Who is liable for water damage from a leaking A/C – the landlord or an unresponsive tenant?

I have a rental property and received word from the association that there was a complaint about my unit leaking into the one next to it. I attempted to call the tenant several times to verify and over a period of a month, tenant finally made arrangements to open the door for my HVAC person. Tenant told me the result was that there was nothing wrong. Now, association tells me that the A/C is indeed leaking into two other units and we are liable for damages. Was I negligent? Is the tenant liable? Would the other units need to call their insurance or would it be on my insurance?

Asked on September 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Here is the problem. If you are the landlord of this property, and the a/c unit is leaking into other units, it can be your fault since you need to provide working appliances and prevent damage to other units. However, a tenant must give you access to his or her unit and not unduly prevent you from having a repair person inspect the item and repair it. Here, it appears that while the initial damage/responsibility was on you, your tenant aggravated the situation by failing to allow someone in within one month. Now, if your state also considers that your failure to enter the unit upon your tenant's refusal to allow anyone is your problem, you may indeed be held liable. Assess the damage right now and make sure you have all the damage repaired. If this means you need to discuss this with your insurance company, do so.

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