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Is the landlord responsible for replacing personal property damaged due to water damage from a faulty sprinkler head

Los Angeles, CA |

Our apartment (which I have resided for three years) had new fire sprinkler heads replaced on Saturday morning. On Saturday evening, one of the sprinkler heads blew up and destroyed my roommates room (the location of the head was in his closet) and flooded the whole apartment in less than half an hour. The damage was so severe it damaged the two apartments directly below us and into the parking garage.

I have renters insurance, my roomate did not. However, we were able to get my stuff (minus living room furniture) to a safe place. So after my deductible of $500, it didn't make much sense for me to use renters. The furniture is water damaged, but I cleaned it for two fifty, and the other stuff I could buy brand new for $500.

We are able to stay in an empty apt on our floor until our apt. is ready again. Owner is putting in laminate floors. So here's the deal. The contractors she hired, no insurance. They told her the night of the water, tenants must have "tampered with nozzle"! I told her this was completely ridiculous and she concurred. We have pictures of all damage and both heads, before and after as they changed it that night. If the contractors don't have insurance, it defaults to the owner under Cali law as we understand.
We are going to ask her for two months rent free. That would 1275.00 for each of us to cover lost work, damage,utilities (humdifiers and fans going non stop for five days, and having to be displaced for a week.

If she does not want to do that, we will have to take her to small claims. We feel that we are in the absolute right here and just want to be made whole again. Does the owner have any sort of defense case that small claims would find in her favor as I have laid out. We want to do it amicably, but if she feels that she's done her share and renter's insurance should have covered this, we would have to sue. Should we contact the city, as well? She is being very nice right now and we are holding off until we are back in apt. She is the new owner and had to change heads because the city made her. She obviously cut corners and we suffered. Please share anything that comes to mind. Thanks.

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Attorney answers 1


Your landlord likely has few defenses to your claim. In additon, California has a law, called the collateral source rule, that does not allow your landlord to deduct your insurance recovery from any damages she owes to you. Therefore, you should be able to recover your damages in court as long as you don't overexaggerate them. Take pictures, list your damages on one page and include receipts. Organize your presentation and go to court.

Your best bet to recover damages is in small claims court, not from the City.

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