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Question
Back in October of this year, our home was flooded due to rain.  We were renting a property from an agency who represented the home owners.  After the flood happened we filed an insurance claim for our personal property.  The home owners also began insurance claims for the actual home damages.  As renters we had to get our property out of the house so the home could be repaired.  However, the home owners vendors came in and damaged our personal property by placing it in garbage bags with wet dirty items.  These were items that were salvageable and not damaged during the initial flood.  As renters, we incurred extra costs to properly retrieve, clean and repair these items.  What recourse do we have to recover our costs from the home owners or their vendors?  Do we sue or take them to small claims court?  How does this typically work?  Thanks.

Answer
Hello and please excuse the delay--we've had to wait for days for internet repair.  In any event, this opinion is based on my 25 years of experience in residential and commercial real estate and should not be taken as legal advice; if you believe you have a legitimate legal concern, you should consult an attorney who is familiar with landlord-tenant issues in your area.

That being said, when I boil it down, I'm reading that you had to remove your items from the property so that would not get damaged.  There were some good items which you did not remove before work began and the workers, not knowing that they were good items (only that they were wet), removed them.  You were able to salvage those items.

There is no simple answer and no "way it typically works." If it was requested you remove items and vacate premises for work to commence, the owner, agent and vendors couldn't know you had left personal items behind.  You might be able to add the items to your claim as the damage is the result of the same incident.  If you had to vacate the premises, you were temporarily unable to live somewhere which you paid to live.  You could be entitled to pro-rated rent if it was an unreasonable amount of time; overnight won't likely cut it.  That's a small-claims issue, typically under $2000, but up to $5000 in some places.  But while an attorney isn't required and the filing fee is typically small, you have to balance how much you might get from a lawsuit with the relationship you have with the agent and the owner.

Again, this is an opinion and should not be construed as legal advice.  I've provided an opinion based on the information you've provided.  I'll be happy to answer a follow-up question if you have more detail to add.

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Adam L. Greenberg CPS

Expertise

I have several years of experience in commercial property management, particularly in tenant retention but also in day-to-day tenant relations and service. Tenant relations and property management are the same whether residential or commercial--everyone takes he same licensing classes. It's the practical work experience that differentiates the two. I can answer questions relating to general topics but by law, because I was formerly licensed as a Real Estate Salesperson by The Missouri Real Estate Commission (2005-2014), I cannot give legal advice and as per Items #4 and #5 of the AllExperts User Agreement, and my answers may not be construed as such.

Experience

I began my career in property management with the residence hall operations at a large state university. I worked with everything that had to do with the tenants (students), from directly managing front desk operations to working behind-the-scenes with support staff. Professionally, for over six years, I was a member of a property management team which managed dozens of commercial and residential properties in Downtown Washington, DC; Arlington, Virginia; and Bethesda, Maryland. I also have an additional ten years of experience as a management agent for an absentee owner in Saint Louis, Missouri. I retired early in 2014 and I now live in Florida, which has provided me the experience of interaction with Homeowners' Associations (HOAs). Some of my Answers have reflected this experience.

Organizations
Former member, Washington Area Concierge Association (WACA), Washington, DC Former member, St. Louis Association of REALTORS.

Education/Credentials
BA Speech Communication, University of Maryland, 1993 Graduate of American School of Real Estate, St. Louis, Missouri, 2005 Certified Property Management Specialist (CPS), 2010 Successful completion of Continuing Education courses in Ethics, Diversity

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