When you rent a home, you are responsible for exercising care to prevent damage to the landlord's property, and the landlord is responsible for making repairs when the damage is beyond your control. Sometimes those lines get blurred, such as when you are dealing with broken windows. While you may think the broken window was not your responsibility, your landlord may see things differently. To find out who is really responsible for the broken window, you will need to do some detective work.
Check the Lease
Some landlords include a clause to address the issue of broken windows. While this may not seem fair to you, your lease may state that any broken windows (other than from an act of God, such as a hurricane or tornado) are always the responsibility of the tenant. If you signed a lease that indicates broken windows are your responsibility, you will need to foot the bill for any and all repairs to the broken window. Making temporary repairs, such as covering the window with cardboard or plastic, will not absolve you from your responsibility. Even if you are willing to live with a broken window to forego the cost of the repair, your landlord can deduct the cost of the final repair from your security deposit when you leave.
Determine the Cause of the Broken Window
The circumstances that led to the broken window are also an important consideration. Consider these common causes of broken windows and how that affects who is responsible for the repairs.
Rough Housing or Lack of Care: If you or a family member, friend, or guest accidentally breaks a window due to rough housing or otherwise showing a lack of concern and care for the landlord's property, you are generally responsible for the repair. This includes the proverbial baseball through the window, as well as some less obvious causes. A ladder placed too close to the window that slips and breaks the window, a hanging planter or bird feeder that swings in the wind and cracks the window, or any other mishap that is the result of your lack of care for the home are typically considered your responsibility.
Poorly Maintained Windows: If your window breaks due to loose caulking, loose shutters blowing in the wind, or an object striking the window, such as loose shingles or siding, your landlord is likely responsible for the broken window because they did not do their part by maintaining the building properly.
Damage from Other Tenants: If you live in an apartment complex or a rental unit with more than one tenant, and another tenant breaks your window, you are not responsible for the damage. However, there are exceptions. If the other tenant is a guest in your home, is attending a cookout or other gathering at your residence, or is otherwise invited onto your property, you are responsible for the other tenant's actions. The landlord may choose to hold the other tenant responsible, but the bottom line is that you are responsible for any guests in or at your home.
Storm Damage: A fallen tree limb or other blowing debris from a storm is generally considered an Act of God and is covered by your landlord's insurance. Likewise, damage from snow and ice will fall under your landlord's responsibility unless you have specifically agreed to remove the snow and ice from your roof or other parts of the building.
What should you do if you have a broken window?
Follow these steps if you discover a broken window in your rental unit.
- Attend to Safety. The first thing you need to do is attend to the safety of your family. This may include removing shards of glass in or near the home or restricting access to the area by closing off rooms or cordoning off that area of the yard.
- Call Your Landlord. Notify your landlord ASAP of the broken window and discuss the procedure for replacing or repairing the damage. Make sure you understand who should call the glass repair service and how the payment will be handled. Your landlord may authorize you to pay for the services and deduct it from your rent, but don't take this chance without his approval. If your landlord makes the call, ask him to update you on the day and time the service can be completed.
- Make Temporary Repairs. If the broken window poses a safety hazard, allows the elements inside the home, or provides easy access for intruders, you or your landlord will need to make temporary repairs until the glass repair service arrives. You can do this my covering the pane of glass with duct tape to prevent the shards of glass from coming loose, covering the window with plastic, or even boarding up the window, if necessary.
Knowing who is responsible for the repairs to broken windows when you rent your home and the proper procedure for handling repairs prevents unpleasant surprises for both you and your landlord.