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Tenants in home for 3+ years, new rat problem developed,

Customer Question
Tenants in home for...

Tenants in home for 3+ years, new rat problem developed, rats chewed through plumbing and caused extensive water damage. Who is responsible for damage to home?

Lawyer's Assistant: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

Ga

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

Not yet, I have spoken with insurance and they said to get quotes. that is all.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

There is rats nest and roaches and ongoing mold problems due to the living arrangements

Submitted: 7 months ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
12/28/2017
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 14,259
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

The landlord is responsible for the damage that resulted from the rats because they have a duty to control pests. Accordingly, this appears to be a violation of the implied warranty (promise) of habitability. All residential leases and rental agreements contain an implied warranty of habitability. Under the "implied warranty of habitability," the landlord is legally responsible for repairing conditions that seriously affect the rental unit's habitability. That is, the landlord must repair substantial defects in the rental unit and substantial failures to comply with state and local building and health codes. However, the landlord is generally not responsible under the implied warranty of habitability for repairing damages that were caused by the tenant or the tenant's family, guests, or pets. Unless you had pet rats, this is probably something the landlord should have controlled. The usual measure of damages is either 1) a cancellation of the lease agreement; 2) a withholding of the rent until the item is repaired; or 3) you repair the matter yourself and request reimbursement.

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
a rat problem developed after 3 years and I was not notified of it, they ran the water long enough to flood half of the house(only flooded when shower was turned on), there is mold in the house due to their lack of airflow because they have too many people occupying the property, and they have roaches. The underpinning on the outside of the structure has been removed by the tenant allowing the rats an access point, and once again I was not notified of any issues except the flood. Would a roach/rat infestation beginning 3 years after they moved in not be there responsibility? At least to notify me of the problem?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

They're responsible for fixing it in my legal opinion. Whether this happened right at the beginning or just yesterday, they're responsible if the problem stems from something they're required to fix.

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
It seems that I am getting conflicting answers, it started out like it was my responsibility because of the implied habitability then it seems like you said they should pay for it. My belief is that they did not take proper actions to prevent a rodent problem either from hiring an exterminator or diy pest control or notifying me of a problem. I noticed roaches within the first 5 minutes of trying to figure out the problem (source of water leak) so it is obvious to me that even though the house is organized it is not very sanitary. Do I repair then send them a bill or do I eat the costs? if this ends up going to court how do I get back in touch with you for representation?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

I'm sorry for the confusion. Let me clarify: there were rats, but they didn't tell you about this electrical problem until three years after the fact, correct? Also, are you certain that the rodents caused this issue?

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
I have said nothing about an electrical issue. A rat, recently, has made a nest in a bedroom closet WALL that is shared by the back of the shower/bath tub. The rat chewed through the plumbing inside the wall at the top where the shower head is. I can see the nest and I know the difference between a burst/rupture and chew marks. The tenants ran the shower long enough for half of the house to have water on the floor coming from inside a bedroom closet on the very far end of the house.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

Thank you for uploading this info. This will help. Bear with me a moment while I review.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

One final question: are you able to estimate how long the rats have been there?

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
sorry for the delay, I would say less than a month
Customer reply replied 7 months ago
maybe a little longer, how bout less than 3 months
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

No problem on the delay. it gave me some time to wrap my head around your situation more. Ok, so generally, you have a duty to make sure the place is habitable; however, if you were not notified within a reasonable time of this issue, then the tenant would be the one responsible. Whether that timeframe is reasonable is going to be a matter of fact and only a judge could say for sure. I haven't had rats, but I would say that this timeframe is probably too long for most people to ignore the rat issue. Regardless, it all depends on when they knew the rats were there and what they did after the fact. If they knew the rats were there, but waited to contact you, then you aren't going to be responsible. If they reported the issue right away, then you'd be responsible. The fact that they left the water on long enough to let it flood suggests that they maybe intentionally caused the damage, thus, even if the rats did cause the problem, the tenants did nothing to mitigate this and the water damage is in fact their fault, making you not liable. Although I cannot predict what a court would say, you may want to consider that legally, you probably don't have to pay, but practically, either splitting the costs, paying the costs, charging them after they move out, or evicting them for damaging the apartment may be useful options. What other questions did you have for me today?

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
how "Habitable" does it need to be? I have already removed the flooring and used a dehumidifier. Their lease expires in 2 months. It is possibly a total loss due to lack of any maintenance, so, am I able to leave bare plywood floors, and return use of the shower ; until insurance stuff is figured out and payment and responsibility is resolved and or they vacate?
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

I can understand your concern. Generally, "fit for human habitation" just means that a person can live there reasonably. There's no definitive standard, but usually it means that there needs to be running water, electricity, and there are no major holes in the roof. If there aren't any major holes in the floor and if they have reasonable use of the shower, then you should be fine. What other questions did you have for me today?

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