save money in the long run.



Do you have a garbage disposer?  Have you ever had issues with one?  If you were renting, would having a garbage disposer be a deal breaker for you?



12 Replies to “Removing a Garbage Disposer in a Rental Property”

  1. I have had tenant put lots of raw vegetable peeling in the disposal (she was making home made fries !!) and called me around 8:30pm saying it’s clogged up. After having plumber and me there for an hour we cleaned out the mess. I left the disposal in the unit with stern warning citing a lease that she is liable for first $300 in any maintenance cost and since then I had no issues (she called my plumber on her own on the second occassion and learned a valuable lesson). I just bought another property last month and it came with garbage disposal. I totally forgot about past incident until this post so may be I will have it removed before the property is rented. Good article.

    1. Thank you for reading!

      Garbage disposals are the worst kind of maintenance. They are near emergencies, and 100% preventable. And they involve water. You will do yourself right if you get rid of the disposer. Do it now, before you have committed to keeping it, after a tenant moves in.

    2. This is a very interesting idea. So is the $300 for any repairs, or just for the garbage disposal? Does the ‘deductible’ reset to zero each year/lease?

  2. Like you noted, the hardly exist in Europe. So no issues for us here. But I hear what you are saying, significant liability in a rental unit: don’t do it.
    As a note on why the City Sanitary Sewer Department doesn’t want garbage disposers, it is costing them an arm and a leg to clean out all this organic matter form the sewage water before they can dischage into the environment (it could otherwise cause large algea growth and associated issues). Organic waste should be composted and not used to increase your sewage bill, simple as that.

  3. Can resonate with you regarding how cumbersome garbage disposal is. I use it for 8 years without any issue, until I have a roommate, I started getting issue, she was dumping coffee and anything down there claiming it’d be good for it.

    I have twice calling emergency plumber for garbage disposal not draining, then broke. I’m thinking of removing it after the next tenant.p, or have a clause if. It’s stop working, I’ll remove it.

  4. I have a garbage disposal at my primary house and we rarely ever use it. I have a garbage disposal in only one of my rentals however luckily, I have not had any issues with that one. Mainly because the tenant is a DIY type of guy and I think he fixes a lot of things on his own.

    Which can be a bad thing of course depending on what and how they decide to fix things. I definitely agree with you though, I would never put in a garbage disposal for any rental. And I like the idea of removing it before a tenant moves in.

  5. Interesting breakdown of the value of having a garbage dispenser. Certainly having one feels like a good luxury, but I can’t say that it would have any impact on a renting decision as your experience agrees.

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