Neighboring business ran a forklift into our adjoining wall...

by Jo Anne
(Houston, TX)

The neighboring business (who happens to also be our Landlord) ran a forklift into our adjoining wall, busting a water pipe which leaked into our business and damaged an expensive dance floor. The neighbor has ran the forklift into our wall previously, which resulted in a $10,000 repair they took responsibility for.

We were not told about the water leak. We noticed water coming up from flooring when you walked on it later in the day it occurred. The neighbor even had remediation companies come out and give them a bid for the damage. They offered to pay our deductible for our insurance, but our insurance does not cover damage done by another business.

Since the neighbor is also our Landlord (who has more money and lawyers than we do) we need to tread lightly, but also know they were negligent in their actions. They knew there was a potential problem of running the forklifts into our adjoining wall by accepting fault previously.

How should we move forward without jeopardizing our landlord/tenant relationship? What are our legal options? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Neighboring business ran a forklift into our adjoining wall...":

Jo Anne (Houston, TX):

First, read your lease agreement. It is the controlling law dictating the duties and obligations of the landlord and tenant when damage occurs to the property.

If the lease agreement says the landlord is responsible for repairing the damage he or she caused to the property, then the landlord should assume responsibility for the repair of the damages and possibly for your business losses, if the damage adversely affected your business and presuming this is covered in the lease agreement.

If the lease agreement is in your favor, then bring it to the attention of your landlord. At that point, if he or she refuses to repair the damages and compensate you according to the terms of the lease agreement, then you need to consider legal action against your landlord.

In the alternative, if the lease agreement is not in your favor, which is quite likely, as most lease agreements are written in favor of the landlord, then you may have to repair the damage yourself, or work out a compromise agreement with the landlord.

Second: Most landlord-tenant agreements have an "Implied Warranty of Habitability" clause.

The implied warranty of habitability clause refers to the landlord's responsibility to lease the property when it is fit for occupation by human beings and is in substantial compliance with state and local building codes and ordinances.

This means if, as a result of damage caused by a third party (not the tenant) the property becomes uninhabitable, then the tenant has remedies which can include a termination of the lease along with termination of the tenant's duty to pay further rent.

"Uninhabitable" can also mean as a result of the damage caused by the landlord, the property is not in compliance with the State of Texas and Harris County building codes.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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