What to do if the pipes in my sons’ apartment froze and now they are being sued?

My sons are in college. They rented an apartment one semester off campus. There was a cold snap during their winter break. Pipes froze then burst. The insurance company for the landlords are sueing my sons for $5000 in damages. Do they need to get a lawyer?

Asked on November 2, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Were they at fault in causing or contributing to the pipes freezing? To recover money from your sons--that is, to successfully sue them and win the lawsuit (since unless the landlord sues and wins, or gets a judgment in its favor, your sons will not have to pay), the landlord must prove that your sons caused or contributed to the damage. 
So, say the pipes froze because the run through an uninsulated area--your sons are not responsible for that. They did not build and insulate the building. But on the other hand, say that your sons failed to leave the heat on during the winter break--either at all, or high enough--or left windows open, and that's why the pipes froze. In that case, they would seem to have been negligent, or careless, and therefore at fault and liable.
If your sons were at fault, they will probably lose; you are probably better off trying to negotiate the amount of damages or the payment terms than trying to fight liability.

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