Who’s Responsible for Water Damage: Tenants or Landlords?

who's responsible for water damage

Water may cause serious damage in a rental property. Both tenants and landlords are sometimes confused over the responsibility for such damages. The question being: who exactly should pay for the trouble?

In this article by professionals of Dawson PM, we’ll take a closer look at the main responsibilities of tenants and landlords concerning water damage. While you should check for state-specific legal differences, these general guidelines will help you understand the whole situation a bit better.

How to spot signs of water damage?

Damage doesn’t always result from water violently gushing from broken pipes. Sometimes water damages accumulate slowly and subtle signs grow into something more serious.

Brown spots are typical symptoms of water making its way into places where it shouldn’t be. The discoloring results from the brown surfactant that’s used to bind paint. Water releases this surfactant, making the damaged areas look ugly.

Also, you could easily smell strange odors or spot changes in the surface textures. The smell comes from mold growth. And the texture changes can be anything from cracks and bubbles to bends and warps.

When you start noticing subtle signs of water damage appearing in the rental space, then contact your landlord immediately and try to work out the root causes.

The devil is in the details

responsible for water damage

Having detailed contracts will help minimize endless arguments. When your rental contract isn’t covering enough of the possible risks and situations, then turning to the law is the next step.

This route is always more costly compared to ensuring clear agreements starting from the beginning. At the same time, it’s inevitable that you won’t be able to define every circumstance in the contract. Most problems need common sense and knowledge about the local laws regarding landlords’ and tenants’ responsibilities.

When are the landlords responsible for water damage?

All landlords need to make their rental spaces habitable and safe. Pipes, plumbing, and roof leaks are all part of the rental space. Any lack of maintenance invites trouble. Of course, your landlord is responsible for the proper maintenance in order to lower the risks of potential water damage.

As you can see, these are very broad principles. That’s why we need to analyze a few cases to see how this responsibility works out in real life. You should keep in mind that there are circumstances that

minimize or completely remove the landlord’s responsibility. Keeping this risk in mind allows you to make better decisions when faced with an unexpected water emergency.

Shared responsibilities

While the landlord is accountable for keeping the rooms habitable, the tenant should do everything to prevent additional damage. One of the pipes starts to leak? Yes, it was the landlord’s responsibility to keep the pipe system properly maintained so this wouldn’t happen.

Still, part of that responsibility is passed on to the tenant when the water emergency situation unfolds. You need to immediately alert the landlord and keep any of your personal possessions from getting further damage. Taking a passive approach would mean a significant risk that the landlord wouldn’t have to reimburse the damage to your personal belongings.

When are the tenants responsible for water damage?

Not all water emergencies have anything to do with the landlord’s neglect. Imagine that you are away on a trip aboard and one of your relatives leaves the bathtub faucet on for so long that the water flows all over the floor.

When he discovers the accident, a few hours have passed and the water has even damaged the ceiling below. In this case, the landlord assumes absolutely zero responsibility and the tenant must pay for the damages.

Overflowing toilets are common culprits for water damage. But who pays for the consequences? In these cases, you have to understand why the toilet started to overflow.

If the pipes were in a bad state, then the landlord must pay up. When the tenant just clogged the toilet by flushing facial tissues, condoms, or tampons, then the landlord isn’t held accountable for the resulting expenses.

Insurance might help

Renter’s insurance provides a nice backup strategy. Typically, this insurance isn’t an actual requirement, but it can make your life easier. In some circumstances, the landlord has the right not to pay for anything if they can prove the damage occurred because of the tenant’s negligence.

Having a good renter’s insurance plan lessens worries about unexpected accidents that might make a serious dent in your wallet.

So, Who’s Responsible for Water Damage: Tenants or Landlords?

Serious water damage wrecks properties and all the possessions inside. More subtle cases need attention as well: mold, brown spots, and strange smells need to be sorted out.

Landlords need to keep the place habitable and safe. This principle covers proper maintenance to remove the risk of extensive water damage. That said, accidents happen, and tenants might find themselves in situations where they have to cover the costs.

Renter’s insurance is a smart way to lower these risks. And even if the landlord is responsible for the water damage, it’s up to the tenant to immediately alert about the issue.