As a renter, you may be concerned about what happens if your home suffers flooding or storm damage. Water leaks and flooding can be more than just inconvenient and can also be dangerous. Standing water can lead to you being electrocuted, gas leaks, or other dangerous conditions. High winds can lead to fences, doors, and windows being broken and this threatens your home security. If your rented home is damaged after a storm, what do you do next?
Damage to the Property Itself
Any damage to the property itself is usually the landlord’s or the landlord’s insurance company’s responsibility. Things such as roofing damage, ruined carpets, or broken windows all count as damage to the property. Anything that is considered part of the building itself is the responsibility of the landlord. If you are a landlord then you are going to need to make repairs diligently and quickly. A shattered window or leaky ceiling may make the rental uninhabitable. Your tenant may have to relocate while you make the repairs and, depending on the laws in your area, you could also be responsible for the cost of a hotel room while the tenant can’t live in the rental property. Repairs need to be made quickly and it’s important to remain in contact with the tenant as much as possible to prevent any issues. In the aftermath of a storm, disaster communications can be hard, but communication will make sure that you arrive at a solution quickly. Being upfront can help make the process much smoother.
If a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs, then tenants are able to stop paying their rent or take legal action. Depending on the laws in your location, if you don’t fix the issue that prevents habitability within a certain period of time then a tenant has the right to make the necessary repairs themselves or with a contract and deduct rent in order to pay for these repairs. If a tenant files a claim, you have a certain amount of time to make repairs based on the law. You also need to address the urgency of the situation, especially when it comes to storm damage.
Damage to Items in the Home
Unlike damage to the property itself, damage to the items inside the rental can be hard to determine responsibility. There are no hard rules but if a renter brought the item into the rental then it’s typically the renter’s responsibility. For example, if the TV got ruined due the storm, this means that the renter is likely on the hook for the repairs. These items are typically covered under renter’s insurance but it’s important to study the policy. However, not every item in the rental home is going to be the renter’s responsibility. If the renter lives in a furnished home, then the landlord could also be required to refurnish it. Major appliances, such as a refrigerator, may also be the responsibility of the landlord as the owner needs to keep the property in a livable condition.
Tenants should abide by the terms of the lease and avoid any sort of damage to the property. Tenants are going to be legally required to pay for any repairs for damages that they have caused.
How Do You Know if a Property Is Uninhabitable?
A landlord has a responsibility to maintain the property so that it stays livable and make the necessary repairs to do so. Landlords may not be required to make any cosmetic repairs after storms unless the damage affects the livability. Certain municipal or city codes may require this. Courts will look at different factors in order to know whether a property issue gets to the level that the property is uninhabitable. Some questions that are asked include if the condition is a violation of applicable housing codes. Does the repair affect a vital utility, such as water or electricity? What are the effects on sanitation and safety? How long has this persisted? A court will likely also consider if the tenant was partly responsible for the damage, such as leaving windows open during a storm, when making the determination of whether or not the landlord is responsible for the repairs.
Check the Lease Agreement
If there are questions about who is in charge of repairs, it’s always best to check the rental agreement. In many cases, this contract discusses which repairs are the responsibility of the tenant and which ones are the responsibility of the landlord. Landlords need to make expectations about repairs very clear in the lease agreement. This will allow everyone to be on the same page.
What if Tenants Make Unauthorized Repairs?
Tenants need to consult with their landlord before making a repair in order to avoid breaking the lease. This should be done unless it’s something minor, such as switching out a lightbulb. What a tenant can and can’t do will vary by location. If a tenant does make an unauthorized repair, then the landlord will have to fix the situation and make the tenant pay for the repair. If the repair is against the lease, the landlord can choose to evict the tenant.