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Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

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  • Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

    Jurisdiction/Place: USA - California

    I am a landlord and I currently rent out to a group of students.

    A leak occurred for a few weeks, the anglestop near the toilet was leaking very slowly. The tenants claim that a few puddles appeared in the bathroom, they did not report these to me. They do claim to have cleaned up the puddles, and that the puddles went away and came back.

    Eventually water leaked through the drywalls and floor to the unit under them. Once the bottom unit complained to them, they brought it to my attention.

    The tenants claim to not have noticed any leakage signs. Eventually the leak dripped into the downstairs unit and both units had serious repair done. About ~10k worth.

    They do not have renters insurance (not sure if that would cover it) but basically I had to cover it.

    Does this constitute as negligence and should they be responsible for the repairs?

    Thank you all in advance for any advice.

  • #2
    Leak Flood Damage

    I wish to inform you that your rental agreement firstly deals with the issue of compensation and dispute. However, if agreement is silent then you can claim amount of loss done to you by negligence of the students. Normally, it is the landlord who is liable for normal wear and tear of premises. However, in your case you can argue that it was the tenants fault. The tenants have been negligent in informing you clearly about the leakage of water. Water leakage was never informed to you in time and this has resulted in a huge damage to your property and thereby causing you the loss. Court will decide the matter by keeping in view the tenants acts in front of it, therefore, you must clearly show that tenants were negligent.



    • #3
      re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

      The tenants are not plumbers are they? They had no way of knowing that water they were sopping up with towels was doing structural damage underneath their line of vision. So no, it's not the tenant's fault and no, they are not responsible for repairs.

      Landlords should have two type of insurance. One for landlords, and one for homeowners.

      Renters Insurance for tenants does not cover a landlord's structure. It covers only the tenants possessions.


      • #4
        re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

        Only one type of insurance is needed for rental properties. A rental dwelling policy. No other policy is needed, unless the LL also desires an extra liability policy to protect himself in case a tenant sues him. The rental dwelling policy covers the building and the small amount of LL's property inside the building (appliances, HVAC, etc.). It does not cover the tenant's belongings. There is usually a small liability policy and a medical coverage policy embedded in the rental dwelling policy. You can get addedums which also cover water or flood damages as well as lost rent in case the unit become uninhabitable. Homeowners insurance is only needed on the LL's personal residence and is wasted money on a rental. Homeowner's policies include a large amount for personal property inside the structure. In rented buildings, there is little personal property unless the LL rents it out furnished. You do not need to pay for this coverage if you have few possessions inside the rental.

        Tenant's rental insurance covers the tenant's possessions in case of loss. If this leak had caused possessions to be ruined, their insurance would have replaced these. Like the LL's policy, this insurance usually also includes a small liability section in case the tenant is sued. If they had this policy, the LL may have been able to sue and collect some money from damages from their liability section because of negligence.

        Normally, tenants are not responsible for water damages because they come from unseen sources (pipes inside walls or ceilings). This source was not unseen. The fact that these tenants knew the pipe had been leaking for weeks and failed to report it shows negligence on their part. They, in fact, cleaned up the water, and more water appeared. That should have been a certain sign that this leak needed to be reported immediately. The fact that they saw and knew of this leak, cleaned up the water from it, but failed to report it to the LL until major damage had been done shows negligence on their part. Had they not known about the leak, the LL could not collect from the tenants. Since they clearly DID know, the LL has a case for negligence against them. Especially if the rental agreement instructs tenants to report these types of problems promptly. Now collecting money from students is another thing entirely. How much money do you think you will be able to collect from these kids?


        • #5
          re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

          If they didn't cause or recognize the leak therefore they didn't report it; is it still considered negligence?

          Their story is:
          They cleaned up a puddle which they claim that they believed it was from showering.
          They were only aware of the problem once the downstairs unit complained.

          I've been a pretty laidback landlord to them. They were late a month or two on rent and I let them slide, I've sent handymen in for a few things not covered under the lease agreement. I understand they are just kids/students and I give alot of slack for that.

          It sounds like i can pin the entire repair on them but honestly I dont expect them to pay it all. I think they should cover a majority portion of it though, (not necessarily at once) maybe over time/etc. I've been very open about working out some type of agreement. Though they're trying to claim they have zero responsibility for what happened and therefore get out of paying any part of the repair bill.


          • #6
            re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

            Per your post:
            "The tenants claim that a few puddles appeared in the bathroom, they did not report these to me. They do claim to have cleaned up the puddles, and that the puddles went away and came back."

            They saw water, cleaned it up, and it came back. Had they not noticed it a second time, that would be one thing. But if they saw it again and didn't report it, I would consider it negligence. Whether a judge would consider it so, who knows? Perhaps only ask them to pay a small portion of it. These are students. Chances are they have no real money. But make sure they understand the importance of reporting problems like this immediately.


            • #7
              re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

              Agreed. Taking them to court to hold them responsible is not going to make them pay it. They have no money in which to pay it, and it will eat up time and money for your to bring suit in small claims court.

              You would have to ask for half anyway, since small claims only deals with amounts up to $5,000.


              • #8
                re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

                One error. CA small claims limits are $7500, not $5000. But it still wouldn't pay to take them to court. These are college kids. They have no money and won't have for some years to come. But make sure they know that they need to report these things immediately in the future. If they remain as naive as they are now, you may think about not renewing and finding new tenants for the next school year.


                • #9
                  re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

                  I'm a property manager myself. I have seen first hand how property owners refuse to pay for needed repairs then seek out ways both blame and bill a tenant for a problem. Whether it's due to neglegence or normal wear and tear tenants are often victem to predatory property owners.

                  If I was the tenant and you tried to sue me I'd demand you bring me the actual stopcock so I can confirm that was in fact the faulty part. Secondly I'd seek if there's a warranty on that part. The manufacturer warranties may cover various damage by failing parts. I personally replace about 12 to 15 stopcocks a year in the building I manage due to small leaks. I have about 1 or two plastic toilet hoses that fail. This is due to the expese the owners are willing to spend on equipment.

                  $10,000 screams deferred maintenance to me. Have you installed the proper flooring in the bathroom?

                  Properly installed flooring of Vinyl with cauled seams around the corners then properly installed covebase will result in a full on 1/4 inch puddle. This means no water would be able to escape and tenants would KNOW there's a MAJOR leak. Not suspect roommate.

                  The tenants should ask you for the actual stop cock so they can determine if it's a lesser expensive one and prone to failure. As a landlord you should know brands and problems. Also the tenants may be 2 months late at times but they're paying you probably $12,000 a year. How many units do you have paying to ofset the cost of repairs. When was your last roofing repair. Can you prove in court that it's definitely not a leak from the roofing? Do you have receipts from when the last roof repair was?

                  Lastly you're doing what most landlords do which is blaming the tenants. And it doesn't sound like you researched any warranty from the manufacturers of the plumbing equipment. That may be a source of reimbursement. Also your roofing contractor may have insurance. 10k sounds like you've let this go for a long time and I doubt roommates with a wet floor would be cleaning up spills that frequently without suspecting a problem worth reporting allowing it to go to 10 k. And how about your flooring contractor for not creating a water barrier? They have insurance for these types of things. But like most tenants you're failing to fix the problem and blame the tenant.

                  Looks to me like this is your fault 100% and any damage the kids experienced and / or laundry fees need to then be reimbursed. Looks like you owe them money too.

                  Free advice, Don't take the kids to court.


                  • #10
                    Re: Leak Flood Damage (negligence, compensation, insurance)

                    Properly installed flooring of Vinyl with caulked seams around the corners then properly installed covebase will result in a full on 1/4 inch puddle. This means no water would be able to escape and tenants would KNOW there's a MAJOR leak. Not suspect roommate.

                    nostyle, If you have installed these floors, you should know that in a few years these floors shrink. The vinyl pulls away from the walls. Caulk cracks along the floor. Then water can leak through, just like any other floor. Additionally, every tenant puts holes in this super cheap sheet vinyl. It can't be patched correctly and must be replaced. That's why most LLs in nicer places don't use it. And flooring contractors won't guarantee a leak proof floor. Vinyl flooring isn't designed to be a water barrier. It is designed to cover other floors.

                    The tenants in this case admitted they saw puddles. It was negligence on their part not to report it immediately. They allowed a small leak to become a major problem. They saw that the puddles kept coming back and still failed to report them. Any wonder why the leak eventually flooded the floor below! Tenants should report any needed repair promptly.

                    Finally, if you check the warranties on those plumbing parts, you will see that the company will replace the plumbing part, not pay to repair any damage from that leaking valve. I seriously doubt you would try to collect any damage such as this from a plumbing company either.

                    And if these college kids have guarantors, you may be able to collect from them since the kids won't be able to pay. Dump these idiot tenants quickly before they cause more damage.


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