Who is responsible for rental pool damage?
July 6, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Who is responsible for rental pool damage?

YANAL/YANML and this is not legal advice, I know. Calling an attorney is on my todo list this week, but I wanted to get a feel for where I stand before I pay one.

I rent a house that has an in-ground pool with a vinyl liner. The pool was closed last season as per the landlords' instructions. This spring, upon opening the pool, we found that the pool would not hold water. I am not sure what caused this. The possibilities are a) the pool was not closed correctly due to either our mistake while closing it or the landlords' mistaken instructions, b) the dead possum that we removed from the bottom of the pool clawed some holes in the liner, or c) something else entirely.

The landlord was informed of this problem as soon as we noticed it. They have not yet done anything to repair the problem. It has been approximately three months now. (The landlord said on several occasions that they were looking into getting it fixed, but nothing ever happened. Luckily, I have at least one of these promises in an e-mail.) Now, since the pool has been empty for so long, it is possible (likely?) that the pool liner has shrunk and is damaged beyond repair. The cost of a replacement liner may be in the thousands of dollars.

Our lease says that the renters are responsible for the upkeep of the pool, which is why closing and opening the pool were done by us.

I feel it is at least somewhat likely that the landlord will attempt to hold us responsible for this. Will they have a legal leg to stand on? Can we be held liable for damage due to an unknown cause? If we are potentially liable, it would need to be proven, right? How would they go about doing this? There is a very severe shortage of evidence of anything. We have very little in writing, the instructions on closing the pool were given in person, most of the discussions involving repair were via telephone, we don't have photographs of the dead possum, etc.

If we are potentially liable, is this kind of damage covered by renter's insurance?

Are there any steps we should take that might mitigate our problems down the road?

Throwaway email address brokenpoolrenters (at) gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (4 answers total)
There isn't anyway anyone can answer if you could be held responsible without seeing a copy of your lease.

The insurance coverage question can be easily answered by calling whoever your rep is at your insurance company or reading a copy of your coverage agreement.

You just need to lawyer up if you're worried about getting sued.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:54 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think the biggest problem anybody trying to build a case with you would face would be determining the following chain:
1. That there is indeed a leak from the pool (sometimes surprisingly tricky).
2. That this leak is in a particular place (there may be more than one place - this is even trickier).
3. That the cause of the leak(s) was unequivocally something that you did.
4. That this thing was in clear contravention of whatever is written in your lease.

Pools spring leaks for a large number of reasons. The key thing for the owner is to act quickly lest, as you found out, rising hydrostatic pressure from below the liner might make things much worse. If you have clear evidence that you informed the landlord at an early stage in the proceedings then I think it would be very hard to pin the damage on you.

As ever: neither your lawyer nor your compatriot.
posted by rongorongo at 10:30 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is ridiculous. You are paying rent on a pool you are not using.

In this case, a good offense is the best defense. Make sure you get the advice of a lawyer, demand the pool be repaired immediately, and demand money off the rent to cover the loss of use for the past 3 months.

Stop worrying about how the pool sprang a leak. If the landlord was that worried about it, he would have sent in a professional to close up the pool, or done the job himself.

I can't believe you are even worrying about that. You should be very angry he has not fixed the pool. Period.

Lawyer. Stop feeling guilty! Things break. You are not responsible. You are RENTING. It is not your property.

I'm pretty sure the only way you would be liable is if you intentionally caused the damage. Which you did not. This is normal wear and tear. Check with your lawyer. You'll see!
posted by jbenben at 11:43 AM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Normally, renters are entitled to a reasonable amount of wear and tear, and landlords responsible for all structural repairs. A landlord is also under a duty to mitigate his losses by making repairs quickly.

I can't comment on your situation in particular, or on the laws of your jurisdiction.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:25 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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