The Problem with Rental Kitchens That No One Talks About, According to a Property Manager

published Jan 6, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Ana Kamin

These days, many rental kitchens come equipped with all the bells and whistles you could ever want or need as a tenant—granite or quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, huge islands, open-concept layouts, tons of cabinet space, and even bonus design features like exposed brick. 

But even with all these upgrades, there’s still one major problem with rental kitchens that no one talks about: Garbage disposals.

No matter how nice the kitchen is (or the apartment more broadly, for that matter), garbage disposals are all pretty much created equal. These handy little kitchen workhorses are mounted under the sink, where they shred food scraps into tiny pieces to get flushed down the drain. 

Once you shove something into the disposal and turn it on for a few seconds, that’s it—it’s gone and you never have to worry about it again, right? Out of sight, out of mind? Wrong.

Garbage disposals cause major headaches for tenants and property managers alike. 

“You’d be amazed at the things people will try to put down one,” says Matt Perkins, a property manager at Nevins Real Estate Management in State College, Pennsylvania. “We often find that people are trying to push through items that end up causing blockages, or they try to put items down that will not break down. Many people associate the word ‘garbage’ with meaning that they can flush through anything and everything.”

If you don’t use your garbage disposal properly, there’s a chance it will become clogged, start to malfunction, or just stop working entirely. This is bad news for you, since it means your disposal is out of commission until your property manager can get someone to repair or replace it (it may also start to smell funky in the meantime!).

It’s also bad news for your property manager, who now has to deal with an issue that could’ve easily been avoided in the first place. It’s probably not a deal-breaker, but if you already had other marks against you as a tenant, the property manager may not be super eager to renew your lease if you keep shoving random objects down the disposal.

“When the owner or manager of a property must fix something that is the result of negligence, frustration is going to set in,” Perkins says. “The same is true for the renter, not having the ability to use everyday items causes frustration.”    

Remember that it’s usually better to simply toss food scraps into the trash or compost bin, rather than into the garbage disposal. But at the very least, you should never, ever put certain problematic foods into the disposal, including large quantities of eggshells, corn husks, artichokes, vegetable peels, or other fibrous materials, which can block the drain. Keep rice and other foods that expand when wet out of the disposal, too, along with animal bones, fruit pits, and shells. You should also never pour grease or fat into your disposal (or any sink, period). Manufacturers also recommend running cold or lukewarm water while your disposal is turned on, but you can use hot water between grinding periods.

And if you accidentally mess up and your disposal seems broken or clogged, don’t try to fix it yourself, no matter how handy you think you are after watching a fix-it-yourself YouTube video. Just call your property manager right away, apologize for the mistake, and explain that it won’t happen again.

“The biggest issue we have is not being aware that something is not working,” Perkins says. “Most property managers want to know there is a problem so the issue does not cause extensive damage.”