What is my responsibility to a tenant regarding clean-up after water damage?

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What is my responsibility to a tenant regarding clean-up after water damage?

There was a water leakage in a tenant’s room. I have cleaned/shampooed her carpet and repaired all the building areas from further leaks. Additionally, I took money off of her rent to compensate her for the inconvenience. Heaters were placed in her room to help dry the carpet. She has been asked several times to open up the windows to let air in, but she insists on keeping the windows closed. She now says that the room smells; that it is musty possibly moldy. The carpet she brought into the house was not cleaned prior to her moving in. As for the stains and the smell, she has 20 turtles that she allows to room around her room urinating and defecating on the floor.

Asked on February 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Assuming the tenant did not cause the leak--if she did, then she would be responsible for the cost of repair and cleaning--you have to fix the damae done. You do not need to pay for any damage caused by the tenant's actions (e.g. turtle waste) and in fact may charge her for those costs. You also do not need to pay for clean up--and again may be able to charge the tenant--for any costs where the tenant did not follow reasonable instructions and so exacerbated the situation. And you do not need to pay for pre-existing stains or damage, such as carpet stains that there where before the tenant moved in. Obviously, proving the cause of certain stains or damage and when it occured can sometimes be difficult, so sometimes it's better to compromise on certain costs than fight.


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