What are a tenant’s regarding water damage to their personal property?

I live in a studio and my ceiling has sprung a huge leak; the false ceiling completely came unhinged from the structure. All of my electronic equipment was damaged from the leak. Also, my sofa, table and about 100 text books/ books were heavily damaged. I have no renter’s insurance. I estimate the damage to be around $10-12K. What compensation will I be able to receive from the landlord? What are my other options for claim? This is not the first time a ceiling has leaked (I had 2 leaks in my bathroom – both fixed).

Asked on July 19, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York


Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

NY Real Property Law 235-b (warranty of habitability) provides that:"In every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential  premises the landlord or lessor shall be deemed to covenant and warrant that the premises so leased or rented and all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants or residents are fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the  parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected  to  any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety".

Plumbing leaks & flooding conditions have been found by NY courts to be a breach of the warranty of habitability by the landlord. A residential tenant may be awarded damages, if the court finds the landlord has breached the warranty of habitability. Damages for a breach of the warranty of habitability (known as a rent abatement) are determined by a court's finding (calculation) of the difference between the rent under the lease and the rental value during the time the conditions existed in the premises.

Separate & distinct from a rent abatement, a tenant may also claim consequential damages (including property damage), but must do so in a separate action, not as part of the tenant's claims in a landlord-tenant proceeding. If your damages are $10-12K, your property damage claim would most likely be brought in town court, or in the civil court if you live in NYC.

It is important to document (photographs & video) the leaks, as well as the specific property damaged a result of the conditions. You will also need to prove the value of your property in order to establish the amount of your damages in court.

If the landlord has insurance covering the building, the landlord's insurance policy may include coverage for property damage claims by tenants. Good luck!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.