In Oklahoma, a residential Landlord must disclose in the written lease agreement if the property was ever flooded within the last five years. 41 Okla. Stat. § 113a. If a landlord fails to disclose this past flooding, the tenant has a right to sue for any personal property damage that occurs as a result of flooding.
If the Landlord had flood insurance, it will cover the claim. Otherwise, the Tenant’s claim would be a liability to the Landlord personally or the rental property entity. Therefore, as a Landlord, you should always carry liability insurance to avoid personal liability for a tenant’s damages. And if your rental property has a history of flooding, you should definitely purchase flood insurance, as well.
Why Oklahoma landlords should disclose flooding in their leases
A Landlord should always disclose any history of flooding in the lease. This will inform the tenant of the possibility of flooding, even if it is remote. You can always specify when the most recent flooding happened, that way a tenant knows whether this has happened recently or long ago. There are multiple beneficial reasons for doing this.
First, it informs the tenant that this property could be flooded, that the tenant’s property could be damaged, and that the landlord will not be responsible. This information will prompt a tenant to purchase their own flood insurance to cover their own belongings. In the even a flood does happen, the tenant was prepared and has insurance to cover the damage.
Second, by disclosing past flooding in the lease, the Landlord is relieved of liability to the tenant if any flood damage does ensue. Whether or not the tenant purchases flood insurance, the Landlord has at least advised the tenant to do so. And Oklahoma law will not hold the Landlord liable if the property is flooded and the tenant’s things are damaged.
More transparency and communication lead to better landlord-tenant relationships. Most problems are a failure of communication and could have been avoided with written disclosures and notices.
Does this apply if there is no written lease?
Even if the rental arrangement is month-to-month and not memorialized in writing, a Landlord should still inform the tenant of any flooding that has occurred in the previous five years. Further, the Landlord should provide this information in writing, so that this fact can clearly be proven in court, if necessary to do so.
In your real estate business, you should always take the opportunity to avoid liability if you can do so in advance. And if all you have to do is provide a written document to your tenant, this is a task that can be automated and can save you money should a natural disaster arise.
If you need assistance drafting leases, notices, disclosures, or handling evictions, contact our office at (405) 701-6016. We provide legal support to Oklahoma landlords and real estate investors.