Living in a rental has its perks. One of those perks is not being responsible for the big renovations to and expensive upkeep of the property — but what happens if an unexpected flood renders your apartment unlivable or ruins your personal belongings? Who is responsible for what when it comes to water damage?
Understanding your tenant rights for water-damaged apartments is an important part of being a renter. Your landlord could refuse to do the work that’s required to keep your home healthy and functioning, or they could take too long to do a repair and end up causing further damage. Maybe it’s on you entirely. Whatever the cause, it’s important to know what you’re entitled to as a tenant and understand who is responsible for what.
Always look over your lease and have a thorough understanding of what it is you’re agreeing to when you sign it. In many cases, the landlord will have insurance for their property that should cover damage to the building. If it’s not clear in your lease, ask your landlord where you stand if water damage strikes before it happens.
Your lease might specify whether or not the landlord can evict you if there is total or partial water damage to the unit you’re living in. On the other hand, you reserve the right to cancel your lease if the place is partially or totally destroyed from water damage. However, it has to be damaged enough that it will require a lot of extensive repairs. If it’s minor, you won’t be able to cancel the lease.
If you do leave your apartment because of water damage, you shouldn’t have to pay rent for that month.
Anyone who rents an apartment or house should have renters insurance. Some places even require it before allowing you to move in. Of course, there are different kinds of renters insurance. Some cover interior fixtures like walls, floors, and pipes, while others also cover personal belongings. In some cases, renters insurance may even cover the cost of staying in a similarly-priced unit until all the necessary repairs are done.
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that all of their units are livable. That includes upkeep and making necessary repairs in a timely manner. The landlord also must keep all essential plumbing working, including the toilet, tub, and sinks. If there’s a leak because of the landlord’s negligence, then they are the ones responsible for repairing and replacing anything that gets damaged. In order to prove negligence, however, you’ll have to keep a detailed record of when it happened, when you contacted your landlord about it, and how long it was before they did anything about the problem (if they did anything at all).
It’s still up to the renter to repeatedly contact the landlord about any issues that come up until they’re resolved, and hopefully before they cause any damage. Just be sure to record the dates of each contact attempt.
If the property itself, such as the floors, walls, or other interior fixtures, becomes water-damaged, the landlord’s property insurance should cover it. Alternatively, it could also fall under the renters insurance. This will depend on whose fault it is, as they will be the one that has to deal with the insurance.
However, there are times when water damage happens and it’s nobody’s fault. A pipe might burst, or a freak act of nature might occur (which insurance usually won’t cover). In these cases, the landlord could try to avoid responsibility for the damages and put it on the tenant.
Damage to Personal Belongings
The person responsible for personal belongings will be the same person who would be responsible for property damage. It all depends on who is at fault.
Tenants can be accused of negligence for a number of reasons. They may not have reported a leak on time, or perhaps they left the tub running until it overflowed. It could even be a case of keeping the heat too low in the winter, which can cause pipes to freeze and eventually burst. In all of these circumstances, it will be the tenant’s responsibility to pay for any damage done to the property and their personal belongings.
In some cases, water damage could be caused by another tenant in a nearby unit. There are instances where an upstairs neighbor falls asleep and leaves the tub running, for example, in which water can go through their floor into your apartment. Maybe they’ve left a leaky pipe unattended too long, and it’s leaked into your home rather than theirs.
If you can prove that water damage has been caused by a neighboring tenant’s negligence, then they will be responsible for any damage done to your property and personal belongings. Hopefully they’ll at least have their own renters insurance if that’s the case!
Of course, the other tenant may not have been negligent at all and be just as much a victim in this situation as you are. If you both feel the water damage was caused by the landlord’s negligence, then you can work together to get it settled.