Terminating the lease immediately.

6 Replies

This is for a property that is rented out in Virginia (Loudoun County).  I represented a landlord a few months ago to rent out his rambler.  Turns out after about a month of the tenants living in the property, they complained about their rug being soaked in water. and water on the kitchen and bedroom floor. The landlord stopped by and noticed that there was indeed water. There is no damage to the property.  A licensed plumber was dispatched, who couldn't find anything wrong the property or locate the source of the water. The plumber said that he may have to open the plumbing to see what's going on under the hood. 

Trusting the tenants at their word that this is a legitimate leak somewhere in the property, and not some shenanigans, does the landlord have the right to immediately cancel the lease, and perhaps pay them the balance on days remaining (lease is month to month) stating the reason that should flooding occur again, the premises are potentially unlivable.  Its a very small place. About 900 sq feet. So there are no other bedrooms and bathrooms. Just 1 bedroom, 1 bath and kitchen area.  If the landlord does cancel the lease immediately, does he have to provide them with living accommodations? 

Updated 7 months ago

If its of any help, this is a VRLTA lease that we use in Virginia.

What are you thinking! That would be the wrong tack to take. No need to terminate the lease. The landlord has a legal agreement to uphold and a responsibility to provide habitable housing. The right thing to do would be to get on task to finding the root cause of the problem and addressing it.

If it's a problem with the plumbing and significant areas of the flooring, walls, or ceilings need to be opened up and it becomes too disruptive to the tenants or hazardous, an offer to house the family in a hotel for the time being would be in order.

However, mystery water soaking a carpet brings to mind an incident in one of our properties... the tenant's brother-in-law hooked up his washing machine and didn't secure the water exhaust hose properly. A whole washer full of water spilled out and dumped water that made it's way to the kitchen and some carpeted areas of the home. The tenant wasn't going to do much about it except soak up the water with bath towels (inadequate), until the water reached one of our water alarms near the water heater and the tenant called us because it was late at night and he couldn't stand the noise. We took care of the problem and charged the tenant for the cost of the rental of the turbo fans and dehumidifier. That's when we added another clause to our rental agreement that requires temamts to notify us in advance if they plan to install large appliances. That way we can be there to make sure the installation is properly done and there is no damage to our walls and woodwork.

Water extraction from carpet is best done by truck mounted equipment which a professional carpet cleaner would have. Then raise up the carpet and use turbo fans and dehumidifiers to mitigate the damage. Don't let the carpet remain wet, or mold might take hold and adjacent structures could become water damaged as well.

Send a plumber who is skilled at "service plumbing" (as opposed to "new construction") and is well seasoned in working with the quirks of older homes. That kind of plumber should be able to easily determine if the water is leaking from the plumbing system. Also, check the home's drainage system... roofs, gutters, downspouts, drainage routes. Any water features in the home? (aquariums, waterbeds, water coolers, water fountains, etc.). Ask the tenants where they think the water is coming from. Do they hear any noise of water running in the walls or elsewhere? Is the water clean water or dirty water? Act swiftly!

Were they using a portable AC or dehumidifier in the area? These can leak and soak a rug before you realize it. Unless there is cause why get them out? issue will be the same next go round.

.. If the property becomes flooded and it's due to a malfunction in the house,, then until it's corrected the landlord needs to either accommodate the tenant in a hotel until repairs are completed if the property is so bad they can't possibly stay there until the property is restored while being worked on .. but this depends also on what is reasonable time...

If the property, is or has, become so terribly flooded and the damage is such the owner has determined it will take extensive and lengthy time to fix, then he can negotiate with tenant to be immediately let out of lease. and refund the rent from day of damage to end of month and fully refund the deposit if the damage was not caused by the tenant.

IF THE tenant damaged the property due to neglect , malicious act. I would file for eviction action immediately take photos of damage and maybe also file a police report. 

Just think areas that recently flooded due to natural disaster can't be repaired fast enough.. and landlords had to let people out of leases so they could relocate until other accommodations could be found that they could live in.  IT HAPPENS  ,, also due to Fires..

Download your state landlord tenant laws,, it should clearly state what the landlords responsibility is if a rental is damaged and can't be fixed while tenant is living in it.. some states require a Affidavit of Delay be given to tenants so they are legally notified why repairs are taking long so as to protect the owners also from claims against them.. follow the law,, follow the golden rule,, and protect your assets.. renters come and go.. you'll always get another one of those.

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I also should mention, landlord should contact insurance company and see if damages are covered under policy.. some insurance will pay for lost rents, and also damages and to relocate tenants temporarily. 

Thanks for all the help ladies. Your input really helped.  My client called 2 different plumbers. Both of them very experienced in repairs. The house is not very old. It was built in late 90s. Both of them left scratching their heads. There is no humidifier in question here. There are laundry hookups, but no washing machine and dryer in the house. 

Based on the Virginia Law, for month to month tenants the landlord gave them 30 day notice to vacate the place. They will be leaving on Nov 30th.  The good thing about this young couple is that they looked professional. They have decent credit score (650+). They have decent jobs. They certainly didn't come across as some vagabond drifters. Their previous landlord gave a good reference.  They paid on time and in full. 

Maybe I watch too much Netflix, but I suspect something could have happened at the place, which they didn't want the landlord to know. I voiced this concern to the landlord, and landlord said he will see if he can file a police report. Police might not want to get involved in this civil matter. There might not be enough probable cause for them to just go, or get a warrant from the judge, but that's up to them.

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