Biting her keys in her mouth, Phyllis jiggled the condo door open with her free fingertip. Peeking over bags of groceries, she stumbled through the living room and into the kitchen. Step. Step. Step. Squish......? Setting the groceries down, her line of vision shifted to her feet... now immersed in a lukewarm puddle of water, and as she scanned the room, she saw that her couches... chairs, and coffee tables were also about to set sail.
Frantically searching for the culprit, Phyllis became more and more frustrated. The sinks were turned off. The tubs were empty. The dishwasher wasn't on and it hadn't rained for weeks. Then she realized where it was all coming from. It seems that good ole' neighbor Joe Brown never felt it necessary to repair that kitchen sink leak. Why should he have? The leak never came in on his side of the apartment wall.
So now what? It wasn't her fault she had a new indoor swimming area, but would she have to pay for the damages? Allstate Agent Joe McLean says that she purchased a good renter's insurance policy, she would be covered. There are renter's insurance policies which protect you in the event of a bursted pipe, water heater, water bed, etc. With this insurance, you won't have to worry about replacing the pipes, carpeting, or your personal belongings directly out-of-pocket.
Unfortunately, Phyllis didn't have water damage specifically covered under her renter's insurance policy. She was therefore only reimbursed for the damage to her personal belongings, not for the replacement of the carpet, or the repair of the leaking pipe. If her neighbor had had coverage, his policy would have paid for the damage... but he didn't. For the next six months everyone pushed the repair costs on to someone else. The plumbers said it wasn't their responsibility any longer, Joe didn't care because it didn't affect him directly, and the landlord argued that according to the lease, he was only responsible for the exterior upkeep of the condos, not the interior. There wasn't even a security deposit for the landlord to take from. Meanwhile, the carpet began to mold, and patience wore thin. In order to avoid going through the tedious small claims court process, Phyllis moved into another condo and away from the stress. The new owner eventually had to fork out the cost for repairs, and the problem was finally resolved.
According to nolo.com, if a neighbor is legally responsible to water damage you suffer, you may be entitled to:
* Compensation for cost of repairs and replacements.
* Compensation for expenses such as having to stay at a motel.
* Compensation for mental distress, if you have suffered an underlying physical injury.
* Reimbursement for medical expenses.
Punitive damages, if a neighbor acted maliciously. For example, if it could be proven that neighbor Joe rigged the kitchen sink leak up to specifically flood out Phyllis' living room out, then the court would not only compensate Phyllis for the damages, but may also order the neighbor to pay extra money to her as punishment for malice.
However, if neither parties have a renter's insurance policy covering water damage, you'll have to go to small claims court to get compensation, and sometimes it's not even worth the hassle. In order to avoid having to give in and pay for damages, or give up and go to court, it's important to invest in a good renter's insurance policy. Contact your local insurance agent to decide which policy gives you the most coverage.
Another moral to the story? When looking into rental property, it is incredibly important to scrutinize the lease. Some landlords state specifically that they will keep all electrical and plumbing systems in good, working condition, but others - as in Phyllis' case, only claim responsibility for the exterior upkeep of the complex. If you are already living in a rental unit and your manager/landlord does not take care of these things, you should definitely invest in a good renter's insurance policy to avoid future problems.
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