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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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.


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