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Water Damage In Your Apartment
Water damage can have lasting and serious effects on your apartment, and depending on the severity of the spill or leak, may also affect your neighbors. Minor flooding can have long term consequences, and any wet surface is a breeding ground for mold. Landlords are responsible for the damage, but only up to a point, and there is always the possibility that your landlord will not complete repairs promptly or may refuse to make them at all. For these reasons you should be aware of the rights you have as a tenant when it comes to dealing with water damage in your apartment.
Tenants’ rights are pretty much the same everywhere in the US, with details varying depending on which state you live in. Your local housing authority can give you details on the law and how it applies in your case.
If your apartment has suffered from water damage, your landlord can evict you, but only if the apartment has been totally destroyed, damaged to the point where it is impossible to live in. If you have an oral month to month lease, then your landlord has to cancel your lease with a notice of at least 10 days before the end of the rental month.
If water damage forces you out of your apartment, then you do not owe your landlord rent for that month, and will not have to resume paying rent until the apartment has been completely repaired. You also have a right to cancel your lease if the apartment has been either partially or totally destroyed by water. The damage has to be extensive enough to warrant complex repair work; smaller cases of damage such as ruined carpet, would not qualify for lease cancellation. Anyone wishing to exercise this right should probably consult with a lawyer.
By law, your landlord is required to repair the damage to your apartment at their own expense, and this includes damage to rooms, doors, walls, balconies, and utilities. They are not required to pay for damages to furniture or any personal belongings. The only exception here is if it can be demonstrated that the damage was due to the landlord’s negligence. If the damage was due to a leaking roof that was never fixed, then there might be basis for requiring that those items be compensated for.
If your landlord fails to make the necessary repairs to your apartment within a reasonable time frame, and if the apartment remains unfit to live in, you do have the right to cancel the lease. You will however, have to prove that the damage was substantial enough to warrant such a cancellation. You also have the right to make repairs yourself and deduct those costs from your monthly rental payment. These deductions will have to be reasonable, and you cannot stop paying rent altogether while those repairs are being made.