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  1. #1
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Upstairs Apartment leaks downstairs, whose responsible for damages?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? CA

    I rent an upstairs unit in a 2-story apartment building. *EDIT* I do not have renter's insurance.

    Short version:
    My washing machine malfunctioned and overflowed. The landlord's said the insurances would handle it. Now, I received subrogation latter from the downstairs insurance/collection saying I must pay for the $10,000 repairs.

    Long version:
    On September 14, 2012 I was washing clothes. I put in a fairly small load of delicates. I was sorting more laundry in my bedroom to the right of the washer/dryer. I heard a large splashing sound of water and immediately checked the washer. It had begun to overflow. I turned it off and pulled some towels from the dryer (about 3) to soak up the spilled water. The water also spread into the hallway carpet in front of the washer/dryer. I began removing the water from the washer drum by hand with a bucket. The downstairs tenant (also a renter) came up and informed me that her ceiling was leaking. I told her what ha d just happened but that I had already turned off the unit and cleaned up the mess. I left a message for my landlord and explained the situation. He called back within the hour and said he would send a repairman to look at the washer in Monday.

    On Monday, the repairman came and said that the timer/water level sensor was not working and fixed it.

    Over the next two weeks, I saw Restoration Management Company visit the downstairs unit 2 and dump out about half a garbage can of water (large, round kind). I'm assuming they vacuumed the water & dried the wall.

    I was never contacted or followed up with about what has happened or if all was ok.

    A month and a half later, October 31, the owner of the downstairs unit came and said he wanted to have some contractor inspect all our faucets to see if there was a deeper water leak. I had family over as it was Halloween and my grandson's birthday, so I told him I would inform my landlord and he gave me his contact info.

    I left a message for my landlord. His son returned my call as his father was on vacation. I explained the situation to his son, who said he would contact the downstairs owner and let the insurance companies handle it.

    For the next 2 1/2 months, (November-early January) I witnessed and heard the downstairs tenants have kitchen cabinets, bathroom toilets and sinks, hardwood flooring, and full sheets of drywall installed/repaired all by a single man (who seems to live in a neighboring building on the complex area).

    Again, during all of this neither my landlord, the downstairs tenant, or owner informed me of the situation/outcome.

    On Saturday, February 9, 2013, after use and flushing I noticed the toilet bowl never completely refilled with water. I flushed it again and plunged it and it seemed fine. Within 5 minutes I heard water trickling an checked the bathroom. A small amount of water had overflowed. I turned of the water to the toilet and was able to soak up the spilled water with a single towel. As I was leaving my home, about 30-40 minutes later, the downstairs tenant was outside and mentioned that water was dripping from the vent or fan in her bathroom. I told her I had a minor toilet overflow, but it had already been cleaned up and the water was off.
    So, I called my landlord who was perturbed by the incident. At first he made it seem like a minor problem, but as I expressed my concern that maybe there was a deeper plumbing issue that causes water to easily leak, he suggested that I plunged the toilet wrong and that's why it overflowed. I was shocked at the comment and remarked that it was the only way to fix the toilet. He said he just hopes the downstairs owner doesn't complain because he was already dealing with the $10,000 damages from the washer incident in September. *EDIT* During this conversation he also mentioned that during their repairs, they noticed a bad (old?) pipe issue. I do not know if the pipe issue is related or if it was also fixed**

    On March 1, I received a letter from Jonathan Neil & Associates. It lists the downstairs owner's name and insurance (Western United/AAA) as the client. It stated that it is naming me as the tortfeasor in a subrogation case and that I must pay the $10,000 damages/repairs.

    I was under the assumption that my landlord's insurance and the downstairs owner's insurance had already resolved this.

    Is this legal/correct? Shouldn't their insurance be subrogating my landlord/landlord's insurance?

    2 questions:
    1. Is it possible that my landlord or his insurance is refusing to pay, and has told them to recover the money from me?

    2. Is this just an error, and the letter is addressed to me, but intended for my landlord?

    I want to ask my landlord if this is the case, but also want to be informed/prepared if the 1st option is the case.
    Last edited by ajl08; 03-02-2013 at 02:36 PM.
  2. #2
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajl08 View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? CA

    I rent an upstairs unit in a 2-story apartment building.

    Short version:
    My washing machine malfunctioned and overflowed. The landlord's said the insurances would handle it. Now, I received subrogation latter from the downstairs insurance/collection saying I must pay for the $10,000 repairs.

    Long version:
    On September 14, 2012 I was washing clothes. I put in a fairly small load of delicates. I was sorting more laundry in my bedroom to the right of the washer/dryer. I heard a large splashing sound of water and immediately checked the washer. It had begun to overflow. I turned it off and pulled some towels from the dryer (about 3) to soak up the spilled water. The water also spread into the hallway carpet in front of the washer/dryer. I began removing the water from the washer drum by hand with a bucket. The downstairs tenant (also a renter) came up and informed me that her ceiling was leaking. I told her what ha d just happened but that I had already turned off the unit and cleaned up the mess. I left a message for my landlord and explained the situation. He called back within the hour and said he would send a repairman to look at the washer in Monday.

    On Monday, the repairman came and said that the timer/water level sensor was not working and fixed it.

    Over the next two weeks, I saw Restoration Management Company visit the downstairs unit 2 and dump out about half a garbage can of water (large, round kind). I'm assuming they vacuumed the water & dried the wall.

    I was never contacted or followed up with about what has happened or of all was ok.

    A month and a half later, October 31, the owner of the downstairs unit came and said he wanted to have some contractor inspect all our faucets to see if there was a deeper water leak. I had family over as it was Halloween and my grandson's birthday, so I told him I would inform my landlord and he gave me his contact info.

    I left a message for my landlord. His son returned my call as his father was on vacation. I explained the situation to his son, who said he would contact the downstairs owner and let the insurance companies handle it.

    For the next 2 1/2 months, (November-early January) I witnessed and heard the downstairs tenants have kitchen cabinets, bathroom toilets and sinks, hardwood flooring, and full sheets of drywall installed/repaired all by a single man (who seems to live in a neighboring building on the complex area).

    Again, during all of this neither my landlord, or the downstairs tenant, or owner informed me of the situation/outcome.

    On Saturday, February 9, 2013, after use my and flushing I noticed the toilet bowl never completely refilled with water. I flushed it again and plunged it and it seemed fine. Within 5 minutes I heard water trickling an checked the bathroom. A small amount of water had overflowed. I turned of the water to the toilet and was able to soak up the spilled water with a single towel. As I was leaving my home, about 30-40 minutes later, the downstairs tenant was outside and mentioned that water was dripping from the vent or fan in her bathroom. I told her I had a minor toilet overflow, but it had already been cleaned up and the water was off.
    So, I called my landlord who was perturbed by the incident. At first he made it seem like a minor problem, but as I expressed my concern that maybe there was a deeper plumbing issue that causes water to easily leak, he suggested that I plunged the toilet wrong and that's why it overflowed. I was shocked that at the comment and remarked that it was the only way to fix the toilet. He said he just hopes the downstairs owner doesn't complain because he was already dealing with the $10,000 damages from the washer incident in September.

    On March 1, I received a letter from Jonathan Neil & Associates. It lists the downstairs owner's name and insurance (Western United/AAA) as the client. It stated that it is naming me as the tortfeasor in a subrogation case and that I must pay the $10,000 damages/repairs.

    I believe that my landlord insurance and the downstairs owner's insurance had already resolved this.

    Is this legal/correct? Shouldn't their insurance be subrogating my landlord/landlord's insurance?

    2 questions:
    1. Is it possible that my landlord or his insurance is refusing to pay, and has told them to recover the money from me?

    2. Is this just an error, and the letter is addressed to me, but intended for my landlord?

    I want to ask my landlord if this is the case, but also want to be informed/prepared if the 1st option is the case.

    **A: do you have insurance?
  3. #3
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomeGuru View Post
    **A: do you have insurance?
    Hi, thank you for your response. No, I am a renter and do not have Renter's Insurance. But am I wrong in believing that it wouldn't apply in this case, as the homeowner (my landlord)'s insurance should cover structural damage?
  4. #4
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    Disreguard my previous post. The two insurance companies should be talking to each other. I am not sure why you are involved since you rent in an apartment building and the landlord is responsible.
  5. #5
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomeGuru View Post
    Disreguard my previous post. The two insurance companies should be talking to each other. I am not sure why you are involved since you rent in an apartment building and the landlord is responsible.
    Thank you. I thought so, and I had thought that was what was being done. I guess I should just contact my landlord to confirm whether or not his insurance is already dealing with this.
  6. #6
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    It appears that the insurance company thinks you are the LL.
  7. #7
    Blue Meanie is offline Senior Member
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    On September 14, 2012 I was washing clothes. I put in a fairly small load of delicates. I was sorting more laundry in my bedroom to the right of the washer/dryer. I heard a large splashing sound of water and immediately checked the washer. It had begun to overflow. I turned it off and pulled some towels from the dryer (about 3) to soak up the spilled water. The water also spread into the hallway carpet in front of the washer/dryer. I began removing the water from the washer drum by hand with a bucket. The downstairs tenant (also a renter) came up and informed me that her ceiling was leaking. I told her what ha d just happened but that I had already turned off the unit and cleaned up the mess. I left a message for my landlord and explained the situation. He called back within the hour and said he would send a repairman to look at the washer in Monday.

    On Monday, the repairman came and said that the timer/water level sensor was not working and fixed it.
    Was this washer YOUR property or the LL's?
  8. #8
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    I am uncertain why this should be assumed to be the landlord's problem. The key will be negligence. Was the OP negligent in causing the damage? Sure, there could be reasons why the OP is not negligent. But, the place to present those reasons is in court. By not having insurance for these sudden and accidental occurrences (Renter's liability insurance), the OP will have to pay to defend herself.

    An insurance company paid for the damage to the lower apartment in one or both of the stated instances. I don't know if it was the landlord's insurance or the other tenant's insurance, but someone paid who claims it was not their fault. If the other tenant's renter's insurance, this is clearly true. If the landlord's insurance, this may or may not be true depending on the facts. But in either case, they have the right to sue the OP with the subrogated claim for negligence. Rather than dismissing this letter as a mistake, better would be to take it to an attorney.
  9. #9
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Meanie View Post
    Was this washer YOUR property or the LL's?
    The washer (and all major appliances in the unit) belongs to the landlord.
  10. #10
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tranquility View Post
    I am uncertain why this should be assumed to be the landlord's problem. The key will be negligence. Was the OP negligent in causing the damage? Sure, there could be reasons why the OP is not negligent. But, the place to present those reasons is in court. By not having insurance for these sudden and accidental occurrences (Renter's liability insurance), the OP will have to pay to defend herself.

    An insurance company paid for the damage to the lower apartment in one or both of the stated instances. I don't know if it was the landlord's insurance or the other tenant's insurance, but someone paid who claims it was not their fault. If the other tenant's renter's insurance, this is clearly true. If the landlord's insurance, this may or may not be true depending on the facts. But in either case, they have the right to sue the OP with the subrogated claim for negligence. Rather than dismissing this letter as a mistake, better would be to take it to an attorney.
    Thank you. I had only assumed the landlord to partake in this because he was the one who said (well, his son actually) he would contact the downstairs owner and that their insurances would handle it.

    In this case it is the owner of the downstairs unit's insurance who paid for their repairs. In November, when they first began repairs, their insurance, AAA, sent a letter addressed to my landlord, which I forwarded to him.

    I would like some clarification on the negligence part. Is it considered negligence if the repairman who serviced my washer stated the cause for the washer machine overflowing was due to a malfunctioning timer/water level sensor?

    Furthermore, my landlord never visited or had someone sent out to evaluate any damage that may have been done to my/his unit.
    Last edited by ajl08; 03-02-2013 at 02:30 PM.
  11. #11
    Blue Meanie is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajl08 View Post
    The washer (and all major appliances in the unit) belongs to the landlord.
    You are not responsible for the faulty equipment or plumbing of your LL. Keep all paperwork you get of this issue. When your lease expires ...MOVE. If current LL gives you a bad reference, explain the situation and show the letters. Good Luck to you!!

    Blue
  12. #12
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Meanie View Post
    You are not responsible for the faulty equipment or plumbing of your LL. Keep all paperwork you get of this issue. When your lease expires ...MOVE. If current LL gives you a bad reference, explain the situation and show the letters. Good Luck to you!!

    Blue
    Thank you. Unfortunately, this subrogation letter is the only piece of paperwork I have ever received regarding this. The only other letter was from the downstairs owner's insurance, AAA, but that was directly addressed to my landlord and I forwarded it to him. My landlord also takes care of and has paid for all appliance repairs that have ever been done in the 8 years I've lived here (Ironically, most of them having to do with the washer/dryer).
    Last edited by ajl08; 03-02-2013 at 02:20 PM.
  13. #13
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomeGuru View Post
    It appears that the insurance company thinks you are the LL.
    I thought so too. However, the downstair's insurance company, AAA, had previously sent a letter addressed to my landlord. So they know who the LL is. This subrogation letter is not directly from their insurance company, but rather a subrogation firm Jonathan Niel & Associates. It could be they made in error, but it is unlikely. My real question, is how would they even get my name? I did not give to the downstair's landlord, and I only mentioned my first name to my neighbor when she first moved in 6 months ago. This is why I'm worried my LL/his insurance is refusing to pay and has sent them after me.
  14. #14
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    Any insurance company who pays a claim will seek out others who may have caused the damage. Here, it is difficult to assign any blame to the insured unless they treated the water incorrectly causing an increase in damage. Personally, if everything you've said it true, it does not sound to me as though you would be negligent to any substantial degree. (California is a comparative negligence state so you could have some responsibility if you are partially at fault.) But, as they said on the schoolyard long ago, "says you!".

    They will do an investigation (if they haven't already) and they assign $10,000 of blame to you. You may argue that. You might say some portion was the landlord's problem because of faulty equipment or you might say this was just a happenstance of life and you did not breach your duty to the downstairs neighbor. The landlord's insurance company may become involved too and might subrogate against you as well as argue that even though it was the equipment that was the source, since it was completely in your control the fault was yours. Again, I believe you. But, you might have to make your argument in court. Court will not just be everyone gets together and tells a story of what happened, it is a rule-driven dance that you simply don't know the steps. You will probably need an attorney to be successful if it gets to that point.
  15. #15
    ajl08 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tranquility View Post
    Any insurance company who pays a claim will seek out others who may have caused the damage. Here, it is difficult to assign any blame to the insured unless they treated the water incorrectly causing an increase in damage. Personally, if everything you've said it true, it does not sound to me as though you would be negligent to any substantial degree. (California is a comparative negligence state so you could have some responsibility if you are partially at fault.) But, as they said on the schoolyard long ago, "says you!".

    They will do an investigation (if they haven't already) and they assign $10,000 of blame to you. You may argue that. You might say some portion was the landlord's problem because of faulty equipment or you might say this was just a happenstance of life and you did not breach your duty to the downstairs neighbor. The landlord's insurance company may become involved too and might subrogate against you as well as argue that even though it was the equipment that was the source, since it was completely in your control the fault was yours. Again, I believe you. But, you might have to make your argument in court. Court will not just be everyone gets together and tells a story of what happened, it is a rule-driven dance that you simply don't know the steps. You will probably need an attorney to be successful if it gets to that point.
    I appreciate your reply. I am just very confused, as the downstair's insurance had already contact my LL/his insurance. He also knew the exact amount when I contacted him about the early February incident, before I received this letter.

    Is this subrogation letter a legal or court document? It is a very vague letter simply states their client (the downstair's insurance) believes me to be the tortfeasor in this matter and to contact the rep of the subrogation/collection firm.

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