Is the landlord responsible to pay an enormous water bill that occurred due to a leak under the building within 3 weeks of us occupying the building?

We occupied our small business building on 10/19/17 and on that same day we transferred the utilities under our company’s name. On November 11, 2017 we had our grand opening and on November 15, 2017 someone from the city visited our unit to inform us that we must have a leak as the meter is recording us using 42,000 gallons of water in one day and 12,000 gallons of water each day for the past 2 weeks. The water was turned off and this created an issue for us and our customers but we worked through it. A plumber was sent out the next day and the repairs were done. We now have a bill or almost $2500 after the city provided a credit of $2100. The water to our unit was interrupted yesterday and we called the city who told us what we need to do to get it back on and we did. The problem is the unit managers are basically performing as if they do not intend to pay this water bill. This was due to normal wear and tear and they have acknowledge that. We are a new business and cannot afford to pay that bill. How do we get them to take care of this bill?

Asked on January 11, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In a commercial rental, the landlord would be responsible for paying it if due to their failure to provide maintenance or repairs (or was otherwise their fault), unless the lease states otherwise and makes this cost the tenant's responsibility. That is, to hold the landlord liable, you'd need 1) to show they were at fault in some way--if the leak sprung without them doing anything wrong (or omitting to make expected repairs or perform normal maintenance), they are not liable or responsible; and 2) you need the lease to not shift the responsibility to you (since unlike in residential tenancies, where there are substantial protections for tenants, commercial tenancies are governed entirely by their leases and the parties can shift costs or responsibility however they agreed in the lease). Note that even if they should pay, if they won't, you'd have to sue for the money; if your business is an LLC or corporation, you must hire a lawyer (you cannot represent an LLC or corporation in court, even your own, if a non-lawyer); and the cost an attorney could make suing not worthwhile.


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