What is my landlord’s responsibility for flood damage?

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What is my landlord’s responsibility for flood damage?

Our landlord states he is not responsible for replacing person belongings when the apartment floods from rain. We are on the ground floor and drainage in the complex is very bad. He says it is not his fault that the apartments flood and he is not responsible for any damages inside or outside on the patios. Is this right?

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

He is most likely right. As a general matter, a landlord is not the insurer for his tenants; he is not responsible for losses, costs, or damages which are not his fault. (This is why tenants should get insurance to cover their belongings.) In particular, a landlord is not usually responsible for weather-related damage.

There are exceptions, if you can show that the design, construction, or maintaince of the premises was so deficient as to constitute a violation of the "implied warranty of habitability" (or the obligation to provide premises which are fit for their intended purpose), or even simply that the landlord unreasonably failed to correct conditions which he should have, and this was why the damage occured. For example, if there was a hole in the roof which the landlord was aware of, and that's why rain got inside and damaged the tenant's belongings, the landlord would be liable.

However, a "drainage" issue is not nearly so clear cut. The landlord is not obligated to provide perfect or ideal drainage--only drainage that is not unreasonable bad. Basically, unless the drainage is much worse that other, similar buildings would have, the landlord would not be liable. And to hold him liable, if he does not pay voluntarily, you would need to sue him and prove the deficiency.

If you're worried about property damage, getting insurance is the best way to protect yourself.


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