Water damage is the number one cause of all homeowner’s insurance claims. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It can happen because of a frozen pipe or storm damages. Overall, water damage can be catastrophic not only to your rental investment but also to your wallet.
In fact, according to HomeAdvisor.com, the average homeowner spends between $1,145 and $4,563 to fix a water–damaged home.
With that in mind, who between a landlord and a tenant is responsible for water damage? Well, the simple answer is it depends! It depends on the specific circumstances that lead to the damage!
When is a tenant responsible?
A tenant may become responsible for fixing the water problem if he or she is the cause for the water damage. This is especially true if the damage results from their carelessness. So, suppose you are out of town and have left the property under the care of someone else.
And unfortunately, they become careless and forget to shut off the bathroom faucet which causes flooding in the entire house. Here, undoubtedly, the responsibility to fix the problem becomes the tenants.
Besides leaking faucets, another cause of water damage is overflowing toilets. In case of water damage, the root cause of the problem must first be established. It might, for instance, result from the landlord’s lack of maintenance. It may also result from misuse by the tenant. For example, by flushing down facial tissues and diapers.
If the water damage results from your landlord’s lack of proper maintenance, then the responsibility to fix the issue becomes the landlord’s. However, if because of your misuse, then the responsibility falls solely on you.
When is the landlord responsible?
One thing is for sure, your landlord is responsible for ensuring you live in an environment that is safe and habitable. Among these responsibilities is making sure that the home is free from any plumbing issues.
That said, it’s your responsibility as a tenant to ensure proper maintenance of the plumbing fixtures. In addition, most leases also make tenants responsible for notifying the landlord of any issues.
If you fail to do any of these, then any liabilities resulting from the water damage may be yours to take, warns McGuire Property Management.
What are the common signs of water damage?
The best way to protect yourself against water damage issues is by knowing how to spot the common signs first. The sooner you are able to realize the problem, the easier it’ll be to address it.
The following are the common signs of water damage you should be in the lookout for.
Sign #1: Unexplained high water bills.
Are you getting high utility bills lately? If you are, it might be a sign of a water problem. Alert your landlord of the issue immediately so that they can start looking for potential plumbing leaks and problems.
Sign #2: Mold starts to appear in your home.
Mold and water go hand in hand. So, if you start noticing mold in your home, chances are that water is leaking somewhere. Call a professional to find out if water leakage is behind the mold growth as soon as possible.
Sign #3: If the paint begins to peel and crack.
This is a common problem if you have a plumbing problem like a leaking pipe. A consistent leak may cause swelling of the drywall, which may begin pushing against the paint and cause it to peel or crack.
Sign #4: If you begin noticing discoloration and stains.
More often than not, you will be able to see water damage as water usually stains or discolors paint on a ceiling or wall. This typically happens when part of the ceiling or wall gets wet from an intermittent leak and then dries.
Sign #5: Musty or mildew smell.
After some time, damp and wet areas will start emitting smells and odors. Describing the smells is never easy, but you’ll know ‘em when you smell ‘em! A musty odor is the smell that you get from the laundry that you forgot to take out from the washer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you withhold rent from your landlord?
It’s possible. That said, each state usually has specific requirements that must be met. Some states, for example, allow tenants to withhold rent until a landlord fixes a repair problem.
Can you break a rental agreement?
In short, yes. Landlords are responsible for providing living conditions that are safe and habitable. As such, if they don’t, for example by refusing to act on your maintenance request, it may be possible to terminate the lease early without incurring any penalties.
Can a renter’s insurance help?
Yes, it can! For as low as $10 a month, a renter’s insurance can help provide you a nice backup strategy should you be liable for the water damage.
Clearly, the responsibility when it comes to water damage depends on the specific circumstance. Just to be safe, consider insuring yourself with a renter’s insurance policy.