Flooded basement in rentals

14 Replies

Hi,

We just had a very BAD rainstorm here in Michigan (oakland county). My house and 2 rentals had water in the basement, unfortunately I didn't have flood insurance (like 99% of people here it seems). The water has been pumped out of the 2 rentals but now I need to clean and sanitize. A friend that happens to be a landlord told me the renter is responsible for the cleanup b/c this is a nothing to do with the house, it was mother nature. If anybody know who's responsibility is it let me know, I just want to be informed, I will still clean and disinfect the basements of my rentals.

Thanks!

Legally I'm not sure, but I would take care of it. Claiming it's the tenants problem due to Mother Nature seems like kind of a jerk move (no offense). Now if the tenant left their hose turned on next to the house and it flooded...that's a different story.
But if it were me, I would take care of all the issues and possibly dig up and look at the foundation. Sounds like you might have a bigger problem on hand.

@Roy , I have some rentals in Oak Park also.  I checked in with some tenants and it seems, so far, that I dodged this bullet.  This was a very unusual storm.  I am not a lawyer so I can't offer legal advice but it seems unlikely that a landlord would have any legal obligation to replace or repair any of the tenant's property.  Hopefully, you encourage your tenants to get renter's insurance and they took your advice.  Normal clean up is probably not the landlord's responsibility either but you may want to help to make sure the house is not further damaged from neglect.  (Mold loves water.) 

If the home has a finished basement and, especially, a bedroom in the basement then the landlord may be responsible to clean it up with due speed and put it back into useable condition or the tenant may have grounds to withhold rent or break the lease.  As you know, Oak Park has tenant friendly judges.

What should you do?  That is a different question and may well depend on your relationship with the tenant.  For a long term tenant who pays the rent on time I would probably help with a lot of the clean up.  It may actually be a great opportunity to show your valued tenants what a good landlord you are and why they should continue to rent from you.  For a problem tenant who has trouble getting rent in on time, is hard on the house and is difficult to deal with...maybe this is a good opportunity to make the change that you should have made months ago.

I'm not suggesting you are responsible for replacing their property, I was referring to the water cleanup for the rental property.
In my mind you should be responsible for your property, and they are responsible for theirs, but give your lawyer a quick call just to be sure.

The landlord needs to remediate (pump out the water, clean, paint, etc.) but you don't cover the tenants possessions; that's what renters insurance is for. Just because it's Mother Nature doesn't mean you're off the hook, what if a tree fell on the house due to wind or the place caught on fire from lightening?

Thanks for the input you guys, I was mainly referring to doing the cleanup - which in my case it's just cleaning/sanitizing the floor and walls. One of my tenants had a ton of stuff there and I'm trying to get her to hurry and get her stuff out so I can sanitize the basement, luckily not finished basements.

@Jeff Rabinowitz , it seems that most of the houses affected in oak park were north of 696, I know another investor with 5 houses south of 696 and none were affected.

Same thing happened in Iowa about 45 days ago. Almost 9 inches of rain in 48 hours caused water in 4 of my properties that have never seen water before as long as I have owned them. It made July a very rough and expensive month, but you have to do the right thing and get the properties fixed up and help the tenants wherever possible. The last thing you want is to end up with mold damage and a potentially unsafe house. 

Originally posted by @Justin S.:

Same thing happened in Iowa about 45 days ago. Almost 9 inches of rain in 48 hours caused water in 4 of my properties that have never seen water before as long as I have owned them. It made July a very rough and expensive month, but you have to do the right thing and get the properties fixed up and help the tenants wherever possible. The last thing you want is to end up with mold damage and a potentially unsafe house. 

 justin,

what did you do after that storm? 

we got 6" in less than 10 hrs and it was bad. most streets were flooded. one tenant called and said there was 1/2" of water in the basement. that wasn't too bad.

@Jeff Rabinowitz  wasn't tagged properly above.

I did my best to fix everything as fast as possible. Cost me an arm and a leg, and made for the worst month in my real estate career, but what can you do? The properties that had finished basements, I immediately sent a company to suction all the water, then bought many dehumidifiers, and dried everything out. One of my basement apartments had a bunch of water, and we actually had to move the tenant into another building. It was a mess to say the least, but it's over now, and we're back on track.

The other thing I did was do my best to find out where the water came in at each property, and sent out a waterproofing company in order to remedy as much as possible in case this happens again.

@Justin S.  , I'm guessing you acted quickly and were able to find dehumidifiers, I was at work and by the time I got out it was such a mayhem and I still can't find humidifiers anywhere unless I travel way out of my area, luckily only one house didn't have a dehumidifier and a friend let me an ancient one but it works!

Originally posted by @Justin S.:

I did my best to fix everything as fast as possible. Cost me an arm and a leg, and made for the worst month in my real estate career, but what can you do? The properties that had finished basements, I immediately sent a company to suction all the water, then bought many dehumidifiers, and dried everything out. One of my basement apartments had a bunch of water, and we actually had to move the tenant into another building. It was a mess to say the least, but it's over now, and we're back on track.

The other thing I did was do my best to find out where the water came in at each property, and sent out a waterproofing company in order to remedy as much as possible in case this happens again.

 Did you waterproof the exterior?  How much did that cost on average? 

I would assume you would want to clean up the inside no matter what and usually the building side of it is your responsibility more or less. Usually contents are a loss, but I've seen a lot of owners help the tenants out with some $ for contents after a flood, which obviously depends on a ton on many  actors.

On flood insurance - It probably would be cheap to add say 10k in coverage with 1k deductible for building. You don't need/want contents coverage for a basement (it only covers your property you own and would only cover washer, dryers, freezers (and food in them), and window AC units that are plugged in at time of flood. Building wise though if you lose a water heat or furnace/boiler it's a nice help. Even with just clean-up related costs for a little bit of water it would probably run a few thousand with air movers, dehumidifiers, pumping out (if needed cost), and mildewcides

There are 2 types of basements , ones that flood and ones that  are due to flood .  Thats what I have been doing all week , clearing wet basements of wet junk for customers .  Great $$  .  We has 10 inches of rain in Pasadena Md in 2 hours 

builders really didn't know how to build houses that won't flood back in the day.  That's for sure. 

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul:

There are 2 types of basements , ones that flood and ones that  are due to flood .  Thats what I have been doing all week , clearing wet basements of wet junk for customers .  Great $$  .  We has 10 inches of rain in Pasadena Md in 2 hours 

 This is basically true and why flood insurance is very limited in basements. Basements flood. Now a lot of people think they have a basement, but in view of flood insurance it wouldn't be one.

I've been over in Edgewater in a number of flooded houses this week