What can renters do if pipes burst due to winter weather?
ATLANTA (Atlanta News First) - Many Georgia renters get angry at landlords over pipes that break in a winter freeze.
But do they have a right to be angry?
The answer is no if your landlord is trying to mitigate the damage, according to Erin Willoughby, an Atlanta Legal Aid attorney specializing in tenants’ rights.
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From a legal perspective, the bursting apartment pipe scenario is comparable to a tornado or a flood. It was a devastating weather event that was hard to predict and nearly impossible to prevent. But that doesn’t mean landlords are off the hook.
Under Georgia law, landlords are required to make timely repairs.
“And if they don’t and you suffer damage, as a result of their failure to do that properly, then your landlord may be liable for some damages. So, it’s important to have renter’s insurance to cover those belongings.”
The problem, Willoughby says, is that Georgia law doesn’t specify what is a reasonable amount of time. Because plumbers are moving from one repair to the next, a few days would not be enough to hold a landlord liable, but if nothing happens over the next two weeks, consulting an attorney is a good idea.
What about a hotel? Does the landlord pay? Not necessarily, because it’s a weather-related event. But if the landlord is negligent in attempting repairs, Willoughby says to keep all receipts and document any damage that renters’ insurance may not cover. Your best option is to request another unit until the repairs are complete, but it also depends on the stipulations in the lease.
Willoughby says tenants should never withhold rent. Continue making payments, and do not attempt to break the lease.
“The only way you can break your lease without having to pay exorbitant costs for breaking the lease is if the place is uninhabitable, and first, you have to give your landlord a chance to fix the problem.”
You can find the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook here.
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