Tennants rights re: storm broken window.
November 22, 2013 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday I left 2 apartment windows cranked partially open and, in the heavy winds later that evening, they broke. There is a possibility my landlord could try and charge us for replacing them (~$175 ea). Help me prep in case it goes that way. Oakland, CA.

I left for work yesterday afternoon (Thu Nov 21) around 4:45 with the windows cranked open slightly. The day had been sunny, and I didn't see any high wind advisories on the weather that I glanced at. When my wife got home ~8:45 that night, she found the windows broken.

Spoke to my apartment mgr this morning. He's scheduling the glaziers, but he mentioned that the landlord may attempt to charge us for the repair. Is this legal under California law?

Mgr said that he went into multiple other apartment in the complex where people had left their windows visibly open yesterday, but ours weren't fully open so he didn't notice them. So we weren't the only ones who weren't expecting high winds. My Google-fu on when the National Weather Service issued the wind advisory is failing.

It hasn't even come to the Landlord hitting us with a bill, but I'm looking to be prepared if he does come at us with one.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This won't help your case, but the weather guy on the 5 am news on KTVU was talking wind advisories yesterday morning. The North Bay and Sierra were emphasized, but he cautioned about conditions in the East Bay as well.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on November 22, 2013

I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice. You need advice of a lawyer in your jurisdiction.

It looks like this is the very incomplete site for the Oakland Tenant's Union. There's a phone number you can try to call; they may be a good low-cost/no-cost resource.

Do you have a copy of your lease, as well? That can alter the operation of the law (in certain respects).

Some questions you might consider (as a legal matter or otherwise): do you as a renter have responsibility for fixtures outside the walls of the unit under the law or terms of your lease? Did the LL tell you to close windows at some point in your tenancy? Were the windows installed incorrectly or defective, such that you should not be responsible? Does the fact that the manager closed other windows, but not yours, shift liability to him? (And if so, are you comfortable throwing him under the bus?) If you left your window wide open and an unexpected rain storm ruined the carpet, would you disclaim liability because the storm wasn't forecast?

We have storm windows on our rental, but none has ever broken in the wind. That said, if you've been told to close storm windows in the event of high winds, it seems doubtful that protesting your ignorance of the impending storm will convince your LL not to bill you (if allowed under the lease).

Again, IANYL, and this is not legal advice--try that tenant's union for atty recs. Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:22 AM on November 22, 2013

About 10 years ago the wind storm that broke the Conservatory of Flowers also blew in a front window of my rent-controlled apartment. The landlord paid for it, even the overpriced emergency replacement (it was raining quite a bit at the time, and window-sized holes with wind and rain are hard to plug). The way I figured it, if they didn't pay, and I didn't pay, then it would become an issue of the landlord's responsibility to provide a unit sealed from the elements, which is pretty fundamental, on the level of heat, water, etc.

That said, apartment mgrs don't always know what they're talking about.
posted by rhizome at 9:36 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless you've SPECIFICALLY been notified in writing to close the windows in a storm, and even then, there is practically ZERO CHANCE your CA landlord can successfully bill you for this.

The windows should be able to withstand the pressure from a storm, or the landlord needs to install windows that are graded to withstand wind, especially if you live in an area prone to that.

IANAL, and I advise you to call the city/state to verify and get some strategies of how/what to reply in writing if your landlord sends you a bill.

You can get helpline phone numbers at the CA.GOV website.

Your landlord can send you anything he wants. You only have to comply with what state law requires in CA, even if there is a rider or addendum attached to your lease concerning these windows.

Again, IANAL, but your windows need to be safe and functioning to be up to building code standards for a commercial rental property. If the windows in your building are known to break in high winds, this is very likely not up to code and your landlord is almost certainly on the hook for upgrading the windows. This is not the type of risk, responsibility, or liability that can be legally passed on to tenants. IANAL, but this seems to be a violation of Warrant of Habitability Standards. (Google it for CA.)

Leaving the water running when no one is at home, creating a flood and water damage? This is the type of thing actionable by your landlord. Leaving your functioning windows cracked open, as per intended use (these windows are designed to be opened and closed, right?) is not negligence on your part.

That said, this really jumped out at me:


The storm might be considered an emergency, but in general, entering occupied units without proper notice or permission in CA is a forbidden. Like, your landlord needs to replace the windows with a sturdier style if every time a little wind blows it constitutes "legal circumstances to enter without notice" because that is unreasonable under the spirit of CA law. If anyone in the building cared to kick up a fuss about having their unit entered under those circumstances, your landlord might have some explaining to do.

I live in LA where we get Santa Ana's and other freak high winds from time to time. I can't imagine my building manager entering my apartment every time the wind blows to batten down the hatches....just... no.


I guess what I'm saying is you should be highly amused if anyone submits you a bill for the window repair. You will have to put a refusal to pay the bill in writing, but figuring out how to word that will be a quick and easy way for you to get acquainted with your rights as a tenant in the state of California.

Don't sweat this . Good luck!!

PS - If you were at fault, this would be exactly type of situation renter's insurance is for. Do you have renter's insurance? Heck, your insurance company might even help you craft a letter of refusal if they deemed the claim unjust! Renter's insurance is good for peace of mind. And it's cheap. Get earthquake coverage, too. It's so totally worth it.
posted by jbenben at 10:36 AM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have the news on when I'm getting ready for work. Hardly pay it any attention but I do remember the KPIX (CBS) news mentioning that the rain would stop by early afternoon but there would be a wind advisory in effect and people should take care.

That said, as a renter there's no way I would pay for new windows unless it was mentioned in my lease, and I would have noticed such a clause before signing. It's worth going over your copy of your lease to see what it says. You might also want to consider renters' insurance if you don't currently have any.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2013

Furthermore, your landlord undoubtedly has insurance on the property and this is exactly the type of thing his insurance is for, depending where's at with the deductible.

Um, update?
posted by jbenben at 9:24 PM on November 22, 2013

Response by poster: Update: glazers are coming Monday. no word on anything else. Thanks, people. This helps.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:03 PM on November 23, 2013

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