Tenants washer flooded basement - who is responsible?

6 Replies

My husband just went down in our tenants basement to replace the smoke detector and discovered water marks from a very obvious recent flooded basement. My husband texted them to see what happened in the basement and they said there was a small leak in the washer a few weeks ago, but it is now fixed. There is no way this was a small leak. The water marks are about a foot high and it is extremely damp in there. There was so much water that it seeped all the way over to our side of the basement (it only houses our oil tank and furnace and is accessed through the outside so we don't go down there much in the summer and didn't know it was wet). It is extremely moist down there and we have had a stretch of 90 plus degree weather with extreme humidity the last 2 weeks so we are now worried about mold. We believe it happened over 2 weeks ago and they never notified us. 

Who is responsible if we need to have servpro (or similar company) come and dry the basement out and check for mold? Our lease does state that if they fail to notify us of things needing maintenance and repair within a prompt manner they can be held financially responsible and We do require they carry renters insurance so I am wondering if it is something renters insurance would cover? 

Thanks! 

Editing to add we are a little more worried than usual (we would probably just run fans and a humidifier and clean up ourselves) but our forced hot air system comes from this basement and we have a newborn baby so really don’t want to be having mold coming through our air vents! 

Document everything and take a million photos. Save those text messages as well. You will need to have someone come in and check it out, and bill tenant for the costs. I would absolutely not allow them to get away with it.

Start by putting in a few dehumidifiers and fans and getting the place aired out.  Look for signs of mold and then go from there.  If there are substantial mold issues you could go after them based on the above mentioned clause in your lease.  I’d also inspect their apartment and make sure it really came from the washer and not a leak from above that came thru the floor and into the basement.

This is a very touchy subject.  I sell insurance to many investors in my area, and when we have a home with a basement, we advise they carry back up and sewer for any sewage issues.  Otherwise, this is not a covered loss if the house is NOT in a  flood plane (meaning you were not required to carry flood insurance with the mortgage).  The tenant should be asked to carry liability coverage and personal property coverage.  Liability covers losses like leaving candles burning, house burned down because of their negligence, etc....

Water in the basement not due to flood is most often an excluded risk, whether you are a tenant or a homeowner or a landlord.  When you buy a home- you should always check the structural integrity around the basement, the windows if there are any, etc.  Water coming through the walls and cracks, through the floor, is a sign of wear and tear. 

If the tenant had a dishwasher leak a week ago, that would not have done this kind of damage.  An assessor would tell you it was due to a large amount of water- most of the time not covered.  

We get  a lot of homeowners filing claims due to this kind of damage, assuming insurance covered it- then find out most if the time it is not.  Its a form of wear and tear and the owner of the home is responsible.  If it sewage, check that you purchased back up and sewer coverage.  If its just rising water- not covered.  Owner of house responsible.  If you find out its because of the tenants dishwasher and negligence of not repairing, they are liability and you can pursue their insurance company to investigate.

Good luck!