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From the moment a water leak occurs, damage begins. Water will begin to seep into the property’s structure, weakening and rotting it from the inside out. After several days, mold starts to grow, affecting residents’ health and the property’s structural integrity. In winter, water can freeze and thaw, further damaging the structure. Today, we discuss how long does a landlord have to fix water damage for a tenant.
That’s why landlords need to act fast. Moreover, it’s also a legal requirement that landlords fix water damage within a specific period after being notified. But with certain leaks requiring the water to be turned off, there are further legal hoops landlords need to jump through.
We’re answering “how long does a landlord have to fix water damage” in the article below. We’ll explore their legal responsibilities, including how long you can turn the water off and what you should tell tenants before they move in.
Landlords are legally responsible for keeping their rental property in livable condition (a working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower; adequate sanitation; access to hot and cold running water). That mostly means meeting the state and local building and health codes. Water leaks should always be fixed before a resident moves into a property. Where legalities become complicated is water damage occurring after a resident moves in.
Landlords have no legal responsibility to fix any water damage they are unaware of. Whether the damage is caused by a burst pipe, an overflowing toilet, or due to a roof leak, the severity of the water damage is unimportant unless the landlord is informed promptly. Worse, residents may not be eligible for renters insurance if they do not take immediate action to inform the relevant authorities.
Problems can arise when residents are away for a prolonged period, e.g., on vacation, or the damage occurs as they sleep. If the renter decides to stay away from the property for several weeks, they should inform the landlord that they are vacating the property for this period. That’s because a lack of heating can cause pipes to freeze and burst. However, residents do not have a legal obligation to inform the landlord.
For minor issues, like a dripping faucet, landlords are not legally required to fix the issue unless otherwise specified in the lease. Nonetheless, most landlords may agree to do so. Residents should read the lease or rental agreement to know what is covered. Furthermore, landlords are not responsible for repairing damage caused by residents or their guests, nor do they have to carry out statutory repairs if a resident is behind on their rent.
Once informed, landlords have a legal duty to fix the problem within a reasonable period of time (around 30 days). For emergency repairs, a reasonable period of time could be much shorter. For example, a day or two may be reasonable if a pipe bursts.
Unless the water damage is considered an emergency, residents do not have to allow the landlord access to the property to make repairs.
Residents can inform the landlord of the damage via phone, text, email, or mail. Though landlords should generally ensure there’s a simple and quick method for residents to contact them.
If the landlord does not complete the repairs within a reasonable time, residents can conduct or pay for the repairs themselves. The final cost can then be deducted from their rent. Alternatively, residents can withhold a portion of the rent until the landlord fulfills their obligations to make the property habitable.
In extreme cases, residents can leave the property without any further liability (i.e., abandon the lease). However, if residents do so inappropriately, landlords can file a countersuit.
Landlords should never shut off water to their property without prior notice unless it’s an emergency. If the water needs to be shut off, landlords should provide residents with 24 hours of notice. Otherwise, landlords can be held liable for any damages that may result.
As some repairs can take significant time, landlords can shut off water for up to 30 days. Critical repairs must be fixed within 3 to 7 days – but it can take up to a month for non-critical repairs.
If the landlord requires a lengthy period to conduct repairs, they should discuss a remedy with their tenants:
Landlords should ensure all tenants are informed of the tenancy agreement, including the minor problems they agree to fix. Moreover, landlords should ensure tenants have an easy and quick way to contact them in case repairs are needed. Conversely, landlords need a way to contact the resident to inform them should the water need to be turned off.
We also advise landlords to educate residents on these basic steps involving water damage:
If you’re a landlord in need of a reliable, professional water damage restoration service, look no further. United Restoration are industry-leading experts in water damage repair, mold remediation & removal, and dehumidification. We use the latest technology to identify leaks and our years of expertise to fix the damage. Contact us at (844) 979-8500.