Ask an Expert

Ask an Expert: Should my landlord pay for my wrecked laptop?

Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral
By Teri Karush Rogers  |
June 18, 2013 - 2:07PM

Q. The ceiling of my bedroom partially collapsed last week due a leak. I wasn't in there at the time (phew) but my desk and laptop were wrecked along with some other belongings.  

The ceiling is almost fixed but my landlord says that he's not responsible for the stuff that was ruined in my apartment.  

Is that true?  I had nothing to do with the leak--it was from the apartment upstairs.

A. The answer depends on who is to blame for causing the leak, say our experts.

"If it was caused by the upstairs tenant, the landlord would not likely have any liability for the computer or other personal property," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.  

If the leak was your landlord's fault, says asset manager and real estate broker Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities, "most leases state that landlord is not responsible for damage to contents of the apartment and tenants are well advised to carry renters insurance for just these types of situations."

Renter's insurance, which costs about $125-$165 a year for basic coverage, would pay for the claim minus your deductible--unless your landlord was neligent, in which case you could get all or part of your deductible back too, says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage.

"If the landlord was negligent, your insurance company would attempt to recover your deductible from the landlord's insurer," says Schneider. "If you have a $1,500 laptop and a $500 deductible, for example, your insurance company will pay you $1000 for a covered claim. They will then go after the landlord or landlord's insurer if they think the landlord is at fault. If they get $1,500 back, they will pay you the full $500 deductible. If they only recover half the claim amount--$750--they would reimburse you half the deductible, or $250."

Don't have renter's insurance?

"It is worth a polite request asking your landlord to submit your claim to his insurance company for the remote possibility the insurance adjuster agrees to cover the damages," suggests property manager Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Trouble at home? Get your NYC apartment-dweller questions answered by an expert! Send us your questions.


Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.