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

Asked about 1 year ago - 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)

  1. Douglas Whitney Weitzman

    Contributor Level 13

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    Lawyer agrees

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    Answered . 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... more
  2. Nicholas Basil Spirtos

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . 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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