Accidents happen, so if you have an incident that results in a broken window, you may be wondering if your landlord can evict you for something like that.
It’s a legitimate concern, especially if your landlord is someone you already suspect is pretty unforgiving about things like this.
In this article, I am going to answer the question of whether a landlord can evict you for a broken window. I will cover some of the key legal concepts you need to consider when trying to answer this question and provide some tips on what you can do to avoid eviction if this occurs.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
A landlord may evict you for a broken window if it results in an uncured violation of the lease, but that is an extreme outcome, and you can avoid eviction in most cases by simply paying for the broken window if the damage is your fault (or the fault of one of your family members or guests).
Ok, let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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What Does Your Lease Say?
The first place you want to check to see if your landlord can evict you for a broken window is your lease agreement.
After all, it is the definitive contract governing the rental arrangement between you and your landlord.
In most cases, there will be some sort of provision that relates to a landlord’s and tenant’s obligations to fix items like a broken window.
For example, my lease states that the landlord is generally responsible for repairs that are not due to the fault or negligence of the tenant.
So under that provision, if some neighborhood kids (not the tenant’s kids) are playing baseball and they send a ball through the window, the landlord would pay for that. Or if a burglar breaks the window to enter the premises, that is also something that the landlord would pay for.
But the lease also goes on to state that the tenant is required to pay for any repairs needed due to deliberate, accidental or negligent acts or omissions of the tenant, tenant’s family, guests, employees or pets. So if the tenant’s kid throws a toy inside the house and breaks the window, that would be on the tenant.
As you can see, at least in my lease, the issue of who must pay for a broken window hinges on whether the tenant is at fault (either deliberately, accidentally or negligently).
Now it is very important to note that the mere fact of a window breaking is not a violation of the lease, but if a tenant refuses to pay for repairs that are their responsibility under the lease, that would usually be considered a breach of the contract and grounds for eviction in most states.
Of course, your lease may have different provisions from mine, so you want to read it carefully and see what it says about who is actually responsible for repairing or replacing the broken window.
Check State and Local Landlord Tenant Laws
Now the lease may be silent on this issue, it may be unclear on this point, or you may not even have a written lease in place.
In such situations, you will need to review your state and local laws around who is responsible for damages to the rental property under your set of circumstances.
As a general matter, most states seem to follow what I call “the rule of fault.” If the tenant (or their family members, guests and others within their circle of influence) cause the damage to the property, then the obligation to repair typically falls on them.
Note that the actual repairs may need to be done by the landlord if the broken window impacts habitability. That’s because landlords have a duty (in most states) to ensure that the tenant has a livable dwelling. A broken window in the middle of winter may jeopardize that.
But just because the landlord must fix it does not mean that they cannot charge the tenant for the costs. In fact, most states have some sort of exception to the habitability requirement if the condition was caused by the tenant.
Again, state and local rules may vary on this subject and the devil is often in the details. In some states, something as minor as a broken window may not be an evictable offense, especially if it is the result of an accident.
The bottom line is that you want to make sure you familiarize yourself with the applicable laws in your region (or have a lawyer take a quick look for you).
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Remember, Eviction is a Pretty High Bar
Even if you are responsible for the broken window, remember that eviction is usually a pretty high bar to meet. The landlord can’t simply kick you out because you broke the window and are not paying for it.
They have to follow the eviction procedures in your state and locality. They must give you notice of the violation and in most cases, allow you to cure it.
It’s often a long and painful process and no one wants to deal with it.
Evictions can get expensive for the landlord (because they will usually use a lawyer) and can be an equally painful process for the tenant because in most cases, they do not want to hire a lawyer and they have no idea how to fight a claim in court.
It is in the best interests of both you and the landlord to try to resolve this before it hits the courts. On that note, let’s turn to some tips you can use to try to settle a potential dispute over the broken window amicably (or prevent it altogether).
Tips on How to Resolve This Issue
Be Honest and Communicate Openly
When a window breaks, you want to let the landlord know as soon as possible and communicate the circumstances to them. In most cases, if you can clearly show that the damage was not your fault, the landlord will be fine with taking care of the damage.
A lot of landlords also carry landlord’s insurance, which often covers damage to the property like broken windows.
I own a rental that is nearby a golf course and the windows in that unit sometimes get damaged by stray golf balls. Obviously when that happens I know that it is not the tenant’s fault and am more than willing to replace the window.
If it is your fault, then you should be honest about that too. You should offer to cover the cost of repair (or have it deducted from the security deposit) in that case to avoid a legal dispute later on. If it’s a financial burden for you, see if you can negotiate an installment plan with your landlord.
If you have been a good tenant, they may understand your situation and be willing to work with you.
Use Preventative Measures
Obviously, you should exercise preventative measures to minimize the risk of this happening to you. Do your best to limit your kids’ activities to things that will not cause damage to your rental dwelling.
Make sure that you and your guests do not engage in high-risk activities like rowdy parties, which can definitely lead to accidents. Being careful with your behavior will keep these types of issues to a minimum and keep your wallet happy.
So there you have it – a detailed look at whether you can evicted for a broken window and some tips on what you can do if you are faced with this situation. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting.