Tenants Stuff is Ruined: What would you do?

12 Replies

So, as you may have heard - my area got flooded bad last night. One of my tenants (my favorite - a nice old lady) has a "back room" with a laundry machine and a ton of boxes and stuff. 

The tenant is currently in the hospital recovering from surgery. 

The neighbor just called and said a ton of this tenant's stuff is ruined, sitting in the water, in this back-room. 

So the question is: what would YOU do? I honestly am not sure. She has a VERY small house (400 square feet, and packed) so there is no room to put the stuff to dry it out. Is this even my problem? 

I'd love to get your thoughts!

Does she have tenants insurance and does it cover that type of water damage?

How close is the dump?  Are you serious...haul it off and let them know you love them!  Service is a big part of the business.

@Brandon Turner 

I would get in touch with her and ask her what she would like you to do. Sometimes tenants, especially sweet old ladies, are very understanding of events caused by nature and will give you a simple answer. 

Do you have flood insurance to cover your structural damage?

What would a restoration company recommend needs to be done for your property, and what would they recommend for the tenants?

How much damage do you think her belongings sustained?

Can you temporarily move her things to dry storage to mitigate any more damage?

Does she have a personal representative or friend that can help with the clean up while she is recovering from her surgery? At the very least, to assess the situation and move the belongings out of the water?

Were her belongings important enough to her for her to even be concerned?

You could offer your help in whatever way you feel comfortable, as one neighbor would help another. What level of chivalry are you made of? :-)

Updated over 3 years ago

@Brandon Turner.... I should have first consoled you. Sorry to hear about the flooding in your area. I was not aware! Hope it all works out for you.

@Brandon Turner  Most renter's policies cover water damage due to broken pipes, overflow, etc., but like homeowner's policies, flood coverage will need to be purchased separately...

My $0.02... Rent a cheap storage unit and house her stuff there for it to dry while she's recovering. Units are cheap, and she's your favorite tenant! :-) 

Well, we dealt with this, too @Brandon Turner   You can't just pick this stuff up, stick it in a storage unit and expect it to EVER dry out.  It won't.  The only way papers are going to dry out is to lay them out sheet by sheet.  Same for other stuff.  You have to get it out where there's some air circulation.  I threw out massive quantities of paper and other stuff.  Really important papers got spread out all over the house.  I didn't have enough room to get everything laid out, so it was in small piles.  I riffled and shuffled those piles several times a day for a week to get them dried out.  Some intermediate stuff that I though I might need but that wasn't critical was just left as-is.  It was still wet a year later.

Honestly, I wouldn't do anything.   Her stuff isn't your responsibility.  If you try to help, seems to me you're taking on some liability for this stuff.

We kept reminding ourselves this is just stuff.  That was really hard when things we had bought and paid for were being stacked into that 30 yard roll off. And is still really hard.  We still (16 months later) sometimes find ourselves looking for something, not finding it and wondering if it went out with all that debris.  But the upside is that every now and then we run across something we were sure was lost.

@Jon Holdman  so do nothing, let everything fester in muddy, contaminated water, and then have the restoration company come out once the tenant is discharged from the hospital and has had everything removed? 

I get what you're saying; added liability is typically to be avoided. But as the property owner, I'd be more concerned with my investment's structural health than the added liability that moving some ruined boxes and furniture could incur.

Addendum: the above post assumes the "back-room" is attached to, and part of, the house :)

@Nick Williamson   sorry, I was specifically referring to replacing or in any way compensating the tenant for loss of their stuff.  I agree, the stuff needs to come out so the property can be dried, cleaned and repaired.  I didn't consider how that would happen if the tenant is stuck in the hospital.

Does the tenant have friends or family that could help?  We were VERY lucky that a bunch of folks from work came over after our flood and helped pull out all the debris, get the place dry, and removed the damaged flooring and sheetrock.  If not, I suppose Brandon could offer to hire some folks to help.  But would be best if the tenant was there to oversee the cleanout and try to salvage what she wants.  Have you spoken to her, @Brandon Turner ?

Hey all - thanks for the responses. Some good stuff here. I'm kinda leaning toward the "contact the tenant, offer some ideas, but don't touch her stuff" approach. I worry, like @Jon Holdman  , that there might be some liability if I mess with her stuff. Not that she would sue, but I still wanna be careful. This area of her home was pretty dingy and wet anyway (basically, like a lean-to) so I doubt she kept super valuable stuff in here. I think I'll go visit her at the hospital and just chat with her - see what she wants to do. 

As always - I appreciate the ideas. Anything else, feel free to continue the thread!

Originally posted by @Brandon Turner :

Hey all - thanks for the responses. Some good stuff here. I'm kinda leaning toward the "contact the tenant, offer some ideas, but don't touch her stuff" approach. I worry, like @Jon Holdman  , that there might be some liability if I mess with her stuff. Not that she would sue, but I still wanna be careful. This area of her home was pretty dingy and wet anyway (basically, like a lean-to) so I doubt she kept super valuable stuff in here. I think I'll go visit her at the hospital and just chat with her - see what she wants to do. 

As always - I appreciate the ideas. Anything else, feel free to continue the thread!

Bring photos with you when you visit her. The pictures you shared on the other thread were worth a thousand words! Bring her a box of kleenex too, although the hospital probably has that covered. Oy vey!

Hey all - just a quick update.

This turned out pretty well. I went by tonight and, sure enough, a lot of her stuff was ruined. BUT luckily her next door neighbor/best friend/sorta-caretaker was there also (with the tenants approval) and that lady took full charge of the situation and said she'd take care of the mess. 

So, I'm going to let her be the one burdened by it. This makes the tenant happy, me happy, and the neighbor... well, she is a great person. 

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