Q. Due to a burst pipe, a tenant had to vacant his unit for one full month for repairs. His extensive renter’s insurance covered damage to his belongings and his temporary housing. I did not collect rent for the month he had to vacate. Other than repairing the damage and returning the rent, do I have other obligations to this tenant?
A. The implied warranty of habitability requires that rental units be safe and habitable—this includes having working plumbing. The landlord has the obligation to make sure that water pipes are in operable condition. You as the landlord have the responsibility to repair the pipe.
Whether you need to compensate your tenant for damage to their personal belongings depends on various factors. If your tenant caused the water pipe to burst, then you are not obligated to compensate your tenant. You can demand that your tenant pays for the cost of the repairs.
If the water pipe burst was caused by the landlord or no one’s fault, then you are responsible for compensating your tenant. You cannot charge rent for the time that the tenant was without his or her unit. So, it is good that you did not collect rent for that time. Also, your tenant may request reasonable compensation for any inconvenience, such as being without a kitchen and having to eat out. In those situations, you should request your tenant to provide reasonable documentation, (i.e. receipts). Additionally, any personal belongings that were damaged as a result of the water intrusion should be replaced or repaired by you.
In your situation, your tenant had renter’s insurance. Typically, tenants are not responsible for carrying renter’s insurance, although many leases require it. Your tenant’s renter’s insurance covered the damage to personal property. Any amount that was not covered by your tenant’s insurance and was a result of the water intrusion may need to be paid by you or your insurance company. If the landlord was at fault, the tenant may be able to make a claim and request the landlord cover the complete amount of damages.
This Q&A was originally featured in the SFAA Magazine February 2019 Issue.
© 2019 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time.