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A Landlord’s Guide to Managing a Water Damage Disaster

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how should landlords deal with water damage

Water damage can be devastating to both a property owner and their tenants. After the damage occurs, both parties may be left wondering who is responsible for cleaning up the water damage as well as where to start. Read on to learn more about water damage to rental properties and what you need to know as a landlord.

What Are the Common Causes of Property Water Damage?

Many unfortunate and emergency scenarios can lead to water damage in your rental property. Some of the most common causes of water damage we have seen fall under these categories:

Flash Flooding from Rain or Other Natural Disaster

When investing in a rental property, you likely performed due diligence to research where designated flood zones were located. Still, natural disasters are unpredictable and cannot always be prepared for.

Frozen or Broken Water Pipes Bursting

Caused by failed plumbing, sprinkler lines that are not adequately blown out before winter, increased water pressure, corrosion, or improperly insulated pipes during a cold freeze, frozen and bursting pipes can be a cause of extensive flooding in rental properties.

Toilet Water Overflow

Reasons for toilets overflowing can be vast and may include; rusted pipes, calcification in the bowl, misconfigured refill tube or float, poor design of the toilet, a wastewater line that is too long, or a tree root.

Occasionally, a toilet can overflow even without flushing, and the resulting water damage can be a slow leak that goes unnoticed or an urgent flood. No matter the specifics, wastewater rushing over your floors and carpet are a health concern for your tenants that requires proper sanitizing and drying.

Ice and Snow Water Damage

damage to the home from ice and the cold

As the snow melts from your roof, an ice dam can form at the eaves and gutters, becoming all but impossible to dislodge. More importantly, it can trap pools of water that can seep into your rental home’s roofing, insulation, ceilings, and walls. This can lead to water stains in your ceiling, bubbles in the paint, and manifest the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow.

Sink / Bathtub Water Overflow or Leak

Blockages, high water pressure, and forgetting that water is turned on are all causes of sink and tub overflows. A small water leak may be annoying but easily, routinely maintained by a tenant.

However, if they are away from the property on vacation for some time (with water leaking/overflowing the entire time), you could face water damage leading to swollen walls, floor buckling, mold, and other structural damage.

Appliance Water Supply Line Leaks

Failure of a water supply line connected to a washing machine, dishwasher, or refrigerator is a top reason for water damage related to these appliances. A simple pinch, loose connection, or break in the appliance water line can be disastrous if left unnoticed. 

Who Is Responsible for Water Damage Restoration – Landlord or Tenant?

It is a landlord’s job to ensure that their rental property is habitable and safe for tenants. In some cases, water damage, especially when it is not taken care of promptly, can lead to a property becoming uninhabitable. Landlords are responsible for any damage that occurs to a property due to their neglect or negligence.

Landlords must keep the plumbing and pipes in good shape, and if a leak or flooding happens due to plumbing that was not maintained, it is the landlord’s responsibility. On the other hand, if a tenant forgets to turn off the sink and it leads to water damage, the tenant is responsible.

it either the tenant or landlord who is responsible for water damage costs

It is essential to understand who is at fault for the damage to understand who is responsible for the water damage restoration. Keep in mind, though, that this only applies to the actual building and its structure. If the tenant’s personal property gets damaged by flooding, it should be covered under their renter’s insurance policy.

What Does A Landlord Need to Provide to Tenants During Water Damage Restoration?

It is essential to consult your lease to understand what a landlord needs to provide their tenants if a home gets damaged by flooding. If the property becomes uninhabitable, and the landlord is responsible for the damage, it may be the landlord’s responsibility to provide another temporary place for the tenant to live while repairs are being made.

Work with Water Damage Restoration Experts

If water damage has occurred to a property you own and rent out, you will need to have it restored promptly to ensure that it is a safe and healthy environment for your tenants to live. If you have a realty management company, they may help connect you with a water damage restoration expert who can help assure your property is restored and ready to rent again as soon as possible.

As a landlord, this can save you money and help maintain a good relationship with your tenant. Going forward, you can be proactive by checking with your tenant to see if they have any concerns about possible water damage that can be addressed before becoming an issue and regular maintenance performed on appliances.