Can a landlord hold you responsible for damages, whether you caused it or not?

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2011

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Can a landlord hold you responsible for damages, whether you caused it or not?

Our lease has a section under personal property and liability that states the following: Tenant is responsible for all damage caused the property, including but not limited to fire and glass breakage and shall be responsible for repair and replacement thereof, regardless of whether the breakage or damage was caused voluntarily, involuntarily, or from vandalism. This whole situation was brought to our attention after the interior pane of a sliding patio door cracked and shattered. They are saying due to this clause we are liable. I am worried about future liability should damage occur.

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If your lease did not contain that clause, then no--you would not be responsible for damage you did not cause. Normally, you are responsible only for damage caused by you, your family, your friends, you guests, and pets (i.e. those under your control, at least to some extent).

However, people may reapportion risk and liabilty by contact, and that is what a lease is: a contract. If there is a term in the lease making you responsible for all damage to the property, whether or not you caused it, that clause is enforceable; therefore, you do shoulder all the potential liability in this case. You may wish to not renew this lease when the term is up, unless you can get  that clause stricken, or at least some cap as to maximum liability put in.

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 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.

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