Is the water department responsible for a flooded house?

About 7 months ago, the water department was supposed to shut off the water to my rental property and pull or lock the meter. Then 2 months ago, there was a hard freeze and after the weather warmed up we got a call from the person next door and was told that water was running out the front door. When I went to the rent house I found water spraying from 4 different places. We called water dept. and told them about the flood. They turned it over to a third party claims company who told me not to touch anything until they could send someone to look at the house. Finally after 2 months of giving me the runaround, I talked to someone and told them that mold and mildew was starting to show up in the house. They finally sent someone to look at the house. Then, 2 weeks later, they sent me a letter denying the claim citing that the water heater was faulty. I called them back and told them that there was 4 different leaks that couldn’t have been caused by the water heater they then said that they had a piece of paper which was a work order from the water department to shut off the water and that I must have turned the water back on which I did nothing of the sorts and that is why the pipes burst and the house flooded and that my claim was still denied. Other than a piece of paper which neither me nor the former renter signed to validate that the water was actually shut off they have no proof that the water was actually shut off.

Asked on March 14, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if they failed to shut the water off when you directed them to, and that failure can be shown to have caused the leak and damage, they are liable. Practically, the issue will be can you prove they did not turn off the water: you say that they do not have proof that it was shut off--though assume they will have some proof, in the form of employee testimony (e.g. someone testifying they did the shutoff) and also internal documents (work orders) showing it was scheduled to be done--but what proof do *you* have that it was never shut off? Remember: as the person suing them (you will have to sue unless they voluntarily pay you compensation), YOU must prove your case. If you don't have evidence to show it was not shut off when they say they did shut it off, you will lose. 
A good idea is to consult with an attorney in person: let him/her review the documentation and evidence and advise you as to how strong your case is, what other evidence you would need, what it would cost to purse a case, etc. You can then decide whether to go ahead or not.


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