Is a tenant responsible for unreprted water damage?

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Is a tenant responsible for unreprted water damage?

I had tenants renting my house 1 1/2 years. During this time, a small leak developed in the swamp cooler line and leaked water into the laundry room/bathroom for what appears to have been months judging by the extensive damage to the wood floor. When they reported the leak to me, I had it fixed immediately. Now they have moved out and I have found that the kitchen sink had been leaking apparently for months. The cabinet under it is destroyed. Are my tenants responsible for this damage and the damage from the other leak because they didn’t report the leaks to me in a timely manner?

Asked on January 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Mexico

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the tenants knew or reasonably should have known of the leak and failed to report it, then they may be liable for the damage; their failure to report under those circumstances would make them at fault for causing the damage, since it arose due to either their negligence (unreasonable carelessness) in not reporting, or because of the intentional (deliberate) choice to not report, causing the loss. If they did not know of the leak, there would be no liability, since they would have done nothing wrong. If they  might be liable but won't pay voluntarily, you would need to sue them to recover the money.


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