Apartment Flood. Computer Damaged. Landlord Responsible?
March 14, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Bedroom flooded as result of faulty construction. Is the landlord liable for damages?

After an entire day of torrential rain, we came home to find a good portion of our bedroom flooded with about half an inch of water. If that wasn't enough, there was a computer on the floor next to the bed just sitting in the water. It's currently drying out, so we don't know the status of its condition, but we were wondering if the landlord might be liable for the damage.

It's a brand new building and we've only been here for about 1.5 months. The super stopped by today and identified the problem: the water is somehow seeping in through the building facade and coming up under our floorboards. So, we basically have a water table just waiting to overflow underneath our floor. To me, this seems like a defect in the construction that goes way beyond any incidental damage.

Note: we don't have renter's insurance, so that's out of the question.

posted by kmtiszen to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I think this is entirely dependent on where you are, but contact you local tenant's rights organization NOW. They'll have the answer. Sometimes they are responsible, but only up to the limit of the deposit.
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:32 AM on March 14, 2010

1. This depends on your location.

2. Get renter's insurance NOW. In many cases, even when the landlord is liable, it's the insurance company who collects. Not the renter. So the insurance company will replace your belongings, put you up during construction or pay moving costs, etc., and then get reimbursed by the landlord (sometimes after going to court). You need an insurance company on your side immediately.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2010

look at your rental agreement, but my guess is that you're out of luck in terms of your personal items. either that, or you'll have to fight em.

this is when it's nice to have renter's insurance, and not just for the obvious reason. your insurance company would then fight with the landlord's insurance company for compensation.

it's a bitter lesson but go get a renter's policy. they're ridiculously cheap.
posted by DavidandConquer at 10:37 AM on March 14, 2010

Most landlords require you to have Renter's Insurance, and with how cheap it is I am amazed that people don't do this regardless. So depending on your lease agreement you may be SOL, but take this as a worthy lesson.
posted by zombieApoc at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2010

There might be an implied warranty of habitability, but this sort of thing may or may not fall under it. If it was something that wouldn't have happened if the building was built to the appropriate standards/codes or whatever, then you might be able to get them to pay for it, but it depends, as others have said, on your lease, and where you live. Contact your local tenants rights org, as others have said. Read your lease really carefully and note any parts that might be applicable, too.

You also don't know for sure if this is faulty construction or not, so you may need to talk to someone who knows what the codes are or could come check it out. If you had renters insurance (not harping, I don't currently have any myself, oops), they would probably send someone out because they're going to subrogate whenever possible. If their guy thinks it's bad construction, they might go after the landlord. If it's a lot of money/property at stake for you, you might consider hiring someone to look into this for you as an individual, since you don't have an insurance co. on your side. But talk to tenants rights people first, of course.
posted by ishotjr at 1:05 PM on March 14, 2010

Yeah, the benefit of renter's insurance isn't just that they'll reimburse your losses, but they'll be the ones with full-time staff to press the landlord's liability policy issuer, not you.

In any case, contact the local TRO and if there isn't one, your state attorney general may have a consumer office. You should also contact the city about the flooding as there certainly could be a code issue here. I assume this is a below-grade apartment. New construction should almost certainly have appropriate drainage and possibly even a sump pump. Alternatively, there could be an issue with how the water gets there in the first place, like poorly positioned gutter downspouts.

All that said, torrential rain is torrential rain, and this may ultimately be laid down to an Act of God and the insurance company will reject the claim on that basis. If that happens, you could be forced to pursue the landlord in small claims court.
posted by dhartung at 7:32 PM on March 14, 2010

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