8 Steps to Deal with a Flooded Apartment

A flooded apartment requires quick action. Once you’re safe, you should notify your landlord and then file a claim. Here’s how.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
A flooded apartment is absolutely miserable. It’s a terrible situation for renters and requires immediate action to protect yourself and your stuff. You’ll need to shut off the water, salvage your things, talk to your landlord, and file a claim with your insurance.
Small leaks and big floods can be equally catastrophic—it’s normal to feel overwhelmed if you’re dealing with water damage. From the mold to the sodden carpets and damaged furniture, the consequences of a flooded apartment are a lot to manage.
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1. Find the source of the flooding

If you can safely move about your home, your first step is to shut off the water
The valve may be inside or outside. It is commonly located near the water heater or under the sink. If you can get your landlord on the phone, they may be able to direct you. If you cannot find the shut-off valve, do your best to locate the source of the flooding and then leave.
If it is unsafe to stay in the building (hurricane or natural disaster), get out of the apartment as soon as possible while salvaging what you can within two minutes. Grab your computer, your important paperwork, and any medication

2. Notify your landlord

The property itself is your landlord’s responsibility. Notify them ASAP so they can get maintenance workers onsite. Call and email to ensure your message gets through. Remember to leave your full name, address, and unit number along with details about the flooding.
Do not wait to notify your landlord—even if the flooding was your fault or the result of a widespread natural disaster. Flooded apartments can become hazardous within a short period of time. It’s best to report the situation immediately, even if the landlord cannot begin repairs right away.

3. Document the damage

Once the relevant parties have been informed, it’s time to document the situation.
Start by taking photos of the damage. Note the date, time, and severity of the damage. Be sure to document every single detail. Something that looks small now may grow to become a serious danger in a few days or weeks. 
Insurance companies will use your documentation to process your claim. Clear descriptions and photos can speed up the process of repairs and reimbursement.

4. Tell your neighbors

Water is hard to contain. It’s a good idea to notify your neighbors about a water leak or flooded apartment, especially if you live above another unit. 
Even if it’s a small leak that is not immediately noticeable, other tenants should stay alert for mold or slow leaks in the coming weeks and months.

5. File a claim with your renters insurance

It’s important to file a claim as soon as possible after the initial incident. Remember that your renters insurance policy covers your personal possessions, not the physical building. 
To file a claim, you will need photos and descriptions of the damage. Some insurance companies have online portals for submitting a claim. Other companies require you to call an agent or file a form. Contact your company’s customer service line or go online to learn how to file a claim.
Not all types of flooding are covered by renters insurance. Accidental flooding that is caused by your own negligence is not usually covered. Hurricane-related flooding is also not normally covered—unless you have a specific endorsement for floods. 

6. Make a plan for repairs

Renters are not responsible for handling repairs to the physical building. Your landlord must make a plan to repair damage to the walls, floors, and other physical infrastructure. 
During this process, workers may need access to your apartment. Ask your landlord to share a schedule so that you know when repairs will be completed

7. Consider a professional team of cleaners

A little flooding in the bathroom may not call for a full professional cleaning. However, a completely flooded apartment is a great reason to book in a team of cleaners. You could be exposed to hazardous mold and other dangers in a flooded apartment. Don’t risk a casual DIY job in this situation.
It’s worth seeing if your landlord may pay for the cleaning since it’s their property. If you’re met with resistance, could propose to split the cost. 

8. Check your local laws

In some places, landlords should not charge rent during repairs. They may even be obliged to cover your costs for moving expenses if you have to relocate because the property is unlivable. (Your renters policy may cover this too, under ‘loss of use’).
Either way, it’s a good idea to check your local ordinances to see what help is available. Contact city hall or check a local Facebook group for tenant rights. 

Tenant rights for flooded apartments

You are entitled to certain rights as a renter. If you are faced with a landlord who is refusing—or delaying—necessary repairs, here’s what you need to know.
Your lease may include a description of what happens in the event of total or partial water damage. If the unit is partially or completely decimated by flood damage, you have the right to cancel your lease in the face of extensive repairs. 
If you need to leave your apartment because of the water damage, you should not have to pay rent that month.
Finally, landlords are obliged to ensure that their units are livable. This includes timely repairs and maintenance. To prove that a landlord is responsible for failing to upkeep your unit, it’s important to keep detailed records. Keep a file of all the times you contacted the landlord about a problem and how long it took them to respond. 

How to find a good renters insurance policy

As a renter, you could face water, smoke, fire damage, and more. While you won’t have to repair any building destruction, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars if your personal property is destroyed. That’s why it’s so important to buy a renters insurance policy. 
Renters insurance often costs only a few dollars a month but could save you thousands when disaster strikes. The super app for insurance,
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If it’s been more than 48 hours, most porous items (linens, stuffed animals, and clothing) should be thrown away as mold is likely to appear. Mold is the most dangerous consequence of a flooded apartment. If it’s been less time, wash and dry them on high heat. 
Non-porous surfaces should be cleaned with heavy-duty cleaning supplies. Use 2 TB of bleach per gallon of water and wipe down all counters, walls, and floors.
The principle of habitability says that landlords are responsible for ensuring a habitable space for their tenants. If the damage was caused by an outside force, the landlord is responsible for taking care of the cleaning and repairs. If the tenant caused the flooding through their own negligence, the tenant is responsible for the cleaning fees.
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