Who Is Responsible for Water Damage in a Rental?

Water damage can cause a lot of serious issues and cost a lot of money. So what happens if you experience water damage in a rental property? Is it the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant? Who should pay for it?

Identifying Water Damage

First thing’s first: you need to identify the water damage first. While some water damage is obvious, other signs of it are very subtle. However, there are common signs of water damage, such as:

  1. Bubbles, warps, cracks, and other changes in surfaces
  2. Strange new smells, often “moldy” smells (water damage can cause mold)
  3. Discolored areas on ceilings or walls
  4. Colder temperatures (damp walls make heating systems less effective)

Oftentimes, water damage occurs slowly and can be difficult to notice without keeping a close eye. 


Landlords are responsible for providing tenants with a living space that is “habitable.” This means that they are responsible for ensuring that their property is a safe place for their tenant to reside. That’s why they are responsible for water damage when it is the result of improper maintenance subject to RIGL 34-18. 


Tenants, on the other hand, are responsible for any acts of negligence that they commit. Therefore, if a tenant forgets that they left the bathtub water running and it creates a flood, they could be held responsible for the damage.

Both Landlords and Tenants Have a Responsibility to Limit Damages

Regardless of who is liable for the damage, both landlords and tenants have the responsibility for not making the damage any worse than it has to be. In other words, if a landlord fails to fix a pipe that should have been maintained and it creates water damage, the tenant must still do what he or she can to minimize the extent of the damage (e.g. remove personal items that are easily destroyed from the room). Alternately, if the tenant has been negligent and caused water damage and he or she notifies the landlord, the landlord must still act within a reasonable amount of time. 

It’s important to make sure that your rental contract has clearly defined details as to what is to happen in the event of water damage. Also, sometimes having renter’s insurance can help cover the cost of water damage.

PALUMBO LAW Helps Those in Rhode Island with their Property Insurance Claims

Filing a property insurance claim can be extremely confusing – and extremely frustrating. The last thing you want is to have your claim denied or delayed because of something that you did incorrectly. That’s why it’s so important to know how to file your claim from the beginning. An attorney can help to ensure that you properly file your property insurance claim.

At PALUMBO LAW, our experienced Rhode Island Property Damage lawyers work strategically to help our clients to get what they deserve. We have experience with property insurance companies and claims and know what insurance companies are looking for. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us today!