What to do about a leaky apartment?
January 14, 2011 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Can we get any sort of help moving if our apartment essentially kicks us out to make repairs?

One Sept. 19th last year we noticed the laminate flooring in our new apartment was warping from water damage. Apartment replaced the floor. A month later, same story. This time they also tore up the pantry and "fixed the leak".

The leak is still happening and we've finally just had them take up the floors and LEAVE them as concrete this time so we'd be aware of any water right away rather than waiting until the floor started to bubble. Mold is growing in the pantry, which is still missing all dry wall. The floor is covered in water each morning coming from another direction entirely.

Today they finally got a third party out to look at it. Afterwards they called my husband and said, "It's extensive and will take a lot to fix. So you guys can move to another unit or we'll release you from your lease."

But we have to have a first floor unit and they have none available. They have some smaller units on the third floor.

We're at a loss. We've only been here 5 months out of our 6 month lease. We don't want to/can't really afford to just MOVE right now. Do we have any ground to insist they compensate us somewhat to help us more? Or give us a larger first floor unit for the same price?

We just got the news and aren't sure how to proceed from here.
posted by Saminal to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Whoops, we've been here 5 months with nearly 6 months left in our lease. It's a 12 month lease. We're in Texas.
posted by Saminal at 5:54 PM on January 14, 2011

IANAL. On the legal end you may have recourse, but it depends on your local code and rental laws. Look online to see if you can find anything regarding your local (city/county) laws for renting, code enforcement, etc. You could also call the code enforcement next week to inquire without requiring a code office to come out. Some areas allow just to be released from the lease, some with money back, some areas even require double rent back for the time the apartment was out of code. It really depends.

Also, it might not hurt to ask the landlord for help or maybe getting rent cut for a month or two. Odds are if they are willing to release you from a lease that they'd be willing to drop rent for you for a month or two. Remember that landlords typically don't like to release anyone from a lease ever. Keeping a tenant is generally better in the long run than replacing one (provided you've been a good tenant, rent on time, etc.). Because they've offered to release you means you have bargaining power.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:57 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can't be answered without knowing the State ( possibly the City as well; I'm a Canuck) and the need for a first floor.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:57 PM on January 14, 2011

But we have to have a first floor unit and they have none available.

Is this due to a disability? It may affect your right for recompense if you have a recognized disability which requires having a first floor apartment.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:07 PM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: We're in Lewisville, TX and we have a very old basset hound who can't go up and down stairs.
posted by Saminal at 7:17 PM on January 14, 2011

You have to check to see if your city has renters rights and what they are.

Can you use your deposit to move to another apartment complex in the area?
posted by KogeLiz at 7:28 PM on January 14, 2011

Best answer: More info!

My guess is you will have to get a code enforcement inspector in to see the damage in order to force the landlord to compensate you. Start the ball rolling NOW, do not wait.

And please do take photos of water, mold, and the rest + document a timeline -- code enforcement will want/need this. You will need this if you end up in small claims court. But the BEST reason to do it is that once your landlord is aware you are documenting everything, they may offer you compensation upfront rather than hassle with you or code enforcement down the line.

The fact is you have been paying rent on a borderline habitable (or possibly uninhabitable under the law) apartment for 5 months. In the future, don't do that. Code enforcement takes mold from leaks pretty seriously. You probably didn't have to live with this, IMHO, based on what I know about landlord/tenant issues. Your jurisdiction may be different, but you won't know until you get this going as an official complaint.

PS - do you have emails, etc? those count. in the future, keep your landlord exchanges to writing.
posted by jbenben at 7:28 PM on January 14, 2011

Mitigating factor?

Landlords are usually not responsible for damage to personal property due to leaks, and this is why you get Renter's Insurance.

That said, your apartment doesn't sound habitable. Look into the renter's insurance angle in case it comes up - you want to be able to argue your way towards some kind of compensation and bypass that objection if your landlord tries to place the financial responsibility for this on you.
posted by jbenben at 8:53 PM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: jbenben none of our stuff has been damaged really. And we do have renter's insurance. We also DO have all copies of maintenance requests and have corresponded about this 90% through e-mail or writing.
posted by Saminal at 6:30 AM on January 15, 2011

If you'd be happy with an upper-floor apartment if it weren't for your dog (<3 basset hounds!), you could always get a lift harness to help him up and down.
posted by mendel at 7:57 AM on January 15, 2011

You might want to revisit their definition of extensive- if they have to gut the kitchen, for example, maybe you can just deal with it? I'm wondering if the landlord didn't offer that option because they just assumed you wouldn't want to remain?

So, seal off the area, and the landlord gives you the keys to the 3rd floor place to use for a kitchen while the work is being completed.

Or leave all your stuff in the old place and just camp out in the 3rd floor one for a few weeks while the work gets done. And figure out a way to get the dog up and down temporarily.
posted by gjc at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2011

@Saminal - sorry if I wasn't clear.

I was specifically telling you that I did NOT believe the renter's insurance angle applies to your situation, but you should have a response ready if that angle comes up.

Checking with code enforcement in your area and asking them if renter's insurance might be an issue should give you a reasonable answer you can quote back to your landlord if it gets mention during your negotiation.
posted by jbenben at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2011

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