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If water damage caused by tenant not reporting the water leak in rental property, who is responsible for the cost of the repair?

Fremont, CA |

Tenant reported water leak under the kitchen sink to the landlord and turned off the valve under the kitchen sink per landlord's instruction. The plumber fixed the leak 3 days later. Landlord discovered severe water damage 3 weeks later during the inspection to the property. As stated by the plumber, the wood floor and based board under the kitchen sink have already warped and bulking when he went there to fix the leak. Tenant did not want to provide any details about the incident but just wanted to have their security deposit back. Can the tenant be hold responsible for the damages due to their negligence: 1. didn't report the water leak when it first arose; 2. never reported water damage until landlord discovered it; 3. did not take any reasonable care (mop off the leaked water etc).

Attorney Answers 2


The tenant should report water leaking to you as soon as possible. If it is apparent that the water is leaking, then the tenant should take all steps to try to turn off the water and call the landlord or landlord's representative as soon as practicable.

Your problem is that it would be very difficult to prove when the leak started and how bad the leak was.

It is possible that the water leaked onto the floor while the tenant wasn't there, it got wet and the tenant did what he could to mop it up.

I hope you have insurance to take care of this, because this is normally a landlord problem.

If you think you can prove it, have the plumber give you his professional opinion as to how the leak happened, how bad it was, and whether or not he can pinpoint that the tenant could have prevented any of the damages that you claim.

If you haven't returned the security deposit yet, you can fix the floors and claim he was responsible and see whether or not he objects and/or wants to sue you and maybe win up to 3x damages if he can prove you withheld his deposit in bad faith.

You can continue to discuss this with your ex-tenant or sue for damages if you already gave back the deposit or see if he sues you if you didn't. I hope it isn't that bad, but I do know hardwood floors do cost a lot to repair. I hope you can cut out a small section and get it done.

This is general legal advice intended for informational purposes only and does not create and attorney/client relationship. If you wish further advice, please contact an attorney of your own choosing or you may contact me for further advice and make other arrangements including retaining my services.

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You could try to hold the tenant responsible, but you would have a difficult time proving that the tenant knew about the leak, when it started, that the tenant did not clean up any leak, or that they did not promptly report it.

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Thanks for your advice. The fact that the hardwood floor was damaged in the kitchen just 3 days after the tenant reported the leak clearly indicated that the damage was there before their report of water leak. Warping and bulking of hardwood floor won't happen in 3 days. They didn't even bother to report the damage to the landlord and turned in their moving out notice before the landlord could have a chance to check the damage. Are these reasonable proofs that it's the tenant's responsibility?

Nicholas Basil Spirtos

Nicholas Basil Spirtos


It is a reasonable inference, but to hold the tenant responsible, you will probably need more solid proof than that.

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