News & Insights

What to Do When Your Rental House Floods

Flooding can be caused by faulty pipes, broken appliances or just a lot of rain, and the resulting water damage can damage and destroy interior items and be very expensive. And yet, protection from floods is usually separate from normal homeowners’ insurance, meaning that as a renter, you should be aware of ways to protect yourself and your property, as well as the proper steps to take should flooding ever affect your living space.

Before moving in to a rental, you should purchase renters’ insurance. It’s relatively cheap, depending on your selected policy, and will cover damages and replacements of items in your home (and your car) in the case of flooding, as well as other causes like fire and theft. Unlike most other types of insurance, renters’ is not required by law, but many landlords will require it to move in. Regardless of requirement, it’s a small expense that can save you a lot of money and stress down the road.

If your area is prepping for an onslaught of rain, there are some temporary measures you and/or your landlord can take to protect the rental home, including using plastic sheeting on outside walls to prevent water from seeping in. If the flooding is more severe or the structure does not seem able to withhold any flooding, you may consider asking the landlord to provide dry flood-proofing seals, which will permanently protect the exterior. If you’ve had any leaks or problems with a dishwasher or washing machine, let your landlord know immediately, so the problem can be addressed and fixed before a big rain or a bigger problem arises.

If flooding from rain begins unexpectedly or an appliance breaks and begins to leak or flood, immediately move everything you can away from the water. Move anything you can carry, such as electronics, to your car, a neighbor or friend’s house or at least a room further from the flooding. Call your landlord to inform them of the issue immediately. If you can seal leaks, do so, and try to contain the water with plastic bins or barriers. While professional help will get there soon, not doing anything during the flood will just make the damages worse.

The aftermath of dealing with flooding can be just as stressful and difficult. You’re responsible for replacing your possessions, which is why you should have renters’ insurance. Work with your insurance company to file a claim on everything damaged by the flood, which should help you take most of the financial burden off. They may also provide coverage for temporarily moving into a hotel if your apartment is currently uninhabitable.

Your landlord is responsible for anything that came with the rental. They’re required to get the apartment repaired back to being livable, so any structural damage, issues with water or gas or electricity or any problems like that are their responsibility. If your apartment is in an unlivable state, you may have to move out of it temporarily or even permanently. If there’s another comparable unit available in the building, talk to the landlord about the possibility of staying there temporarily or even permanently.

If there’s significant conflict between you and the landlord, you want to get legal help, especially since so many laws vary by state or even county and city. Before taking action, make sure you’ve consulted with an attorney and given the landlord reasonable opportunity to rectify the situation, but here are some points you’ll want to know:

    • You probably can’t legally withhold rent. Even if the rental is in a bad state, you’re still required to make rent payments.
    • If the apartment is uninhabitable and there’s no suitable alternative for you to live in, you may be able to void the lease
    • You may be able to contract repairs to be made yourself and take that amount out of the rent, known as “repair and deduct”.
  • If the flooding was due to something you informed the landlord about but they did nothing to fix, such as a leaking pipe, they may be responsible for the damage done to your personal property.

Dealing with a flood is stressful but doesn’t need to be the end of the world. Get informed and take the proper steps, and you’ll recover and get back on your feet sooner than you’d expect.

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
The managing editor of Apartment Guide and rent.com, Brian Carberry has more than 10 years’ experience as a content creator and award-winning journalist. Brian’s work has been featured on CNN, Search Engine Land, Randstad and a number of other organizations around the world. In his free time, Brian enjoys sports, cooking and debating the correct pronunciation of “gif.”