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Rental Flooding
updated: May 13, 2014, 4:37 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

If a renter accidentally floods their apartment and there is water damage to their unit and the unit below, is the tenant or the landlord responsible for the cost of the repairs to both units? The overall repair cost if over $2,000. This occured in a condo complex where each unit is individually owned. I don't think the tenant has that kind of money. And the owner's insurance doesn't cover the damage in the other person's unit. Advice?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 518633 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 04:47 PM

If the damage is caused solely by the tenant, then they are most likely on the hook for the cost. BUT, if the flooding was due to poor maintenance or anything that is in the landlord's realm of responsibility, then the landlord will be probably be liable. Depends on the facts really, as does everything in law.


 COMMENT 518634 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 04:47 PM

Renters insurance is your friend and only costs a few dollars extra if you have AAA insurance for your cars with the discount

But yes if you caused damage you are liable. What is not fair is to have your stuff damaged by the actions of uninsured others.

The landlords insurance covers the landlords property but they will sue for damages if they have to fix your accident. If the accident was caused by a broken line in a wall the condo association may be liable


 COMMENT 518635 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 04:48 PM

Send the bills to the upper unit's tenant and owner. It's their problem if they didn't have proper insurance.


 COMMENT 518640 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 04:58 PM

Hopefully the owner of the downstairs unit has insurance, it should cover damages.

No one floods their apartment on purpose, but if what you mean by accidentally is that it was due to negligence then I would hope if insurance doesn't pay for the damage to the downstairs unit then the tenant would do what is right and be responsible.

I have known of cases like this that take a long time to settle when insurance companies both try to get the "other" insurance company to pay.

The answer is what if any will the downstairs owner's insurance cover and what are the tenant and landlord willing to do to repair the damage downstairs if insurance will not cover it.


 COMMENT 518649 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 05:20 PM

Tenant. You can try going after the landlord who will go after the tenant but you should really start with the tenant.


 COMMENT 518656 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 05:33 PM

HOA may carry insurance to cover the downstairs damaged unit.


 COMMENT 518658 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 05:46 PM

the landlord is probably responsible, they will have insurance for property damage. file with both if there is even renters insurance


 COMMENT 518666 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 06:32 PM

Property Manager here - When you say that the Owners policy wont cover your unit, that makes me believe their insurance deemed the cause to be structural and not that of the person upstairs. Assuming im wrong.....

Document all damages and bills associated with the leak. I would contact the management company directly. If the upstairs tenant is found to be at fault, either by breaking the terms of their lease, or neglect, then it is that tenants responsibility. Management could bill back the resident, collecting however can be a challenge. Co-signers, payment plans and deposits may come into play, most likely the Owner ends up eating the cost (or suing for damages).

Good luck!


 COMMENT 518670 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 07:02 PM

Owner pays period! He should have the insurance. The only thing the renters have is a deposit. If the owner decides to take the deposit because it was the renters fault, that is all the owner gets. Insurance will cover, especially if he is upstairs. UPSTAIRS OWNER RESPONSIBLE!


 COMMENT 518672 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 07:32 PM

PM here too.

If it is a building (structural) issue the landlords insurance will cover

If it is upstairs as an example; a bad washing machine owned by tenant, it is not the landlords insurance as it is not their property and out side their control. It would be downstairs renters insurance co that would sue upstairs tenant and their renters insurance co to get their money back. Plus the landlords insurance will sue the upstairs tenant and insurance co for damages to the building and costs to restore the property.


 COMMENT 518677 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 08:38 PM

It really depends on if it was a neglect issue or maintanance issue, like something broke that should have been fixed.

I had it happen when the landlady neglected to fix a leaking water inlet on an upstairs toilet. It blew off the wall when we were at work and flooded the entire place and a bit of an adjoining condo.

Service master was called to help with the cleanup, he said directly to the landlady, " ma'am you dont want to go down the road of blaming your tenant for a faulty water line they told you about."

I would first contact the landlord. See where that gets you, and like others have said the hoa should also help/ have info


 COMMENT 518681 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 08:53 PM

Not everyone has renters insurance!


 COMMENT 518692P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-13 11:27 PM

Everyone who rents should have renters ins. It's cheap to add it on to your auto policy. We pay about $13 a month for $25k of coverage.


 COMMENT 518694 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 06:25 AM

The landlord's insurance will pay for both.


 COMMENT 518700 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 06:54 AM

Don't forget to COMPLETELY dry out the wet areas and check for mold. It could take weeks to dry out.


 COMMENT 518701 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 06:54 AM

If the upstairs tenant has renters insurance the policy probably covers liability. I would write letters to the upstairs tenant, the upstairs owner, and the HOA succinctly itemizing your damages and asking for a coordinated reimbursement. Let them figure it out. None of the insurance companies can afford to go to court over two grand and will avoid it even if they have to pay a claim they may not be clearly liable for. Your last resort is small claims court. The various insurance companies and the HOA must be represented by lawyers and lawyers are not allowed in small claims so filing a suit there will usually force them to pay out to avoid the cost of defending a full blown court case.


 COMMENT 518705 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 07:04 AM

694 just an fyi, but the landlords insurance covers the landlords losses and tenants IF it is the landlords fault.

If you loose everything due to a neighbors negligence and do not have renters insurance and the neighbor is broke, you end up with nothing.

After discounts on auto insurance, I pay $2 per year for Renters Insurance. And know first hand what can happen when you have a neighbor that does not think before they do something.


 COMMENT 518708 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 07:24 AM

Most people don't think about having renter's insurance but if you get it with the same company you have your car insured with then the discount on the auto policy can often pay the majority, or sometimes even more than, that cost of the renter's policy. My discount on the auto is enough to cover the entire cost of my renter's insurance... so for renter's I have $40k in coverage my stuff, $300k for liability in case I'm sued and $5,000 to relocate if needed. You can adjust all of those numbers to meet your needs. It's worth it!

And yes, it's the unit OWNER's responsibility unless the damage was intentional.


 COMMENT 518709 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 07:24 AM

As a tenant, not your problem. After your apt dries out, before the mold sets in, move to another apt.


 COMMENT 518716 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 07:57 AM

It's a bit more complicated than meets the eye.

The HOA's master building policy would be the first inline. However, those tend to have a high deductible so there is no coverage available. So now we go to the two unit owner's individual policies. Here, many policies have deductible coverage, meaning they will pay for damages that aren't covered by the master building policy's high deductible.

Most HOA governing documents have a clause that's called a "Waiver of Subrogation." What this means is that my insurance company cannot recover costs for damages they paid, even it's the other party's fault.

Practically, here is how this plays out. Each unit owner's insurance policy pays for damages to each unit. Any unpaid damages due to a deductible should be paid from the unit owner's policy where the leak originated, assuming they were responsible. It is essentially an uninsured loss, so it's not subject to the waiver of subrogation.


 COMMENT 518729 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 08:40 AM

The answers can be pieced together from all these posts. If the leak was not something for which the builiding owner/HOA is responsible for (common area rules) then the tenant who caused the leak (albeit accidently) is responsible (liable)for all damages. If they have a homeowners or renters insurance policy their own damage will likely be covered by the property damage provisions, less the deductible and the repair of the problem that caused the leak. The downstairs unit will be covered by the upstairs owners liability provision in their policy (i.e. damage away from the insured premises to the property or person of a third party. If the upstairs unit has no insurance they will never the less be liable for the extended damage to the property of others under general tort principles of liabilty.


 COMMENT 518751 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 09:29 AM

You are saying that the tenant accidentally flooded the place. Tenant pays.

Don't assume that they don't have that kind of money. If they go for sushi, if they have seen the latest movie, new car...highlights in their hair, new tattoo, been to the Lark...(which means they've been out in the last year) they have money to start paying. $20 a month =$5 a week will put a dent in the bill in no time.

Encourage the tenant to take responsibility for their mistake. Taking responsibility head on! Start a new trend.


 COMMENT 518754 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 09:37 AM

Upstairs owner pays.


 COMMENT 518785 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 10:46 AM

Bummer. That kind of mistake is costly and can't just be wished away. If tenant can't pay and landlords' insurance won't cover for lack of liability the only recourse is small claims court which just adds to the over all costs.

A judgement does not result in immediate compensation, though... or any for that matter if liable party refuses to accept responsibility. You could seek to attach wages or even the tenant's security deposit but that also incurs extra fees and charges.


 COMMENT 518876 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 02:06 PM

Trust me on this. I just went through this exact same scenario. Most HOA governing docs require a waiver of subrogation. (and it's good that they do, but that's beyond the scope here)

File a claim with your own insurance company. They will pay the claim, minus your deductible. Ask the other unit owner's insurance company to pay for uninsured damages (i.e. your deductible).

FYI, unlike an auto accident, where rates are more individualized (make a claim, rates go up), homeowner's insurance is really averaged over a region and property type.


 COMMENT 518942 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-05-14 04:10 PM

Totally agree with 876. This happened to me when I lived in/owned a condo. Upstairs unit was rented out. Their toilet overflowed and leaked through our walls and ceiling. Major repairs had to be done. Renter did not have renter's insurance and the owner did not have coverage for a tenant. Had to go through my homeowner's insurance and the owner reimbursed me for the deductible. Good luck!


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