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  1. #1
    sweetnjoe is offline Junior Member
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    Apartment manager wants to sue me for flood damage

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

    I warn you this is long but I tried to include details.
    I live on the second and third floor of a three story apartment building(my apartment is 2 stories). Somehow, something caused a flood somewhere between my bottom floor and the unit below mine and it flooded badly the apartment below me (which was vacant at the time). When this occurred I was home but on the upstairs floor of my apartment and unaware of anything happening.

    My manager came to my door after discovering the leak below me (I think he noticed it leaking in the garage on the ground floor first and was working his way up to find the source.) I let him in and he had a plumber with him. The leak was still going however the plumber looked in both of my bathooms, and around my washing machine and saw NOTHING indicating a leak. There was no visual indication in my apartment to the plumber of a flood or leak. There was no water flow anywhere in my apartment that was visible and nothing that appeared to be leaking. And my apartment appeared to be in normal condition.

    They then left my apartment but came back about 30 mins later saying it HAD to be coming from my apartment. I let them in again of course, that is when they felt my carpet and noticed it was moist. The plumber then ran my washing machine three times and watched it from my apartment, and the one below me to see if anything started leaking. It did not. Then he put some holes in my walls to see if any pipes were leaking and they were not.

    They went to the roof of the building and eventually came down and told me that they guessed all the rain we had the two days before had somehow backed up and flooded a drainage pipe that ran straight down the inside the building in the area that the leak was present. I shrugged as I was mostly confused as to what was going on.

    About 5 hours later someone else from the apartments maintenance came to my apartment and insisted that I had done something and demanded to know what I did, asking me if I had overflowed the bathtub etc. I told him I had done nothing and the plumber had been in my apartment while the leak was still running out of the garage but there was no water running in my apartment. Then he insisted I must have overflowed my washing machine and then claimed that the water in the apartment below me was "sudsy". I do not believe it was and that he was trying to bully me. I told him I had not run the washer in probably a week as I had been in and out of town during the last week.

    They left again baffled at what had caused the flood. The next day he came back with a different plumber who had some sort of moisture reading device and they used it to determine (what they already knew) that it was wet on the floor around the washer and bathroom (the washer hookup is right outside the bathroom door). This new plumber said it must have been a tub overflow and they left without saying a word to me.

    Later that night they asked my husband to come downstairs to see the damage to the unit below us. They then bullied my husband asking him "Are you sure your wife didn't do this?" and "We will search the dumpsters for wet towels or anything you might have disposed of." They said they had pumped "hundreds of gallons" of water out of the apartment below mine. They never had to pump or suck ANY amount of water from my apartment. In my opinion a flood that massive could not have been covered up as they seem to think I did ad would have left large amounts of damage in my unit as well. Especially in a time frame of the manager and plumber coming inside my apartment AS IT WAS HAPPENING and seeing nothing.

    A week went by and the head maintenance man came by to ask my husband again and had him come to the unit below us again to see damage. He said to my husband "I hope you have good insurance." Which I obviously take as a threat that they plan on suing me for the repairs. I feel completely helpless and terrified right now. Can they just determine it must be my fault like that? What can I do to protect myself now? I know this flood was not my fault and nothing I did.

    I don't understand how they can think it is when my apartment had virtually no damage to it. I understand they don't know what happened but that should not default to meaning its my fault. Please help as I am losing sleep over this.

    p.s. I have no insurance company to fight them for me so advice mentioning that only makes me feel more helpless.
  2. #2
    Hot Topic is offline Senior Member
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    As bad as it makes you feel to hear it, you should have renter's insurance.

    I would consider telling the city building inspector what you've told us.
  3. #3
    Alaska landlord is offline Senior Member
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    A mysterious flooding event that just disappears is unlikely. I think it was a bathtub flooding event. The LL will file with his insurance company and they will determine who’s fault it was. Eventually his insurance company will sue you.
  4. #4
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    No one would overflow a bathtub to the tune of "hundreds of gallons", especially without flooding the ENTIRE apartment upstairs instead of just a little dampness in one area. They have no case. But if you have no insurance, you will have to pay for your own lawyer if you are sued. There is no excuse for not having good renter's insurance.
  5. #5
    acmb05 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska landlord View Post
    A mysterious flooding event that just disappears is unlikely. I think it was a bathtub flooding event. The LL will file with his insurance company and they will determine who’s fault it was. Eventually his insurance company will sue you.
    There is no way a bathtub flooding event would do this much damage to a downstairs apartment and virtually none to the unit it happened in. Also as was stated the leak was still going when the plumber and landlord inspected her unit and saw no water at all in her unit. It was only during the second inspection that a little dampness was found in the carpet.

    The more viable reason would be the clogged drain on the roof and water running down the pipes in the wall and flooding the lowest unit, eventually seeping through to the unit she lives in and wetting the carpet.
    Last edited by acmb05; 11-16-2008 at 09:54 AM.
  6. #6
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    It does not take much debris from a roof to plug a roof drain , If the roof is a flat roof with rocks and there had been no screen in place to block debris then rocks and leaves could become trapped at the first elbow that connects a horizontal pipe to a verticle one , (Been thru that in a old building in S mpls that had roof drains that were plugged, using a hose and letting it just siphon off with gravity took two days) , Even seen roofing tar help narrow the drains to a point that made it easier for debris to collect. HINT learn from your city if roof drains are permitted by zoning or not. Fair odds are the roof drains have been failing for a long time. DO your self a huge favor , when your done with washing a load Turn off the supply valves each time , only opening them when you need to do wash.
  7. #7
    Alaska landlord is offline Senior Member
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    OP may also have a loose tub drain or the sealant on the drain needs to be redone. This usually becomes a problem when filling the tub.
  8. #8
    acmb05 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska landlord View Post
    OP may also have a loose tub drain or the sealant on the drain needs to be redone. This usually becomes a problem when filling the tub.
    Which would be no fault of the tenants. Very unlikely that tenant would be sued for damages.

    Tub was not running when leak was still occuring downstairs.

    Landlord most likely has a busted pipe somewhere or roof drain is busted or clogged.
  9. #9
    sweetnjoe is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you for your encouragement on this situation. The maintenance man was back the other night telling my husband a list of all the expenses so far such as "The plumber was 500 and drying it all out was 500" etc and also stated that he was paying for it out of his pocket. So it seems like he is not going through his insurance company and is just planning on billing us personally for his reimbursement. Is that legal?? I do not want to pay for this and still there is no damage in my unit at all.

    I also do not want to have to go to court though if avoidable however I have tried telling him my point of view and he will not hear it, even just turning around and walking away as I tried recently. My husband says not to argue with him and just do whatever he says, because he is afraid of a court battle as well although he is not against getting a lawyer if needed.

    This man has already seemingly got it out for me now because of this. He told me over this weekend I had to take down my Christmas decorations because of fire hazard (they were just lights nothing out of ordinary), and told me my small plant outside had to go for the same reason even though it's been there for months and he has been around before with no issue with it. I just don't want to live on eggshells now either but I have about 7 months left on lease. Would it seem likely or typical for the LL to evict me if he truly blames me for this? I would think they would not want me to stay if they feel I caused so much damage.

    edit: I also wanted to add that the way my bathtub is situated it shares a wall with my daughters closet and a wall with my neighbors apartment next door. Neither of those places were wet at all. All the water went out from what seems to be a center point of a wall which is where I was told the roof drainage went through and where the AC drainage is. The damage went down a hallway and master bedroom below me which is not anywhere close to under my bathtub at all, and in fact as far as I am aware there wasn't damage in the bathroom below mine where the tub in question is.
    Last edited by sweetnjoe; 11-17-2008 at 12:25 PM.
  10. #10
    Who's Liable? is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetnjoe View Post
    Thank you for your encouragement on this situation. The maintenance man was back the other night telling my husband a list of all the expenses so far such as "The plumber was 500 and drying it all out was 500" etc and also stated that he was paying for it out of his pocket. So it seems like he is not going through his insurance company and is just planning on billing us personally for his reimbursement. Is that legal?? I do not want to pay for this and still there is no damage in my unit at all.

    I also do not want to have to go to court though if avoidable however I have tried telling him my point of view and he will not hear it, even just turning around and walking away as I tried recently. My husband says not to argue with him and just do whatever he says, because he is afraid of a court battle as well although he is not against getting a lawyer if needed.

    This man has already seemingly got it out for me now because of this. He told me over this weekend I had to take down my Christmas decorations because of fire hazard (they were just lights nothing out of ordinary), and told me my small plant outside had to go for the same reason even though it's been there for months and he has been around before with no issue with it. I just don't want to live on eggshells now either but I have about 7 months left on lease. Would it seem likely or typical for the LL to evict me if he truly blames me for this? I would think they would not want me to stay if they feel I caused so much damage.

    edit: I also wanted to add that the way my bathtub is situated it shares a wall with my daughters closet and a wall with my neighbors apartment next door. Neither of those places were wet at all. All the water went out from what seems to be a center point of a wall which is where I was told the roof drainage went through and where the AC drainage is. The damage went down a hallway and master bedroom below me which is not anywhere close to under my bathtub at all, and in fact as far as I am aware there wasn't damage in the bathroom below mine where the tub in question is.
    If you're just going to be a push-over and do what the LL tells you to do, what are you doing posting your question on here?

    Don't waste our time if you're not going to take advice.

    You are clearly in the right here. The LL must PROVE that it was YOUR negligence that cause the damage.

    As for the decorations, tell him to pound sand, if he is requiring you must take down your decorations, than he must enforce the rules on ALL the tenants...
  11. #11
    Alaska landlord is offline Senior Member
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    Though it is not clear that you are in the right, the landlord has failed to prove that you are responsible for the damage. Your landlord has indicated that he will be paying for the damage out of his own pocket. It does not necessarily mean that he plans on billing you. What you should do is play a waiting game until you receive a bill. Get rid of the fire hazards and plan on moving at the end of your lease. If at the end of your lease a deduction from your security deposit is made for the damage you allegedly caused, then you can always sue for the amount deducted.

    Yes, it's legal for him to pay for the damage out of his own pocket and he need not go through the insurance company.
  12. #12
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    Your LL is going to drive you nuts if you permit it. Do your self a favor , take pics of the buildings outside, Any one live near you that is even up higher that would allow you to take pics that would show the roof? I say to take exterior pics & up higher pics because you want to have some proof of roof drains when you go to court. Your LL can send you a bill BUT you do not have to agree to pay it, I WOULDNT , Id make them take me to court and prove I caused the damage if it was me. Do not forget to contact your city to see if they have any records of the property that would show it to have roof drains. BTW even if it was a poor connection on any waste water line that services your unit your still not responsible if you did nothing to damage them like washing paint stripper down the drains and all you did was normal every day regular use!
  13. #13
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    Send your LL a certified letter stating in no uncertain terms that the flood in question did NOT originate in your apartment and is NOT due to negligence on the part of you or your family, so you will NOT accept responsibility to pay for any repairs. Tell him if he attempts to bill you for these repairs which you are not legally responsible for, you WILL take legal action against him. Leave it at that for now, you have documented your position on the record and if he pushes it further, contact a lawyer.

    And GET RENTERS INSURANCE IMMEDIATELY!!!

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