Can my landlord charge me for water damage from her leaking air conditioner?

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Can my landlord charge me for water damage from her leaking air conditioner?

The A/C is split and leaking inside. There was tile/hardwood floor put down improperly and it is damaged and buckling. We have no rental/lease agreement and I would like to know who is the liable party in this situation. I spoke to my landlord and she told me, “You are going to pay to have this fixed”. What should I do? The unit leaks about a half a quart of water an hour. She’s telling me that I didn’t notify her of the problem quickly enough.

Asked on June 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The issue is, who is at fault?

Generally, the landlord, not the tenant, would be liable for damages caused by a leaking air conditioner, unless it was the tenant who caused the damage in some fashion--for example, the tenant misused the air conditioner, hit it, put something heavy on it which damaged it, etc.

However, there may be cases where the tenant was aware of a problem, one which the landlord could not independently become aware of it, and if the tenant negligently fails to notify the landlord, so that the landlord suffers losses, the tenant may be liable. Alot depends on how obvious the leak is; how long it went on before you said anything; other actions you took (did you put a basin under it to catch the water?); did the landlord have any other way to know; etc.

In short, usually the landlord would be responsible, but from what you write, you could be in this case. You may wish to try to work out some settlement you  can both live with.


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