Landlord Responsibility for Leaky Roofs and Water Damage

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Landlords are generally required to fix major leaks, except in the rare case where a tenant misused the property and caused the damage. If the landlord was negligent in fixing it, the landlord may be responsible for the tenant’s personal property damage caused by water damage.

Fixes Are Typically Required

Most leaks and water damage are considered serious issues; landlords are generally required to fix them and fix them quickly. The “implied warranty of habitability” requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right if it’s not mentioned in the lease or even if the lease says the landlord is not responsible for such repairs. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep your apartment safe and livable depends heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety, not comfort, annoyance, or quality. Being exposed to water or flooding is almost always considered a severe issue where the implied warranty of habitability would apply. The landlord should fix the problem in reasonable time, based on the severity of the problem. The landlord cannot charge tenants for these essential repairs, and tenants are free to break a lease if the property is unsafe or dangerous. In some states, tenants can withhold rent until such fixes are made if the proper procedures are followed. In practice, tenants should be aware that even legally breaking a lease may appear in their rental history, so before doing so, tenants should consider the risk. Tenants should fully document the issue in case they are questioned by future landlords.

Health Issues and Property Damage

Rainwater and flooding can lead to physical injury (e.g., by slipping or electrocution), property damage, or health issues. Water damage can cause mold, which increases the chance for respiratory infections and bronchitis and can even release airborne toxins. If the landlord was notified, the injury was foreseeable, and the landlord does not fix the problems in a reasonable time, the landlord is responsible for any personal injury, health costs, or property damage caused by their failure to repair. Just as the victim of a car accident can sue a drunk driver for an injury, tenants can sue the landlord for damages caused by their negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the victim’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time since they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the negligence caused foreseeable injuries. The most important element is when the landlord was notified about the problem, so tenants are advised to notify and document the problem. If the landlord was notified by a previous tenant, the landlord is liable to future tenants. Tenants can recover the cost of damaged property, medical bills, and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high (some mold cases result in multimillion-dollar awards), landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves. Note that tenants are required to do what they can to prevent damage to the extent they can. For example, a tenant will not be able to recover money if there was a leak and they didn’t bother moving their personal items away from the water.

Tenant-Caused Issues

In some cases, the tenant may be the cause of the issue. For example, a tenant may accidentally fire a crossbow in the house that pictures a hole in the roof. While normal wear and tear is the landlord’s responsibility, the landlord is not responsible when the tenant, the tenant’s animal, or the tenant’s guest causes a problem from misuse of the apartment. If the landlord discovers the tenant caused the issue after the repair is made, the landlord may ask the tenant to compensate them for the costs of repair. Most commonly, the costs of these kinds of repairs are deducted from the tenant’s deposit.

Fixes Are Typically Required


Most leaks and water damage are considered serious issues; landlords are generally required to fix them and fix them quickly.

The “implied warranty of habitability” requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right if it’s not mentioned in the lease or even if the lease says the landlord is not responsible for such repairs. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep your apartment safe and livable depends heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety, not comfort, annoyance, or quality. Being exposed to water or flooding is almost always considered a severe issue where the implied warranty of habitability would apply. The landlord should fix the problem in reasonable time, based on the severity of the problem.

The landlord cannot charge tenants for these essential repairs, and tenants are free to break a lease if the property is unsafe or dangerous. In some states, tenants can withhold rent until such fixes are made if the proper procedures are followed. In practice, tenants should be aware that even legally breaking a lease may appear in their rental history, so before doing so, tenants should consider the risk. Tenants should fully document the issue in case they are questioned by future landlords.

Health Issues and Property Damage


Rainwater and flooding can lead to physical injury (e.g., by slipping or electrocution), property damage, or health issues. Water damage can cause mold, which increases the chance for respiratory infections and bronchitis and can even release airborne toxins. If the landlord was notified, the injury was foreseeable, and the landlord does not fix the problems in a reasonable time, the landlord is responsible for any personal injury, health costs, or property damage caused by their failure to repair.

Just as the victim of a car accident can sue a drunk driver for an injury, tenants can sue the landlord for damages caused by their negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the victim’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time since they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the negligence caused foreseeable injuries.

The most important element is when the landlord was notified about the problem, so tenants are advised to notify and document the problem. If the landlord was notified by a previous tenant, the landlord is liable to future tenants. Tenants can recover the cost of damaged property, medical bills, and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high (some mold cases result in multimillion-dollar awards), landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves.

Note that tenants are required to do what they can to prevent damage to the extent they can. For example, a tenant will not be able to recover money if there was a leak and they didn’t bother moving their personal items away from the water.

Tenant-Caused Issues


In some cases, the tenant may be the cause of the issue. For example, a tenant may accidentally fire a crossbow in the house that pictures a hole in the roof. While normal wear and tear is the landlord’s responsibility, the landlord is not responsible when the tenant, the tenant’s animal, or the tenant’s guest causes a problem from misuse of the apartment. If the landlord discovers the tenant caused the issue after the repair is made, the landlord may ask the tenant to compensate them for the costs of repair. Most commonly, the costs of these kinds of repairs are deducted from the tenant’s deposit.

Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Leaky Roof or Water Damage

about 1 year ago
0
votes

Landlord refuses to repair the a/c and heat system on front half of home hasn't worked since we moved in also won't repair the leaking roof asked for repairs and now he filed eviction on me however the property isn't in his name it's still in his late wife's maiden name their are several other major repairs needed like open sewer pipe in the back yard beside the patio master bathroom tub drains directly under the house cause pipes are all busted up from large tree growing up from the side of the

...read more
Renter in Haltom City, TX, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage
about 1 year ago
0
votes

I am a renter and I notified my landlord in reference to black mold 2 years ago and it has just progressed. Also as of today, the hot water heater started leaking. Is my landlord obligated to put me in temporary housing until the black mold issue is fixed?
Renter in Conway, SC, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage
about 1 year ago
0
votes

Black mold!! Horrible! Is my landlord responsible for temporary housing
Renter in Conway, SC, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage
almost 2 years ago
1
votes

How serious is mold? How do I know if it's black mold? My landlord isn't fixing it and I'm getting concerned.
Renter in Boulder, CO, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage
almost 2 years ago
2
votes

Had this tiny leak from my roof, which the landlord hasn't fixed. I say tiny because it drips like once every 10 minutes during heavy rain. But then I noticed a dark post in the ceiling next to the hole. I think there's a pool of water up there and it's dripping down only when that pool is over filled. What can I do?
Renter in Lakeland, FL, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage
With hurricane IRMA in florida last year most homes have leaky roofs. You should ask the landlord for the time frame when this leak will be fixed.
Renter in Tampa, FL, USA

over 2 years ago
-1
votes

H
Renter in Cherry Hill, NJ, USA
Leaky Roof or Water Damage