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Am I, a tenant in an apartment, liable for flood damage caused from a portable dishwasher?

San Francisco, CA |

So I ran the dishwasher (it's portable which means the tube connects to the kitchen sink faucet) and I left the premise. About 30 minutes later I received a text from the landlord (who lives with me and another tenant) that it has flooded the kitchen and it has leaked down into the kitchen unit below. I come home to see that the flood is gone but was told that the sink overflowed and that is how the water flooded to the floor, ultimately to the unit below. The landlord/owner has state farm house insurance while I do not have renters insurance. There are no noticeable damage to the floor, however the landlord wishes to rip up the linoleum flooring to dry the wood base below. The landlord also says I'm responsible for these damages. Is this true?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. You don't indicate why the dishwasher caused the sink to overflow. Probably because the garbage disposal was filled with food, making it impossible for the dishwasher to drain. So, the flood is most likely the result of your negligent conduct. As such, yes, you are responsible for any damage that results from your negligence. Exactly what that damage is will determine the extent of your responsibility. I would resist the landlord's desire to rip up the linoleum without a water damage contractor advising that it is necessary. He's right to be concerned about water being trapped in the wood subfloor, because if it doesn't dry out quickly it can cause mold, wood rot, and perhaps other damage that will be a lot more expensive to repair. Just get a second opinion. And some renter's insurance that will cover your personal liability in the future. The landlord is not obligated to make a claim to his own insurance company. And even if he did, this damage might fall within his deductible.


  2. Yes, you are most likely liable for these damages. I agree with Attorney Boyer's response and suggestions.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with your own attorney.


  3. I don't agree. No one hear knows why it flooded. It could easily be negligent maintenance on the landlord's part. Perhaps it is negligent to leave while the dw runs? I don't think so. In court someone would have to establish facts for negligence. The LL should tender it to his insurance. I don't think you have a duty to pay and he could not evict you for not paying. He would have to take you to small claims court for the damages and the burden would be on him to establish your negligence.

    Responses to Avvo questions are based on a general discussion of the law and in no way constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created, and you should not take or fail to take actions based on my answers. Consult an attorney in your area. Time is often of the essence. Act quickly!


  4. I would want to know why he believes it is necessary to rip up the floor. Get an independent opinion from a licensed contractor about this who you can trust and go from there. If there is no need to rip up the floor and landlord is overreacting, leave it at that.

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