When you own a home, one of the things you become accustomed to is the constant possibility of property damage. Homeowners later realize that property damage is not entirely avoidable. Their best hope is to try and minimize the issues by catching problems on time. That is easier to do when you have complete responsibility for what happens on your property.
But the situation is very different when that property is a rental. In rental homes, the property belongs to the landlord. However, someone else lives in and uses it. The result is that assigning responsibility for problems in the house can be difficult. Usually, both the landlord and tenant want to do their best to shift duties to the other party.
One area where this happens a lot is with water damage. Because water travels through the length and breadth of the home, the risk for water damage in the house is very high. Moreover, water problems are hard to detect, and when eventually found, they can be costly to fix. That is why this issue can be a source of regular conflict between landlords and tenants.
What is the best way to allocate responsibility for water damage in a rental property? Are there any standard rules that landlords and tenants can use as guidelines for solving this issue? Finding answers to these questions is vital for the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of their rented home and for protecting the property owner’s investment. United Water Restoration Group is here to provide some answers on how to go about this situation.
Who is Responsible For Water Damage In A Rental Property?
Firstly, what are the possible causes of water damage in a rental home? The question is essential because the cause of the problem is a primary consideration in deciding who is financially responsible for solving the problem. Typical causes of water damage in a rental home are leaking pipes, broken appliances, natural causes (like storms), human error, or wear and tear.
Responsibilities depend on the initial cause of the water problem and the landlord’s or tenant’s role in the origination or worsening of the issue. Here are the standard rules for allocating responsibility for water damage in a rental property:
Landlord Responsibility for Water Damage
The landlord has the responsibility to install working plumbing. The landlord must also ensure that all water-using appliances in the home are in good working order. Every time a landlord leases their property to a tenant, we assume they have taken steps to do the above two things. That is a fundamental requirement of the law, and it does not need to be in writing to be in force.
Secondly, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the home’s plumbing in working order. The responsibility is twofold.
- Regular maintenance: The property owner must undertake every crucial task to keep the plumbing in good working condition. The landlord will provide adequate plumbing at the inception of the lease and keep the plumbing in good condition throughout the lease. The landlord is responsible for all plumbing issues resulting from natural wear and tear.
- Plumbing emergencies: The landlord is also responsible for all water-related emergencies. A water-related disaster is any water discharge within the home that renders it unlivable or makes the tenants uncomfortable. Examples of water-related emergencies include burst pipes, blocked drains, sewage backup, and storm damage. Every such issue is the property owner’s responsibility.
Tenant’s Responsibility for Water Damage
The tenant’s responsibility for water damage is related to the tenant’s use of the home’s plumbing or water-using devices. As long as the tenant correctly uses the plumbing, any resulting damage is the landlord’s responsibility. However, if water damage results from a tenant’s willful or negligent behavior, the tenant will be responsible for the damage.
- For instance, if a tenant flushes un-flushable items down a drain to block the drain and cause its contents to overflow into the home, the tenant will be responsible for the damage.
- During winter, if a tenant fails to set the right room temperature, leaves faucets dripping, or keeps under-the-sink closet doors slightly ajar and water pipes freeze, the tenant will be responsible for any water damage that results.
- Thirdly, if a tenant sees signs of impending water damage or actual water damage and does not tell the landlord, the tenant will be partly responsible for the damage.
- Also, tenants are responsible for minimizing damage to their own or the landlord’s property when there is water damage. For instance, if a pipe bursts, the tenant is responsible for shutting off the supply to reduce the extent of water damage to the home or the tenant’s belongings.
In closing, to avoid disputes over water damage, the rules guiding the allocation of responsibility for water damage should be spelled out in the lease agreement and thoroughly discussed at the beginning of the lease.