Here are some of the most important steps to take if your apartment floods.
Identify the Cause
As mentioned earlier, apartment flooding occurs due to various reasons. Sometimes, it could be something as straightforward as a running faucet. Other times, it could be something as complicated as a broken pipe somewhere within the apartment.
First, make sure it is safe to walk into the apartment. If so, head over to the faulty faucet and shut it. However, if the source of the flooding isn't easily recognizable, move on to the next step. This is not the time to play plumber—a single mistake could worsen the situation, and that's the last thing you want to deal with in such a situation.
Inform Your Landlord and Neighbors
It's important to let your landlord know about the incident. As discussed earlier, it's your landlord's responsibility to create a livable environment. This is not the time to figure out who's responsible for the flooding. Instead, you need to act swiftly to prevent further water damage.
Most apartments have a 24-hour emergency contact for problems such as flooding. Inform your landlord or the leasing office about the incident. If there's any life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately.
Notify your neighbors if possible. This is especially important if you have neighbors living beneath you. Informing them about the water damage allows them to protect their property from potential damage and save themselves if the water damage is severe.
Secure Your Personal Belongings
Think about some of your most important belongings and ensure they're safe from water damage. Each household has its own definition of important belongings. In this case, make sure you secure what's really important.
Some examples of such important items include documents and electronics.
But as a general rule, you want to ensure you have all the important documents. This is because, while your renter's insurance might be able to replace your electronics, furniture, jewelry, and other covered items, you may not be able to recover some of your most important documents because they're usually not covered by most policies.
Document the Damage
Once you've secured your personal belongings, you'll need to document the damage. Take pictures of the damaged items and also record videos if possible.
Suppose you've identified the cause of the flooding. In that case, you can also take pictures or videos of it. Additionally, keep a written inventory of the damaged items,
Why exactly is it important to document the damage?
Further down the line, you may need to file a claim with your renter's insurance provider if your policy covers this kind of damage. To do this, you'll need to prove the damage, which is the whole point of documenting everything. It helps prove to the insurance provider that the damage indeed occurred.
Contact a Professional Water Damage Restoration Company
You may need to contact a professional water damage restoration company if your landlord doesn't send the assistance you need to fix the problem. The water damage restoration experts should be able to advise you on how to proceed with such a problem. In most cases, your renter's insurance might be able to cover damages caused to certain covered items.
Depending on your state, you may be able to withhold rent until the landlord decides to fix the issue. Most landlords won't sit by and let this happen. This is because a such problem could potentially escalate with time.
For example, when you live in a moist environment, you'll likely have a mold problem. And when you have a mold problem, that's a recipe for disaster. Mold exposure can cause complications such as excessive coughing, sneezing, itching, wheezing, etc. And if you or your loved one gets sick, your landlord might be held responsible.
Here's a real-life example of a lawsuit against a landlord after flood damage.
In February 2022, residents of an apartment in Tampa sued their landlord following a huge flood that occurred the previous summer. According to the lawsuit, the residents woke up to massive water damage from the 27th floor of the building all the way down.
It was later discovered that the damage occurred due to a faulty municipal water line located inside the building. As a result, more than 500 residents had to abandon their apartments and seek refuge in hotels as crews worked on fixing the problem. The final report revealed that out of the 35 floors in the building, at least 27 had been destroyed by flooding.
The primary reason for the lawsuit was that the landlord reportedly failed to address previous issues raised by tenants about faulty water pipes. As a result of the landlord's reluctance to solve the issue promptly, more than 500 residents were displaced for at least 10 days as the crews worked on fixing the issue.
This was a form of negligence on the landlord's part. And as mentioned previously, negligent landlords can be held responsible if their tenants suffer significant damages.