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ScottyMacESQ
ScottyMacESQ, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 15742
Experience:  Licensed General Practice Attorney, Texas
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I am NJ resident and a renter in a high rise apartment building.

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I am NJ resident and a renter in a high rise apartment building. Recently, there was a leak from my bedroom ceiling that was directly above my mattress, soaking it completely. The culprit was the water-cooled AC/heating unit from the apartment above. These units were installed throughout the building approximately 2 years ago. A few tenants (including myself) have woken up to puddles of water on their floor because the units aren't draining properly. With that being said, building management has no problem with repairing the ceiling and the above AC/heating unit. My mattress (memory foam) needs to be replaced because of the water damage. The building says they are not liable for my mattress and I am to go thru MY renter's insurance. When I asked for THEIR insurance info, the building manager said that he could not give out that info, nor does he have it on site. My question is can the landlord be responsible for my damages, and what are my options?

ScottyMacESQ :

Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.

Customer:

ok

ScottyMacESQ :

This is not at all unusual to hear. First of all, you need to look at the lease that you have and see if there are any disclaimers of liability for damage to your personal property. Landlords are not held strictly liable for damage, but rather if you were to pursue a claim, you would need to show negligence on the part of the landlord. The landlord would have had to have been negligent in maintaining the property or in the installation of the AC/heating unit ,and that negligence would have caused your damages.

ScottyMacESQ :

Now it certainly sounds as though there's negligence, because without negligence of some sort, this does not happen on a usual basis.

ScottyMacESQ :

Particularly when they have notice of this having happened in the past and not taking any steps to mitigate any harm in the future, it could be said that they're negligent.

ScottyMacESQ :

Now that being said, they don't have to give you the insurance information, even though they should. Rather, you can sue them in small claims court.

ScottyMacESQ :

Before you do that, however, you should send a demand letter demanding payment within 30 days, otherwise you will pursue legal action against him, seeking that amount plus any additional damages as allowed by law. Send this letter certified, return receipt requested, as well as a copy sent regular mail. Keep a copy for yourself, as well as the return receipt number so that you can show the court that you made a demand for the damages.

ScottyMacESQ :

If the landlord has not satisfied your claim, do a search on the web for your county and "small claims court." You should find either a website or phone number to the small claims clerk. Ask them what you need to do to bring such a lawsuit. The small claims clerk will give you guidance on how to file this suit and how to get the other party served with notice. You will receive a hearing date, at which you should present your evidence and ask for a judgment for the amount that you have been damaged.

ScottyMacESQ :

Note that the court will only compensate for those damages that are "reasonable" and "foreseeable". A memory foam mattress could certainly be foreseeable, but if you had a Monet (or some other very valuable property) that was damaged, that probably would not be foreseeable, and to the extent that the damage is not foreseeable, it's not compensable. Only the foreseeable damage is.

ScottyMacESQ :

Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX luck to you!

Customer:

I just went thru the lease and it says that the landlord is not responsible for damage to personal property in the event of fire or other damages, unless proven negligent.

ScottyMacESQ :

Understood. Note "unless proven negligent".

ScottyMacESQ :

That's what you would be arguing in small claims court, in that the landlord, having notice of this issue with other tenants, was negligent in not repairing the problem or at least doing some sort of action to fix it.

Customer:

Yes. How can I provide proof if I don't have written documentation of the previous incidents; only having word of mouth from other tenants.

ScottyMacESQ :

Word of mouth would be admissible, but I would attempt to get written affidavits, or better yet in person testimony.

ScottyMacESQ :

Did you have any other questions before you rate this answer?

Customer:

No, that would all. Thank you Scotty. I will confer with the other residents who have had this problem and see if they want to take action with me. Thank you for your time and expertise.

ScottyMacESQ :

My pleasure. If there's nothing else, please rate this answer so that it will close out and allow me to assist other customers. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX luck to you!

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