Sump Pump backed up...former tenant now wants to sue me for damages?

6 Replies

So last month we got 3 inches of rain in a short period of time. The sump pump backed up and could not keep up. Water got into both the lower units as well as the hallway. It was April 13th which was a Sunday..I was at work since it was tax season I got a phone call from a tenant (not the one that wants to sue me). I immediately called my plumber and contractor to get over there....I left work and met them over there. The plumber replaced the sump pump and contractor brought his commercial grade fans/dehumidifiers...I placed the fans and dehums in each unit. I then called a local carpet cleaner that specializes in water clean up...they stopped over a few hours later to suck up the water in both units and the hallway. All this was done that day.

The other tenant (the one that isn't suing me) immediately moved her stuff out into another unit I had (she asked if I had any available and I let her move her stuff there). 3 days later I had her unit dried up and the carpet was replaced.

I then spoke to the tenant (who is suing me)...I indicated that we will need to move her stuff to the other unit in order to dry the floor and get the place new carpet. She indicated she will move the stuff.....basically she never moved the stuff, had leased housing cancel her lease (she was on section 8)..which was fine with me and told my carpet installer that when he was putting carpet in the other unit that she wasn't going to let him put carpet in her unit.

So basically she made zero effort to move her stuff or "save" any of her stuff.

Overall their was not a ton of water in the unit...the carpet and pad were soaked but no standing water. She now claims that all her clothes, toys, and furniture was ruined due to the water. In her letter she indicated "since I don't have a drawer I had to put my clothes on the floor and did not have any money to wash the clothes"..therefore she thinks I owe her $900 for her clothes. She did throw out her couch/loveseat...but there was no need to. All her kid's toys were fine...all she had to do was pick up the stuff off the floor and put on her bed/furniture/or move the stuff in the other unit as I told her to do...which she said she would do but never did.

I spoke to my lawyer and she said just ignore her "letter" due to the following...if she ends up taking me to small claims so be it:

-In the lease agreement there is a section that is checked indicating that the Landlord (me) recommends that the tenant get renters insurance and that the renter agrees not to hold me liable for any damages due to casualty of her personal items. (I would assume this resolves the issue)

-Also my lawyer said I did what I reasonably could in that time and the tenant could have done very basic things to keep her stuff safe...like pick it up off the floor.

Any thoughts?

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I can't give legal advice but I agree with your lawyer.

Your lawyer has the best insight as they have reviewed all your legal documents and reviewed how you handled and documented the issue.

Section 8 probably deemed her unit uninhabitable now and although they cancelled your lease they usually place her in a new apartment with section 8 again. It's not like she was kicked out of the program for violation issues.

Sounds like now she is just sending this letter to fish for moving costs to somewhere else. If she doesn't go willingly you might have to evict and watch out for her saying she is sick now blah, blah, blah. If it goes to court the judge will ask WHY she continued to stay in an unsafe situation if the landlord let her out of her lease?? Typical response is " Your honor I had nowhere else to go or money to move blah, blah, blah ".

The judge will side with you and former tenant will complain not fair etc. I have heard about every cornball approach tenants have used.

I wouldn't sweat this. I would not engage this tenant anymore as it sounds like you have done all you can correctly but talking with them further might give ammo against you. Just keep in contact with your attorney and follow their lead if it makes sense to you.

@Tyler Smiarowski I would consider installing a second unit such as a Liberty Pump's SJ10 which operates using water from your main supply in addition to your primary pump. I would also wrap each pump in reticulated foam so that no debris can ever get near the pump to stop it from doing its work. Reticulated foam is an open cell foam that water can easily pass through. By utilizing both of these you should have a system that can handle a large volume and work if the power goes out.

Darren Sager, Real Estate Agent in NJ (#0897533)
862-208-2287

Definitely sounds like a case for "Why you must require renters insurance" but I'm also not a lawyer. I would however trust what your lawyer says or get a second opinion from another who can review your lease .

What a dumb tenant. She won't win at all. Especially when they found out you did that work same day. What a dolt.

@Tyler Smiarowski,

Your lawyer may be right, but your lawyer can nor predict what a judge will do.


Joe Gore

UPDATE:

Former Tenant hasn't sued me. When I had my lawyer send her "lawyer" our letter saying that the tenant had no case....the lawyer had no clue who she was.

Basically the tenant pulled this lawyers name off of some website and just inserted it in her letter. I guess she was trying to scare me into giving her money.

The tenant is a real loser.

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