Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible?

This is a discussion on Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible? within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; We would greatly appreciate your advice! My husband and I just experienced apprx. $3,000 worth of property damage in our ...

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Old Jul 6th, 2007, 09:54 AM   #1
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Default Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible?

We would greatly appreciate your advice!

My husband and I just experienced apprx. $3,000 worth of property damage in our rental apartment due to a water leak. After a lot of rain, water poured through the ceiling fan/light fixture above our dining table and ruined the table, 6 dining chairs, as well as our apple laptop computer and ipod, as well as the hard wood floor in the area, which is now buckling.

The same leak had happened before and was "repaired" by our landlord. The leak did not come from a tenant (above us), but from the roof of the building itself.

Our landlord is saying this might fall under "act of God" (heavy rains).

Who is responsible for the property loss/damage? We do not have renters' insurance, and have sustained a lot of loss from this leak.
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Old Jul 7th, 2007, 12:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible?

Heavy but normal rains are not an act of god and normally the building would be responsible...he is required to keep it in good condition

his insurer likely should pay
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Old Nov 3rd, 2008, 06:21 PM   #3
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Confused Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible?

Hi I am currently suing my landlord for the same situation, except the water leaked from the tenant's bathroom above us. What was the outcome of your situation?
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Old Nov 3rd, 2008, 10:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak – who's responsible?

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Hi I am currently suing my landlord for the same situation, except the water leaked from the tenant's bathroom above us. What was the outcome of your situation?
Conisdering the flooding was due to the upstair neighbor, the owner should not be responsible. This is why people should carry renter's insurance. Same thing as if fire would rip through a complex. If it were accidental (child playing with matches as an example) it would be the company that you carry renter's insurance with that would pay to replace your belongings, not the owners of the building. Same thing if it were your neighbor's fault.

In the case of the waterleak relating to heavy rains, it would be potentially be an insurance claim through the owner's insurance if it was the result of negligence. I work for a Property Management Company by the way.
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 07:56 AM   #5
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

But how can it be the responsibility of the upstairs neighbor? Shouldn't the floors/pipes/ceilings be in good enough repair to keep water from pouring through into my apartment? Is there any responsibility of the landlord?
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 12:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

Both of these damages would have been covered by renters insurance. All renters should have this insurance to cover their belongings. It costs only about $20 a month to protect your belongings. A LL's insurance covers only the building itself, and not any of your possessions.

To the first poster, the roof had been repaired to the best of his knowledge. Roof leaks are sometimes hard to diagnose and repair. Water travels along rafters in ceilings and the actual leak may be some distance from the point where the water enters the interior. (The leak is not just above the light fixture.) Unless he knew the roof would still leak and had failed to have it repaired previously, he is not responsible for your loss. There is no negligence here. He had no prior knowledge that it would leak again. He believed it had been repaired.

To the second poster, no floor will hold the water from pouring through to the next level. Ceiling and floor systems are not watertight. If the water leak was from a problem caused by the tenant upstairs, both you and the LL can pursue that tenant for your damages. (The water could have come from a bathtub allowed to overflow, a stopped toilet, etc. If it was the tenant's fault, he is responsible for everything damaged because of his actions.) If the leak came from a pipe between the floors and there had been no previous signs that a leak would occur, the LL had no prior knowledge of the upcoming event. He could not have reasonably been able to foresee or prevent the leak. Again, no negligence on the LL's part.

While an owner (of a rented, or even his own, home) knows about the major visual items in the property, he cannot know about all the unknown and invisible items. He can see if a roof is in really bad shape, but may not know if there is one possible leak in one section of it. He would know there was a problem if all the pipes continually stopped up, but cannot read the future and tell when one particular pipe hidden in a wall or ceiling is reaching its breaking point. These things, like all other items in a building deteriorate. Some decay faster, some slower. In some items, you can see and gauge the amount of decay. But, like in these instances, there are hidden items that you cannot see a problem coming. Things will happen to all buildings at one point or another. No one will be able to tell when certain items will break or leak. That is why insurance is always a good item to carry. It would cover these two losses.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 08:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

The landlord is responsible for making sure the structure of the building is sound. If heavy rain cause a leak that result in so much damage, the roof was in disrepair to begin with.

Renter's insurance is essential, however, this was not an "act of god". An act of god would be a perfectly built structure getting hit by a tsunami or a massive landslide and getting wiped out. A roof in neglected disrepair that leaks through to the inside and causes damage is not an "act of god".

The landlords are responsible financially.

On a side note, worry about your possessions, and not the floor. The floor is part of the structure and belongs to the landlord.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 10:36 AM   #8
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

I disagree. In order to hold the LL responsible, he has to be proven negligent. If he had no prior knowledge or request for repair, he had no way to know about a future event like a leak or a broken pipe. The LL is responsible for KEEPING the unit in good repair. He is not responsible for unforseen events. Most states have laws that say:
A landlord who is a party to a rental agreement shall do all of the following:
(1) Comply with the requirements of all applicable building, housing, health, and safety codes that materially affect health and safety;
(2) Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
(3) Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition;
(4) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him; ...

The building met code, he made all repairs required and requested. He had no knowledge that the roof would leak or that a pipe would break. He is not responsible for the tenant's possessions. They need to maintain renters insurance to cover those.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 12:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

A roof in disrepair is not an "unseen event". Properties need to be maintained, and even an idiot knows that structures require normal maintenance.

Anyone who owns property can merely look up at their roof and know when it needs repairing.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 12:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: Renters' property damaged by water leak who's responsible?

If an owner of a property is not responsible for unforseen events, who is? Besides, a roof that needs patching or even a new roof is not an unforseen event.
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