Who is responsible regarding a burst pipe in apartment ceiling.

My mother-in-law’s apartment complex contracted a plumber for pipe repairs above her bedroom. A pipe fitting failed and her apartment became uninhabitable and she incurred losses due to water damage. Her lease says the complex isn’t responsible for damages to tenants belongings from a burst pipe. She had renters insurance but they say her rate will increase due to a claim. She also had to pay movers to move to another apartment in a different complex due to no vacancies in the former complex.
Can she thinking small claims court get reimbursement for any or all of
A Her belongings that were damaged from the water despite the lease wording
B The increase in renters insurance premiums
C Moving expenses
My thoughts are hat since she didn’t contract the plumber, she can only seek recourse with the complex.

Asked on February 27, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

If the lease says that the building is not responsible for her items, she cannot sue for their value or damage: a limitation of liability like that in a lease or other contract is legal and enforceable. She could potentially sue the building for other costs or losses BUT would have to prove the building was at fault in some way: e.g. knew that the pipe was bad or leaking for some time, but failed to fix it in time; hired or had an unlicensed plumber or unqualified worker work on the pipe; etc. The building is not her insurer--that's why she has renter's insurance. The building is only liable if they contributed to the leak or causes it through doing something careless or negligent.
Even without a contract with the plumber she could sue him, since anyone who negligently damages your property may be liable for it. But again, she'd have to prove fault: that the plumber did something wrong or careless. That may be difficult and would require hiring some other plumber to examine the failed pipe and testify in court that the leak occurred due to the other plumber's fault.
Using her insurance may be her best option: this is what she has it for. Why pay for insurance if you will not use it?

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