Negotiating with Your Landlord After Damage Occurs

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It’s the worst thing that can happen when you’re living in an apartment: the landlord — the person you pay for shelter — is responsible for damage to your possessions. Maybe the management is at fault for a burst pipe, or perhaps for a fire. If you don’t have renter’s insurance, it may seem as if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But you do have an option: you can negotiate with your landlord to cover part or all of the damages. Janet Portman, the author of Every Tenant’s Legal Guide, says that landlords have a legal responsibility to compensate tenants for damage that is the apartment management’s fault. It’s just a matter of asking your landlord.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter dealt with such a situation first hand in an apartment in Baltimore, Maryland: her landlord had arranged to have a microwave installed, but the maintenance man botched the job. The microwave fell, breaking a number of items sitting on the kitchen cabinet. “It was a huge mess as well as a terrible fright — it really made a loud noise as it all went flying! As soon as I caught my breath and calmed down, I took a photo of the mess. Then, I called the front desk and had the doorman come down to see the damage, since this occurred after 5 p.m.”

Ruth made sure that the doorman could corroborate her claim, as well as documenting the damage herself with a written list of damaged items and photographs. She even made an estimate of the amount she would need to replace everything. When she took her claim to the apartment manager, she was able to get $250.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, try to follow Ruth’s example. If you can provide documentation of the problem, you will have a much easier time convincing your landlord to cover the damages. You should also go in with a clear idea of what you want: a specific dollar amount, perhaps, or a discount on your rent.

If your landlord is unwilling to compensate you for damages, you have a few options — moving out, small claims court — although they may be too extreme in all situations. You should also remember that your landlord has no obligation to cover damages that were not his fault. Problems stemming from the actions of other tenants or outside individuals will be very difficult to get reparation for if you do not have renter’s insurance.

12 Responses to “Negotiating with Your Landlord After Damage Occurs”

  1. August 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm, Guest said:

    Heavy rain-water damage from top roof to the floor of the apartment then to my roof,damage my mattress,two pillows.bed cover and a blanket,all discarded ,the management knows about it,how do I negotiate to replace my possessions , it’s kind of expensive to buy everything ,the super knows about it .Please any advice will be helpful.

    [email protected]


  2. August 26, 2008 at 9:46 pm, Guest said:

    It’s a tuff situation to be in especially if your landlord is strapped for money (you’d be surprised how many are). Here’s a site on Renters Insurance that might help:

    All Renter’s Insurance


  3. September 02, 2008 at 10:08 am, Guest said:

    what can you do about a landlord who does not fix the problems with your apt? I have lived in this apt less than 1 month and have had no air conditioning 5 times. I have also called repeatedly about the drain in the bathtub. They say they fix it, then 2 days later,its the same thing again. HELP!!!!!!!!!


  4. September 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm, Guest said:

    You should locate your attorney general’s website and look up tenants rights guide. It will have helpful information as well as phone numbers to code enforcement agency which is usually through the town clerk’s office.


  5. September 15, 2008 at 9:31 pm, Guest said:

    I live in what used to be considered the ghetto of Fairfield, (Cal). after the cops would start hanging out in front of the complex, the crime rate here went down(obviously). So one day my girlfriend and I were kinda desperate for a place to live, this place was the first one to call us back, and it was the cheapest for our budget. So we took it. First when we did a walk through they showed us an apartment that had carpet everywhere (excluding bathroom and kitchen). I loved it, then when we came back to eal with the paperwork we went on a second walk through (my girlfriend had been to so many walk throughs that she needed a reminder). So they took us to a different apartment on the opposite side of the complex, promising us the entire way that it was the same floorplan and carpet scheme, and everything. But since we were the first one’s to get back to them they were going to let us chose between 2 apartments. They said it was for “lighting options”. I guess one apartment was shadier. We didn’t want that apartment and our minds were set, we wanted the first apartment, our parking space would be right in front of our window and we had a brand new car (so obviously we’re paranod, it’s new). The lady kept insisting we see this other one, so my girlfriend made me cave and at least look at it. there was water damage and tiles from the floor in the kitchen were breaking and it clearly wasn’t habitable. We said no, if you can’t offer us the first one then I don’t want to live here. So the lady said fine we’ll give you the first one, we’ll give you a call tomorrow and then we’ll get all the paperwork finalized and you can move in. The next day comes, we get the call, do the paperwork, they hand us the keys, and say have a nice day. I look at the keys and there’s a little sticker hanging off the key ring saying which apartment they belong to. Surprise, it’s the 3rd apartment, the one I haven’t step foot in, haven’t seen and didn’t even know about. After I ask what the hell? They respond with Oh, yeah ummmm, those apartments need some more work on them, so were going to rent them out later. So even to my amazement I politely ask them, If when they are done with the apartment that we wanted in the first place, if we could just move in there and transfer the leasse over to that apartment. they say that it’d take a month and that I would be here for an extra month, but fine that’s ok. To my amazement I’m walking to my car the next morning so I can go to work. And what do I see in the parking lot? A u-haul truck right in front of the apartment that I wanted. There is a couple moving in and they tell me that they filled out their paperwork about 20 minutes after we did, as a matter of fact, they were sitting in the waiting room as we were filling our paperwork out. So I ask: What is that? I mean is that something I should be mad about? or bad sellmanship on their part? should I make a big shit about it? What do I do?

    pissed off at the groves of east tabor

    p.s. don’t ever move here. If you want any reason’s why feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]


  6. September 15, 2008 at 9:50 pm, Guest said:

    I live at the groves of east tabor in fairfield,california and since I first moved in. Which was Feb. ’08, I’ve had consistent problems with this place.
    1.) the electrical sockets can’t hold a plug.
    2.) there are large amounts of pigeons that congagate on top of my apartment building and poo in the airconditioning unit causing my breathing to really go down the drain
    3.) the garbage disposal has never work even though it’s brand new.
    4.) 2 of the 4 burners on the stove never work (don’t even flicker)
    5.) everytime I go into the office to complain or even pay rent there’s somebody new, claiming that their company has bought the property
    6.) They have all the 1 bedroom apt. on the bottom floor and all the 2 and 3 bedrooms on the top. The children are loud, as many have complained about it would make sense to have the 1 bedrooms on the top.
    7.) It took my going into the office EVERY,SINGLE DAY FOR 3 MONTHS for them to fix my front door that some studip kid kicked in.
    8.) I have caught the maintence guy on several occasions peeping into people’s apartment.
    9.) after a deep background check I’ve found out that this place has been bought and then sold 12 times in the last 3 years.
    10.) the security gates that are supposed to protect us are left wide open between 10 p.m.- 8 a.m. every single day.
    11.)the pamphelet says 24 hour maintence. like i said it took 3 months ( i literally had to put my couch in front of the front door for 3 months until they fixed my door frame).
    12.) staff will straight up just walk in to your apt.
    ( no knocking, they say that since they’re in charge they can).
    13.) there’s some crazy mexican family who has some how monoplozied this place, they have they illigal immagrant families stay with them and bounce around from apt. to apt. (they have like 8-10 apartments under ther control) and they allow the children to do whatever to whoever at whatever time of the day or night.
    14.) the pizza man (of EVERY SINGLE pizza place won’t deliever to even the complex cause its so ghetto
    15.)the police are even sketchy on coming out here cause of the tenants. (you can get robbed with 50 people watching, when the police come nobody steps up to the plate to be a man/woman

    there are many more, I’m just getting really mad thinking about it so I can’t think right.

    pissed off at the groves
    [email protected]


  7. September 28, 2008 at 6:06 pm, Guest said:

    It’s good to see that Ruth situation turned out well. It seems she didn’t have any trouble getting management to reimburse her for the damages. I think she did a great job with the steps she took and I think this is great advice, because most wouldn’t take the time to document or take photographs, plus have a corroborating witness. Thanks for sharing the story and advice!

    Florida Equestrian Country Club & Community


  8. October 08, 2008 at 11:30 am, Guest said:

    Renters, put everything in writing and have some one in the office sign that they recieved it and make a copy. Or fax it and keep the transmittal sheet, email it. Prove that you have a problem. Once you have written documentaion of the problem you have a case. Your lease states the Rights and Responsabilities of Landlord and Tenant, READ IT! Landlords have to fix or attempt to fix things, and sometimes have to show proof. There is limit on how long they have. Also,there are Warranty of Habitability Laws in some states, I am from Colorado and we just had one passed. Look into it.

    You must be pro active in knowing what your lease says and what your rights are.


  9. October 30, 2008 at 3:46 pm, Guest said:

    I found this from the link at


  10. February 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm, jessica said:

    on friday night my daughter came to my room to tell me about a leak in my living room. as i walked into the living room i saw water all over the walls and floor. water on my sofas and area rug and my entertainment center.ruined my tv and dvd player. i ran and called the super and managment office numer and even the emergany number they gave all the tenants just in call of anything. i even called the “so called number” no answer…. i finally had to call the fire department and they had to shut of the valve upstairs because the toilet over flowed. the fireman told me not to touch anything because its all urine and alot of other stuff and its not safe.i had to wait til morning and called the super again . and finally he came and checked the damages and went upstairs to find out the problem.. come to find out the neighbors cloged up the toilet with a diaper or something , thats what caused the damages. i called managment office on monday and they told me ..”well since i have no renters ins. they wont pay for no damages..the damages came to 1800.00.. now how am i going to pay for that ?im a single parent ,with 4 kids and a fixed income..what can i do? helppppp!!!


  11. March 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm, Robert said:

    Take Pictures. Get statements from the superintendent or manager in the rental office. Write a detailed statement yourself. IN addition, file complaint with the PA State Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. I also would get assistance from your elected officials-they can recommend legal action and really pressure the management company of your property


  12. May 22, 2009 at 10:06 am, [email protected] said:

    I live in Texas and receive Section 8 Housing Voucher program. Lived at same apt for 8 yrs. Two years ago some kids got into the apt next door to me and vandalized it. My 11 yr old son knew who they were. I felt I should let mgmt know about it and try to assist them in any way I could. In other words I got involved. I wish I would have kept my mouth shut!! Now after 2 yrs. mgmt isn’t renewing my lease and I’m about to lose my housing assistance due to the fact that the police and mgmt say that because my son knew these kids and these kids (who were subsequently convicted) for trespassing (door left open/no sign of forced entry) and arson (patch of carpet was burnt – no fire personnel were dispatched) I gave the police and fire dept all and then some of the information I knew to be true. Yes my son knew these kids and just because these convicted juveniles say he knew about it my landlord and HUD are making me pay for 5 months of rent on that unit that went vacant for 5 months. I was forced to sign a letter with payment arrangements of $650 a mo. for the next 5 months or I would lose my Section 8 voucher. I’ve written to every employee I can think of in the HUD office to no avail!! I am days away from being homeless me and my two boys one of which is graduating from High School in 2 weeks. CAN ANYONE OUT THERE HELP ME? GIVE ME SOME ADVICE, CAN THEY DO THIS TO ME? The 1st of the mo is coming up and if I don’t have that $650 payment, I LOSE MY SECTION 8!!! COME ON IF I’M ON SECTION 8 HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO COME UP WITH $$$$ AND A DEPOSIT ON MY NEXT APT? TO TOP THINGS OFF-I’M UNEMPLOYED AT THE TIME NO THANKS TO THE ECONOMY, I CAN’T FIND A JOB HERE TO SAVE MY LIFE, LITERALLY.


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