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What to do if you experience water damage as a tenant



Tenants: Here's what to do if your property is damaged by water

If you’re living in rented accommodation in New York, you may experience water damage in the form of flooding from storms, roof leaks or a leaking air conditioning unit. In-built appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and showers can also succumb to wear and tear from years of use, resulting in broken or leaking pipes.

If you spot a small leak in your home, you may wonder whether to bother letting your landlord know at all. The answer is – yes! Let them know immediately. Even small leaks can affect both the structure and the interior of a property quickly, and the actual cash needed to repair it can add up fast. If you did not alert the landlord to the problem, their insurance company may reject the claim and you could end up being liable for the final payment.

Steps to take for rented property water damage

Whatever the scenario, if you experience leaking water in a rented property, here’s what you need to do:

Notify your landlord.

The first thing to do is let your landlord or property manager know. Depending on the cause and extent of the damage, they may be responsible for making the necessary repairs.

Document damage to the home and personal property.

Take photos and videos of the affected areas, and make a list of any damaged items. If you need to repair or replace anything yourself, keep hold of all the receipts as evidence if you need to make a personal property damage claim against your renter’s insurance. In some cases, you may be able claim costs back from your landlord or property manager as the replacement cost could be included in the insurance payments.

Check your lease agreement.

Review your lease agreement. This should clearly set out who is responsible for what in the property. Some leases may require tenants to report any damage immediately and to take steps to mitigate further damage, such as turning off water sources or placing towels or buckets to collect water.

Typically, smaller repair and maintenance jobs fall under the tenant’s responsibility to resolve whereas larger, more costly jobs are down to the landlord. Again, be sure to check your specific tenancy agreement as this can vary by property.

If the damage is caused by a natural disaster, such as a flood or hurricane, you may be eligible for assistance from FEMA or other government programs.

Check your renter’s insurance policy cover.

Your renters insurance policy will lay out what you are and are not covered for. This will vary depending on the insurance company and type of cover you have. At iFlooded Restoration we work with most home insurance companies directly, so we can advise whether the work required will be covered by your policy, and file claims costs directly from them.

Contact a professional restoration company.

Regardless of the type of damage or what caused it, the best bet is to contact a professional restoration company to carry out any permanent repairs necessary. iFlooded Restoration will never enter a tenant’s property to assess and deal with any damage unless the landlord calls us directly to inform us to come. This is for legal purposes and to protect ourselves legally. If you’re a tenant, you must have your landlord call us in order for us to come in and restore your property from any type of damage. If your landlord is slow to respond or refuses to be of assistance, we cannot help you in this situation. You will need to resort to legal actions according to state law.

What does the payment process look like?

While claims filed for property damage are in progress, you may be able to claim for additional living expenses if you need to stay in paid or sheltered accommodation.

When filing an insurance claim, you should provide a detailed account of the damage and include any documentation, such as photos, videos, or receipts. If the damage is caused by a covered event, such as a storm, the tenant’s renters insurance policy may cover the cost of repairs, up to the policy limit. Check your insurance coverage documents for more information.

How long does a renter's insurance claim take for water damage?

It can take up to for insurance claims to be settled. It all depends on the insurance company, extent of the damage, and the actual cash value of the personal belongings that have been affected.

Can I make a claim for multiple types of property damage?

Yes, you can – but you’ll need to make separate claims for each type of damage. You should notify your landlord or property manage of the damage as they may be able to submit home insurance claims for multiple types of damage.

For example, if your home has been affected by flooding which has then led to mold, you would need to submit two different claims: one for water damage, one for mold damage. Any damage that is not included in your insurance coverage may be covered by your landlord’s – or, it may be their responsibility to repair, depending on the terms of the lease agreement and local laws.

Frequently Asked Questions About Renter's Insurance Damage Claims

Will my insurance premiums be affected?

As a tenant, a natural disaster is in no way your fault, so your insurance premiums should not be affected. Unfortunately however, your insurance company may see it as an opportunity to raise your premium. If that is the case, we’d suggest shopping about for a cheaper alternative!

What if my landlord doesn’t respond?

If the landlord does not respond to the tenant’s request for repairs in a timely manner, the tenant may have the right to withhold rent or terminate their lease.

If the landlord fails to respond or address the damage in a reasonable timeframe, you may need to take legal action or seek assistance from a local tenant advocacy group. We have seen recommendations online to withhold your rent or terminate your lease agreement; we strongly recommend you do not take any such action without first consulting with an attorney or local tenant advocacy group. These will be best placed to advise you on what recourse to take and whether to pursue legal action.

What if the damage is not covered by mine or my landlord’s insurance company?

If neither yours or your landlord’s insurance policy covers the damage that has occurred, you will have no choice but to pay for the repairs yourself. However, you may be able to deduct the repair costs from your rent payments. Speak to your landlord or attorney before taking this route.