Suing landlord for flood could be all wet


POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Question: I live in Waianae, and the house we're renting was flooded during the last big rain. All of our belongings were destroyed. Can I sue my landlord? Do I have any rights to get covered for the loss of my stuff?

Answer: A lawsuit against your landlord for damages to your personal property, as a result of the natural disaster, is problematic on many levels. In order to have a valid legal argument, you would have to prove to the court that your landlord had prior knowledge that your property was vulnerable to damage by flooding and took no affirmative action to prevent the harm. This is difficult to establish. You would also have the burden to prove the value of items destroyed and that the floodwater caused the damage. Finally, you would have to defend against any claim that you failed to take affirmative steps to prevent such damage yourself.

However, there are alternatives to litigation:

» Make a claim on your renters' insurance, presuming you had such insurance, which includes a flood rider provision.

» Make a claim on your landlord's homeowner's insurance, presuming again that they have such insurance with a flood rider.

» Make a claim with FEMA.

Federal funds are now available for those affected by the December floods.

You can either apply for help online at or over the phone (800) 621-FEMA (3362).


The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. Call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.8