If I accidently broke a toilet and the landlord is making me pay for it and not taking it out of the deposit, can the landlord do that?

UPDATED: May 21, 2012

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If I accidently broke a toilet and the landlord is making me pay for it and not taking it out of the deposit, can the landlord do that?

I accidently broke a toilet that was not installed correctly. It was wobbly and I was going to the bathroom and I leaned over and the toilet lifted off the ground and cracked at the bottom. The landlord replaced it but is making me pay $165 out of my own money, however, I paid a $200 deposit. I do not think the landlord is taking it out of the deposit. Does the landlord have the right to make me pay for it?

Asked on May 21, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the landlord can require you to pay for the toilet if you broke it either negligently (carelessly) or intentionally (deliberately)--you are  not responsible, however, if you were not at fault in some way (e.g. the toilet is very old and happened to break after many years of use without you doing anything to it).

If you are at fault, as stated, you can be held financially liable for the cost to repair or replace. The landlord is not required to take it out of the security deposit; the security deposit is there as a "back up" if you fail to pay for necessary repairs (or leave owing rent), so the landlord is not forced to immediately go to the deposit for rent.

In a larger sense, it does not matter whether you pay out of pocket now or the money is taken from the deposit--either way, you pay $165: either you pay $165 now and later get $200 back, or if it is taken out of the deposit, you'd only get $35 back later. You pay the same amount, either way; but the landlord does have the right to demand it from you, and to sue you if you don't pay or potentially take other action (in some situations, you could be evicted; it depends on what exactly your lease says). The landlord does not have to take it from your deposit.


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