Flooded Apartment Floor

New York Tenant Rights with Water Damage

New York State is well-known for many reasons, one of which is New York City, otherwise known as “The Big Apple.”  This culturally diverse city is comprised of several boroughs, each distinct from the rest. New York State also contains a lovely expanse of wilderness, with a variety of sandy beaches, historic estates, and many artist colonies in the remote regions. Home to the oldest running newspaper in the nation, the “New York Post,” as well as the meeting place of the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, New York State has played a large role in the history of the United States. This historic region is a prime location for many potential renters, and it is necessary for these individuals to understand their rights as tenants in New York. This is especially true when it comes to water damage, as New York State is known to suffer from snow storms, blizzards, and flash floods during the winter season.

Water damage can cause a variety of problems for a structure and its occupants. If you are contemplating living in New York State, it is necessary to be well-educated in the side effects of water damage, how to deal with water damage, and whether or not the landlord is responsible for the repairs. When water causes structural damage to a building, the situation is not only a nuisance, but also dangerous. Such damage can lead to a loss of structural integrity and increases the potential for building materials to collapse. Not only that, but standing water can result in severe pest infestations and damage to personal belongings.

New York State tenants can suffer the consequences of flash floods and rain storms, which can cause flooding in home foundations, basements, and crawl spaces. Large urban centers, like New York City, have trouble dealing with clogged catch basins. When intense rain occurs, debris is pushed onto the catch basins, making it nearly impossible for water to make its way down to the sewer. When this happens, the water begins to pool around the basin, causing the flooding to intensify.  If the sewer is in fact full, this can lead to even worse flooding in the area. In such a case the storm water stays above ground, eventually flowing off of the streets and into driveways, basements, and other low-lying areas. Localized flooding is one of the most common causes of structural damage throughout the United States.

Besides flooding caused by rain storms, there are a variety of other reasons why a home or apartment may become waterlogged. A leaky pipe can cause severe water damage in a building. In New York State there are many older structures that can contain plumbing problems. When a building has not been properly maintained for several years, leaky pipes (amongst other potential problems) can plague a building. If water damage is not taken care of, mold can begin to grow in a structure within 24 – 48 hours.

Yet another factor that can contribute to continual water damage in a rental unit is structural abnormalities. Things such as gaps insulation and improperly sealed windows can allow moisture to build up in a home. In some cases water damage may be occurring inside a wall or ceiling, making the problem invisible to the naked eye. By the time the leak is detected, the damage may have proliferated to a large area, significantly increasing the cost of repairs. In each of the above mentioned scenarios it is necessary to find the origin of the leak or moisture intrusion and to repair it immediately. If this is not done, the water damage will continue to pose a problem to any potential tenant. If water damage has occurred on a property, it is necessary to act quickly so that you can decrease the structural damage and avoid the conditions that lead to mold growth. Remember that the only way to have water damage properly repaired is to utilize the services of a professional water damage restoration company. Not only is it necessary to remove the excess moisture, but it is also necessary to fix the origin of the moisture intrusion issue.

Like many states in the U.S., New York has what is referred to as a warranty of habitability, which indicates that a tenant has the right to a livable, safe, and sanitary rental unit. If a landlord attempts to place a clause in your rental agreement stating this warranty does not exist, such a clause would be void. The warranty of habitability includes problems with plumbing and, of course, flood-related damages. A landlord that is in charge of several dwellings must maintain the premises in “good repair,” clean and free of vermin, garbage, or other offensive material. Landlords are also required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitation, and ventilation components of the property. If water damage has resulted in the landlord’s inability to provide a safe, clean environment as listed above, it is the landlord’s responsibility to remedy the problem immediately. Avoiding water damage in a rental is also important because it may lead to mold growth, which can be quite detrimental to the health of the people who live in the rental unit.

If you are planning on renting in the state of New York, there are a few pieces of advice that can help you to determine the best place to live. First, make sure to read your rental or lease agreement carefully so that you fully understand the obligations of your landlord. Establish whether or not your landlord is responsible for water damage and its effects on your living space. If the landlord has not included a warranty of habitability, make it clear that he is still responsible under New York State law to maintain the unit. Discuss in detail with your potential landlord what the protocol is for situations when water damage occurs on the property and the damage is not your fault. It is very important to get everything in writing and included in the rental agreement prior to signing the lease.

If you are a current tenant in the state of New York, it is important to document in writing any water damage that has occurred at your property and to send a copy of this document to your landlord. Make sure to send a repair request via certified mail. Sending it through certified mail will ensure that the landlord received the letter. By documenting the day that he or she received the repair request you will establish a timeline for the repairs to be made. You may also include images of the water damage with the letter. Make copies of all of the documents that you send to your landlord, and keep the documents for your own records.

In many cases the landlord has between 14 – 30 days to respond to the repair request. However, if the problem is an emergency, the landlord may be required to act within a week’s time. If the landlord fails to address the water damage problem, this can be deemed a breach of the warranty of habitability and may allow for the tenant to sue for rent reduction. If the landlord refuses to cooperate, it is important for the tenant to contact an attorney before taking further action. In some cases the tenant may be able to withhold rent. However, the landlord may sue or evict the tenant for non-payment of rent. If this is the case, the tenant and the landlord may need to go to court. In some cases the tenant may have the right to hire a professional to do the repairs and then deduct the cost of the repairs from the regular rent payment. Again, however, it is suggested that you contact an attorney prior to taking this kind of action.

When looking for a rental, many potential tenants are merely focused on the price and location of their new home. Many people fail to take into consideration the type of individual from whom they may be renting. It is always necessary to understand your rights in your new residence, especially when it comes to water damage. Regardless of your living situation, you have the right to a clean, healthy, and safe living environment. If you take the time now to learn your rights as a renter in New York State, you can avoid a costly disaster in the future.





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