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Hello,

I'm a landlord of a property. My tenant recently went on vacation for over a month and came back to find that a pipe under the kitchen sink had leaked. This destroyed the bottom of the cabinet, and worse, the leak ran under the gorgeous hardwood floors around the sink and they have visibly warped. This is a responsible tenant and I believe him when he tells me that there was no leak prior to his departure.

My question is what to do next. First -- do I call the home insurance company? From what I've read, making a claim for water damage with home insurance is complicated. As I understand, my insurance company can claim that this is a maintenance issue, not something that is sudden. The wording from my insurance documents states that coverage excludes damage "Caused by constant or repeated seepage or leakage of water or steam, or the presence or condensation of humidity, moisture or vapor, that occurs over a period of 14 days or more." But on the other hand -- had my tenant been home, he would have immediately reported the issue.

I'm afraid "gambling" by making a claim may be costly, in terms of raising my future premiums and potentially becoming uninsurable. On the other hand, it's possible they'll accept the claim, and pay for work to fix the floors, if not the pipes.

Should I hire a plumber even before I call the insurance company?

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Yeah. When we moved in here we had a *SLOW* leak (~1 gal/day) caused by a sloppy plumber. It leaked for more than a mo... (more)

LorenPechtel (Aug. 23, 2012 @ 11:58p) |

Who is your insurance company? I currently have Erie. Haven't had to file any claims but sounds like your company is pre... (more)

nemo77 (Aug. 24, 2012 @ 1:28a) |

Lighthouse

ElephantNest (Aug. 24, 2012 @ 7:26a) |

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Does the renter have renter's insurance? Also flood insurance would have covered this situation - I always try to get my friends to get flood insurance. Especially for situations like this. Not sure what you insurance company will do. I'd probably also get a couple of estimates to replace the cabinets and floor.

I would go ahead and get estimates. You need to have it fixed either way.

Then after you know how much it costs that could impact whether or not you want to involve insurance. I mean if the bill is going to be $2800 and your deductible is $2500 the insurance would only pay $300 and thats likely not worth it. But if the bill is $5000 and your deductible is only $500 then might be worth a shot.

Whether or not the insurance denies it depends on the situation and how good your insurance company is. Whos your insurance company? Maybe people will have experiences with them in how hard it is to get claims accepted.

I had a somewhat similar situation once where broken pipes caused a lot of damage and insurance paid up the full bill over the deductible. We have Amica.

One thing that Amica said is that they do want to see the damage before you get it fixed. If you do plan to file a claim then get the claims adjuster out before the constractor fixes it all.

texasbatman said:   Does the renter have renter's insurance? Also flood insurance would have covered this situation - I always try to get my friends to get flood insurance. Especially for situations like this. Not sure what you insurance company will do. I'd probably also get a couple of estimates to replace the cabinets and floor.

Renters insurance only covers the renters personal property and won't cover the building. Flood insurance is generally for external water from floods and not pipes.

I have Geico/Travelers with a $500 deductible.

Yes, there's no damage to the renter's personal property. Just floor damage.

I had a similar situation just last year. A tenant's toilet backed up when they were at work and it ruined the carpeting (very good carpet, but old...as in 30 years old) in three bedrooms, a hall, and the living room. I called the insurance company and they handled everything, even worked with the tenant for scheduling estimates & repairs. I never once had to go to the property. They sent me a check for 3x the amount I was expecting to receive.

Call your agent.

i had a similar situation, file with insurance and once they issue a claim #, they are on the hook to make you whole, had a leak behind one of my cabinets, all cabinets replaced, entire floor.

i had to get a private adjuster, but after all said and done i think they paid out about 22k

Thanks for the replies. Should I get an estimate from flooring companies even as I call Geico? Also, what is the consequences for you all that made the claims for your premiums?

This sounds like a water pipe spontaneously burst, which is rare but happens. I had the shutoff valve under the sink give way on my own place while I was away, I estimate it spilled water out for 2-3 days. I was pretty surprised as the shutoff had given no signs, and was not touched for 10 years and then BAM it broke.
So I do not see how this would be a maintenance issue, its not like a clogged drain overflow.

As soon as anyone mentions the tenant was gone for more than a month , expect the claim to get denied

texasbatman said:   Does the renter have renter's insurance? Also flood insurance would have covered this situation - I always try to get my friends to get flood insurance. Especially for situations like this. Not sure what you insurance company will do. I'd probably also get a couple of estimates to replace the cabinets and floor.

This advice could get your claim denied, no offense. DO NOT use the word "flood" with your insurance company in this case. Check out the thread where someone had a Section 8 tenant whose portable backyard pool burst and caused water to inundate the structure.

Seriously, don't use the word flood. Use any euphemism you can. Water intrusion. Water leak. Water inundation. Anything else. Flood insurance covers floods. If you use the word "flood" any other time, your file will be flagged.

Also, as someone said above, renter's insurance covers two things typically: 1) liability CAUSED by the tenant, which appears not to be the case here; and 2) the renter's stuff in case a covered event happens.

As SIS said, you may have an uphill battle if the tenant disappeared for a while and may need to fight it and provide evidence.

Also, before anyone says it, "that house be stank."

SUCKISSTAPLES said:   As soon as anyone mentions the tenant was gone for more than a month , expect the claim to get denied

SIS is correct on that one. All of my insurance policies have a clause that it cannot be vacant for 30+ days, if so most of the coverage is void and instead they just gove the structure against loss via fire. That has made for a couple of weekend trips for me (tax writeoff) when a property has been vacant between tenants.

The same company cancelled a policy because they had driven by and the home appeared to be vacant (which it had been), however once I sent the agent links to live video surveillance cameras, alarm logs, and a link showing the automatic water leak shutoff valve that was installed, they quickly reinstated things.

I had a pipe leak under a bathroom floor (under concrete slab). We were out for the day and when I came home there was water on the floor in the bathroom that damaged the cabinet and some of the wood floor in the adjacent hallway and adjacent bedroom closet. Called insurance and the estimator came out. Nice guy. I don't remember the exact details, but I believe they covered the damage, but not the actual pipe. Estimate included replacing the vanity and flooring. The wood flooring runs throughout the level, so he included all of the living room and the one bedroom. This, of course, required new baseboards. As for the pipe repair, they included digging through the slab, and then pouring a new slab over the fixed pipe, but not the actual pipe repair (which I believe was about 10% of the estimate for digging/pipe repair/new slab). Total estimate was around $11k. $500 deductible. No material change in premium.

Ask me what I actually fixed/spent.

You actually fixed the pipe and left everything else

lol. Almost the opposite. Left the pipe alone and repiped the house for slightly more than the estimate to dig up the old one. I did have to replace some of the flooring/baseboards, but only what was actually damaged. Did all the work myself and probably spent about $3.5k. I was about to renovate the bathroom anyway, so that worked out well.

Is the lesson learned here to turn off the main water valve when leaving the house for a few days, or go ahead and let whatever happens happen as insurance will pay up big time?

I can't say I'm upset with the outcome of my situation, but I turn the main line off whenever leaving for more than a couple days. I'd say my overall situation was a lot better than it could have been. My pipes are also in my attic now, not under the slab, so that wouldn't be fun to deal with.

But I mean everyone knows to (counter-intuitively) not immediately put out the kitchen fire, right?

I am very interested in seeing the outcome. Hopefully insurance will pay. If not, you can go after the tenant(may be).

Question for SIS. Can you put something like this in the lease contract, "If the tenant leaves the property vacant for more than 24 hours, it is tenant's responsibility to turn the main water supply off."

Thanks for all the replies. The tenant was gone for more than 30 days but he wisely had somebody check in on the house every week (eg the mail etc) -- but this person didn't notice the subtle warping near the floorboards around the sink.

While I was on a 2 week vacation my toilet leaked water from the base covering my carpets etc; had damage also to walls and luckily no mold; damaged base of some furniture; $32k damage; insurance paid all except for $500 deductible. 2 weeks of temporary lodging at hotel was also paid.

king0fSpades said:   I am very interested in seeing the outcome. Hopefully insurance will pay. If not, you can go after the tenant(may be).

Question for SIS. Can you put something like this in the lease contract, "If the tenant leaves the property vacant for more than 24 hours, it is tenant's responsibility to turn the main water supply off."

You could put it in the lease. You could also demand they purchase renters insurance.

It is usually easiest for landlord to use their own insurance policy for the dwelling. But that clause should help recover your deductible or pursue a liability claim against the renter

mrquestion said:   Thanks for all the replies. The tenant was gone for more than 30 days but he wisely had somebody check in on the house every week (eg the mail etc) -- but this person didn't notice the subtle warping near the floorboards around the sink.

I'm surprised at how blind people can be, I also had someone (family) check my place, they didn't see the water leaking all over, or hear the water either.
Previous neighbor of mine went away in winter, had brother-in-law check the place, when they came back all pipes in house had frozen, and when furnace was turned back on the walls leaked from all the burst pipes. Brother-in-law had left his coat on while he checked the house because it was cold !!!

Now I have a detector that will phone me if basement leaks, or temp drops too much, (home-sitter).

BlueSeaLake said:   Now I have a detector that will phone me if basement leaks, or temp drops too much, (home-sitter).

What type (brand / model) do you have? Want to check it out.

BingBlangBlaow said:   I turn the main line off whenever leaving for more than a couple days.
If you have a water leak and you have a gas water heater, will the water heater be emptied and the empty water heater be heated until someone notices it?

IAmTheLittle said:   BingBlangBlaow said:   I turn the main line off whenever leaving for more than a couple days.
If you have a water leak and you have a gas water heater, will the water heater be emptied and the empty water heater be heated until someone notices it?

Good question. I have electric, but I suppose either should be shut off during extended vacancies to save on energy anyway. I wonder if they shut off if they are empty. Regardless, I don't think the tank would empty without the pressure coming from the main line.

First of all, what caused the leak? Was it one of those stupid plastic pieces with teeth that join two plastic tubes? Some versions of them have a history of problems that are undeniable by insurance companies.

Get a plumber to write down what went wrong in case you need it. If you think your insurance company is going to bend over backwards to help you.......

First of all, what caused the leak? Was it one of those stupid plastic pieces with teeth that join two plastic tubes? Some versions of them have a history of problems that are undeniable by insurance companies.

Get a plumber to write down what went wrong in case you need it. If you think your insurance company is going to bend over backwards to help you.......


Also, depending on how wet things got and where you live, you may also have a mold problem which is a very big deal for a rental.

mrquestion said:   Thanks for all the replies. The tenant was gone for more than 30 days but he wisely had somebody check in on the house every week (eg the mail etc) -- but this person didn't notice the subtle warping near the floorboards around the sink.

Yeah. When we moved in here we had a *SLOW* leak (~1 gal/day) caused by a sloppy plumber. It leaked for more than a month before we discovered it and that only because a floor board shifted a bit when stepped on. (The flooring is a laminate that simulates wood and comes in pieces like real wood.) Even after the fact it was hard to find the leak. The messed-up area was substantial without anything but the most subtle of signs. (The flooring itself actually wasn't hurt one bit, the water was messing up the material that had been poured to level the floor.)

ElephantNest said:   I had a similar situation just last year. A tenant's toilet backed up when they were at work and it ruined the carpeting (very good carpet, but old...as in 30 years old) in three bedrooms, a hall, and the living room. I called the insurance company and they handled everything, even worked with the tenant for scheduling estimates & repairs. I never once had to go to the property. They sent me a check for 3x the amount I was expecting to receive.

Call your agent.


Who is your insurance company? I currently have Erie. Haven't had to file any claims but sounds like your company is pretty good. Thanks.

Lighthouse



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