Can I be liable for damages if I rent an apartment on the third floor of my complex and our toilet overflowed and caused considerable damage to the unit below?

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Can I be liable for damages if I rent an apartment on the third floor of my complex and our toilet overflowed and caused considerable damage to the unit below?

The toliet clog may have been caused by a broken flapper. The clog happened one night but was not discovered until the next morning.

Asked on November 14, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The issue will be your (or your family's, your guests', etc.) fault for the overflow. The landlord is typically liable for maintenance issues or problems arising out of maintenance problems. A tenant is liable if he or she did something which caused the problem, or if the tenant knew or should have been aware of the problem but did not report it, allowing the damage to occur. If the flapper broke through no fault of yours, then the issue will be whether you should have noticed (i.e. whether a reasonable person would have noticed, and therefore there was something unreasonable about your failure to do so) the problem earlier and either taken steps to abate it  (e.g. turn of the water; remove the clog) or at least have contacted the landlord. Therefore, the issue of liability will hinge on the precise facts.


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