After Water in the Basement, Should I Contact my Landlord or Insurance Company?

I pay for renter’s insurance, however, if water came into the basement of the place I’m renting and ruined my valuables, would I be able to go after my landlord or would I just have to rely on my renter’s insurance?

The answers to your questions depend on a number of variables.

With respect to the liability of the landlord for water damage, the first place to look would be the lease agreement. Depending on the terms of the lease agreement, a landlord may be relieved of any responsibility for damage to the tenant’s possessions caused by water intrusion.

If the lease agreement is silent on this subject, the answer would further depend on the circumstances surrounding the water damage. If, for example, an unforeseeable, rare, and particularly damaging flood occurred, the landlord may not be responsible for damage to the tenant’s possessions. This is especially true where no prior water damage occurred on the premises and the landlord had no reason to reasonably anticipate that water intrusion may arise.

If, on the other hand, the tenant had complained of water seepage in the past and had asked for the landlord to correct the problem, the landlord would more likely be on the hook for subsequent damage since the landlord was placed on notice of the need to take corrective action. This would constitute a known hazard or defect with the property.

Likewise, if the landlord was aware of past problems with water intrusion and simply failed to indicate this to a new tenant or misrepresented this fact, the landlord would also be more likely to be on the hook in this situation.

Additionally, the Kansas Landlord and Tenant Act (KLTA) requires a landlord to maintain premises in a habitable condition. If repeated flooding occurs making the premises unsuitable for renting, the landlord may be in violation of the KLTA.

A tenant can also contact her landlord to see if the landlord’s insurance policy addresses and covers for losses caused by water in the basement.

Regarding whether coverage would exist under your renter’s insurance, that would likely depend on the circumstances as well. Some policies have exclusions for property damage caused by floods.

Additionally, exclusions may exist for other reasons as well such as if it is deemed that the landlord is responsible for the damage to the property. Thus, in many circumstances the insurance company may deny the claim requesting coverage.

In addition to the above, many other considerations could factor into your situation. If you have significant reason to be concerned about water damage, it would be prudent to start reviewing the relevant documents such as your insurance policy and renter’s insurance. If needed, an attorney can help with this process.

If you determine that your renter’s insurance does not cover you for damage to personal property causes by water, it would be best to look into a more comprehensive renter’s insurance policy. It is best to consider your own renter’s insurance as your first safety net against loss, instead of putting yourself in a situation where you resort to the expense and uncertainty of making a claim against the landlord for compensation.

Additionally, if you are aware of substantial defects with the premises likely to cause water intrusion, calling your landlord immediately to discuss options to repair the problem would be advisable. You are certainly wise to be pursuing a proactive approach before a catastrophe occurs and your valuables are destroyed.