Running water inside a property is one of those essentials without which the house would be uninhabitable. But running water is only good if it is confined to places where it is needed.
Out-of-control water is easily the number one cause of damage to rental real estate. It is a huge issue because water will always find a way through the tiniest of joints and cracks. Also, many times the damage that it results in is not localized to the place where the issue originated. Furthermore, water problems can be very hard to spot.
The best way to fix the damage by water is to prevent it or to catch it early. But catching water problems early requires constant vigilance by the people who live in a property. And this is not always possible if the residents of the property are tenants.
Tenants are not as invested in a property as the owner and they may not take the same level of interest in its upkeep as the owner. Yet, given that tenants are in constant contact with a property, they are in the best position to look out for water problems. Additionally, tenant behavior can also be the cause of those problems.
This is why landlords must find ways to get their tenants to become more involved in preventing water damage to a property. They can do this by allocating responsibility for water damage in such a way that tenants are forced to cooperate.
Here are some questions landlords should be asking:
- Should water damage to a property be the sole responsibility of the property owner?
- Or does a landlord have the right to transfer this burden to the tenants?
- Should it be the joint responsibility of the landlord and tenant?
- Where landlords and tenants are responsible, where do the roles of each begin and end?
The law splits the responsibility for water damage between the owner of a property and the renter. It is important for landlords to know the provisions of the law in order to ensure that tenants play their part. But, as SPMTriangleRentals.com explains, this will only happen if owners include those terms explicitly in the lease agreement and follow through with the appropriate action.
Below are the responsibilities of the owner versus those of the tenant.
The landlord’s responsibilities
The first rule guiding how responsibility for damage is split between landlords and tenants is the implied warranty of habitability. This principle demands that before a property is turned over to a tenant, the owners must first ensure that it is habitable.
A rental property is habitable when it has a functional toilet, hot & cold running water, a tub/shower, along with other necessities. In other words, the amenities in the apartment should be working to a tenant’s satisfaction at the time of tenant move-in.
Secondly, the owner is responsible for maintaining amenities inside a property in good working order. This means it is the owner’s job to undertake repairs on the property, at no cost to the tenant.
They must maintain a property’s implied warranty of habitability. As long as the damage is the result of normal wear and tear, it is a landlord’s responsibility. This includes, but is not limited to, burst pipes, leaky faucets, clogged sewage, inside-the-wall leaks, and all kinds of water problems.
But there will be times when the burden for paying for repairs is transferred from the owner to the tenant.
Tenants are responsible for informing a landlord when they notice a problem in the apartment. For example, if the tenant notices that the walls are damp, the flooring is softer and the water bill is unusually high, they are expected to notify the owner immediately.
Where the tenant fails to inform the landlord, the tenant will be partly responsible for fixing the damage.
Furthermore, after a tenant has found a water problem and reported it to the landlord, the tenant is responsible for securing their own property. If the tenant fails to move their belongings out of the way of the water, the landlord will not be liable for whatever happens to the tenant’s belongings.
Tenants are responsible for the damage that is caused by their personal belongings. If, for instance, a tenant’s washing machine develops a leak and damages the property, the tenant is not only responsible for fixing the machine but for repairing the damage to the property also.
Damage which results from the tenant’s carelessness or neglect will be fixed by the tenant. Examples of such behavior include flushing things down a toilet and causing it to become blocked. Or leaving a tap open and flooding the property. These include damage caused by the tenant’s children, pets, and employees.
These are the rules guiding landlords’ and tenants’ responsibility for water damage to the property. However, what the law says and what a landlord experiences may be worlds apart if the owner is not careful to enforce the rules.
The first step to securing the tenant’s cooperation is to include the terms in the lease agreement. The second step is for the landlords to live up to their own part of the agreement.