Who's responsible? LL or Tenant?

15 Replies

Question? if a tenant gets water in the basement, who is responsible to clean it up? One of my employees had water in his basement and I went there to help in wet vac it all up to help him out. He got about 3 inches of rain water that came in thru the foundation during a downpour. I said to him " why isn't the landlord here cleaning this up" he said he called the LL and he said " oh wow, call me back when you get it all cleaned up " and hung up on him. The LL never showed up , took us 4 hrs to get all the water out. 

If this was one of my tenants, The tenant would off been on the horn asap calling me to clean it up.

Who is responsible for this type of clean up?

It was ground water, an act of god right? Their was no pipe burst or anything like that. My worker had no renters insurance and lost a lot of stuff stored in the basement.

As a landlord I would deal with that quickly. I would say the landlord is responsible and I think it's ridiculous to expect the tenant to remedy the situation unless he caused it somehow.

I personally have three goals when managing and owning rental properties: receiving income, providing a great property and service to my tenants, and keeping my investments in good shape.

This scenario can impact all three! I would help clean up, if the flooding is significant and then fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again or often. This will keep your tenants happy, paying, and keep up the condition of your costly investment. Also, I would feel morally responsible if the water was so to ‘god’ and not the tenants neglect. This means there is an underlying issue with the property.

BOB,

Most definitely the LL if this was not caused by tenant

@Kyle Godbout I agree Kyle, my thoughts exactly. Shoot, my tenant calls me when her blind over her sink wouldn't go up! so trivial. She calls me for every little thing, that's why I couldn't believe this LL didn't care about  water in his own bldg.! I would remedy the water situation fast .

Landlord is responsible for clean up but not for tenants belongings. Their belongings will be covered by their tenant insurance otherwise they are out of luck.

I think it depends on how much water. If its several inches then as the landlord I would send someone over there to pump it out and shop vac it. I'm assuming the basement is unfinished. If not, then I'd have it sprayed with some mold prevention stuff too. 

As a rule, if I have a house that has a basement, I typically demo the basement and leave it unfinished. And then I tell tenants to only use it for storage but keep it off the ground. You just never know when you get some crazy rain or something and it does get water.

Of the few that are finished, I always tile the floor so I don't have to deal with carpeting and mold. And use greenboard.  But thats where I'd want to spray for mold. 

In terms of possessions, thats on the renter. If the renter doesn't know that a basement can get water, they should. No landlord on the planet can guarantee that a basement won't get water and I'd be theirs didn't either.  So its a given that you're putting that stuff in the basement at your own risk.

The one exception I would make though is that if its just a little water that seeps through in the corners or the like and if its an unfinished basement, I don't send anyone. Most of the basements in the older homes here in Illinois tend to get that. And most have floor drains for them to run to.  As long as the basement is unfinished, its fine.  

But 3 inches of water is a bit much for any renter to deal with. Whose to say the renter doesn't just leave it and then you get a bunch of mold throughout the house? As a landlord, there's no way I'm leaving cleanup to a tenant. :-)

To Bad Common Sense isn't common .

The property owner is Landlord.

Landlord is responsible.

Tenant is required to notify landlord.

Depending on damages either work with your tenant, or expect them to move.

I"d get the main drain looked at in the basement floor,, I can understand a flood causing this type of water.. but rain.. that's a lot of rain...

Check gutters,, and outside to see what's causing the runoff issues.. 

@Mike H. Thanks Mike. It is an unfinished basement. It had pallets on floor too. So the LL did tell the tenant it may get wet down their if we ever had alot of rain , which we did that day. We got like 3 inches of rain in 6 hrs that day, so I don't think it floods all the time, this just happened to by a lot of water very quick. But I agree, as a LL,  I would do every thing I could to avoid this happening again, but that's just me.

@Deanna McCormick I agree, that's the first thing I said" how are gutter downspouts installed, are their French drains on property, pitch the landscape away from house, etc . There is no drain in floor, the water came up from the ground and seeped thru the concrete walls and floor,

The landlords is responsible for anything that has to do with his or her rentals, UNLESS (as other above have said) the tenant caused the problem, for example, if they over filled the washer and it overflowed.  Forgot to turn off the water tab in the set tub.  Only then should they be held accountable.

Nancy Neville

thanks nancy ! yea the tenant definitely did not cause the water to come in.,

No doubt the LL...

How long has the tenant been there? Wondering if this has happened in the past so the LL has the attitude of "been there, done that", not a big deal.....or knows the issue and doesn't like the cost to fix it....as opposed to "holy [email protected], my investment is getting damaged, I had better figure out what's going on"

At the least, the LL should be telling tenants its not a matter of IF...its a matter of WHEN it will take in water, so store your stuff accordingly

My worker had no renters insurance and lost a lot of stuff stored in the basement.

If this water that came in as a result of rain hitting the ground then getting into the basement, the ONLY type of insurance that would pay is flood insurance.  And it has very little coverage for possessions.

It is an unfinished basement. It had pallets on floor too. So the LL did tell the tenant it may get wet down their if we ever had alot of rain , which we did that day. We got like 3 inches of rain in 6 hrs that day, so I don't think it floods all the time, this just happened to by a lot of water very quick. But I agree, as a LL, I would do every thing I could to avoid this happening again, but that's just me.

Hmmm.  Seems like the tenants were warned there was a water situation in the basement.  Was that before or after they signed the lease?  Were the pallets there before they signed the lease?  If the basement was dry and no pallets when they viewed it and then signed the lease, and then they're warned "it gets wet down there", I think they have a beef with the landlord.  OTOH if that was all made clear before lease signing, they have less of an argument.  If they were made aware there was a water issue in the basement and they still signed the lease and put stuff down there, then they landlord can say "I warned you."  Especially if, after seeing the pallets, the tenant placed items directly on the floor.

There may well be some way to mitigate the problem.  I used to have a problem with water getting in around the water supply line, unless a very long downspout extension was in place.  I knew if I left it off after mowing and we had a shower I would have water in the basement. I've since regraded the area (and much more) and its no longer an issue.  But I've spent some $15K dealing with water problems, so I know it can get expensive to deal with drainage problems.  Sounds like a sump and sump pump are needed in this situation.  And an understanding that the basement is not usable for storage without precautions.

Basement space seems useful, and we do use ours.  I'm finishing up post-flooding re-finishing right now.  But the reality is that basements sometimes turn into swimming pools.

Rain water would most likely be the landlord's responsibility pending any odd wording in the lease.

To answer your question. What does the lease say about who is responsible? In a lawsuit that is the deciding factor.

Renters insurance would not have paid a dime. Neither would the landlord's policy. Subsurface water which enters the basement or foundation of a building due to hydro-static pressure is excluded from coverage. Spent 30 years as a claims adjuster. Not a covered loss.

Not covered under a flood policy unless two or more adjacent properties or two or more contiguous acres suffer a sustained period of inundation.

The thing to do now is try to prevent this in the future. Are the downspouts pointed away from the house or do they "Report Directly to the foundation?" Are the gutters clean and free of debris? Check the exterior to protect the interior. It may have been a seasonal fluke or it could be a recurring problem.

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