Negligence/Willful Misconduct - Dealing with a stupid tenant

4 Replies

We rent a garage apartment on the property we occupy. The building was finished in April 2014 and our tenant moved in right after. All has been well, young tenant in grad school, quiet no complaints. We had not been in the place except twice for the AC filter. 

May 2nd I noticed staining on the garage ceiling, I'm in there all the time and this was the first sign. A boom handle goes right through the drywall. Tenant is not home. We could not get ahold of him so we entered the unit. He was last home 24hrs previously yet the bathmat by the sink was still wet. There are clear signs of water damage on the floor at the edge of the tub and subtle water stains on the outside edge of the tub showing water running down the sides. 

Builder and Servepro both conclude that the tenant was not using the shower curtain correctly. Builder also notes that he had swapped the shower head for a junky version that sprays everywhere but is aimed at the back wall. Builder easily recreates water issues for all to see. Tenant acknowledges not making an effort to dry water though says he never noticed any. He did say he does not pick up his bathmats. From the underside you can see there as been moisture before

This is our first rodeo so after getting the builders opinion and servpro we went ahead and called our insurance. We go denied due to "wear and tear" we are still fighting that. We are now attempting to pursue his rental insurance. Our lease speculates that the Tenant is responsible for all damages. but our insurance requirement for him is only renters property. We also have a subrogation clause releasing him even from negligence unless it is gross/willful misconduct. While he only has to have renters he does have 300K for "Personal Liability - Property Damage" on his policy.

Repairs are underway, though there was a 4 day gap in time where servpro was done but our repair guy was not able to come do the drywall.  Tenants father (not on lease) made a comment by email today about loss of use claims against us and tells us he does not think we are allowed to pursue the tenant renters policy. He also very clearly blames us for having a wood plank floor in the bathroom ignoring that any floor would likely have had issue. We are currently looking for an attorney, but one of my collegues recommended this forum as a place to ask questions. I would love any insight. I really just don't understand where personal responsibility falls in all this. 

First of all, if the father is not on the lease, including as a co-signer, then you shouldn't be talking with the father at all.  I wouldn't even respond to him.  If the kid says anything, say "I only deal with people on the contract."  This is exactly why I quit allowing parents as co-signers.  I would tell my students I don't care who is actually paying their rent, but I only put the actual tenants on the contract, and I only deal with people on the contract.  Then I didn't have to deal with obnoxious parents anymore.

That said, I think what you've got is a badly designed bathroom.  And I really don't think you should go after this tenant any more than trying to get the insurance to pay for damage.

It's not unusual for water to end up outside of a bathtub/shower that uses a shower curtain.  They're notorious.  And it's not unusual for a busy student to not think about wiping up the water on the floor.  Tenants also often change out the shower heads.

This damage is not malicious or ridiculously neglectful, in my opinion.  Bathrooms should be designed to withstand water that sprays from a shower head and that ends up on a floor.  This is not a flood.  This is normal bathroom behavior, in my opinion.

Sure, your and I, if we noticed, would wipe up the water.  But moisture under a bathmat shouldn't result in major damage.

So, see what you can do with the insurance, and then put in a fully contained shower unit with shower doors, is my advice.  And some type of flooring that can withstand a little standing water.

all together a little under 4k in damage. This was a lot more than a little water on the floor, this was months of showering with the curtain not closed. I suspect the days before the ceiling downstairs started to come down there was some larger event likely showers with the curtain not tucked in at all. And really I don't care who pays for it, insurance or the kid. The kid though has denied responsibility and indicated they will not follow up with insurance. We are not listed on the policy, which we will change on tenants going forward. We sent a letter today after speaking with an attorney. I suspect tomorrow will be interesting.

I understand not always wiping up water, but when the drywall and baseboards start showing signs of mold growth, perhaps it is time to say something. 

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