Flooded kitchen/ un-cooperative landlord

Joined Aug 21, 2009
We had a flood in the kitchen on Sunday morning.  We've had alot of heavy rains lately and sometime between close of business on Saturday to when we arrived to open on Sunday the roof started leaking.  It leaked into the kitchen so we delayed opening until the leaking was stopped and we could safely serve customers.  

Our landlord is less than cooperative on  a good day and I think he's being completely unreasonable in this instance.  He insists that the drains were blocked on the roof by debris which he personally cleared and while he was up there he noticed that there is a part of the roof that is near our exhaust fan that was covered by a "plastic bag" that he since removed.   He sent the owners an email stating this and that it is their responsibility to fix not his.  I'm scratching my head on this one.. if we had a "plastic bag" up there wouldn't leaking have started sooner and the problem would be much worse than it currently is?  We went through a summer with lots of heavy rains and then a fall with rain, winter with snow and melting snow, spring with some rain and just now we have a leak.  Maybe I'm nuts but if there was a "plastic bag"  covering something up there, shouldn't it have been an issue right away instead of over a year into business?? 

I think he just wants to lay blame on us for the issue but this is not the first time he's lagged on something.  I complained last November about the lack of lighting in the rear of the building when I came in for 7am as was  pitch dark back there and I was  walking by myself.  Needless to say all winter I entered the restaurant through the front doors as there were no lights back there and nothing was done about it.  I wasn't the only one who felt unsafe but I was the only one who spoke up and I told the others to enter through the front until it's fixed.  The landlord was told many times about it as I griped weekly and every time I griped they put a call in to him. 

Aside from taking pictures (and we did on Sunday) and documenting any contact what can we do?  The health dept is going to come down on us not him when there's a leak so we have to fix the issue.  Can we do it at our expense and send him the bill?  Odds are he's not going to pay it and I suspect that's exactly what he wants us to do.

Tomorrow I might be walking into a flooded kitchen, again.  We're under a severe thunderstorm warning (typical for July in Southern Ontario) and we've had a couple good downpours already and more rain is on the way.  If the landlord removed the "plastic bag"  I might need galoshes to make my way around tomorrow.. .ugh...  If that's what I walk in to, guaranteed we will not open until it's safe like we did on Sunday. 
Joined Dec 8, 1999
In Minnesota, when you have landlord troubles of this nature you can register a complaint against your landlord. You can then withhold rent from your landlord (while paying your rent amount into a trust account instead) until the problem is resolved. This is for housing though. The owners definitely need to get some professional legal advice as to how they need to proceed.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Normally Greg, this would be good advice but this is a commercial building, so whatever is in the lease, is what is is law.

12 years ago the building we had our catering business in, had it's water main burst.  17 other  business tenants, as well as myself were out of water for 21/2 days until it was fixed.  I had to shut down the business and compensate all of my contracts during this time, as I had no running water.  The big joke of it all was that when it got fixed, the landlord prompty issued all tenants an invoice for "extra rent" to cover "thier share" of the repair bill.  No one to blame but ourselves for not reading the lease clearly, which we prompty fobbed the blame on the lawyer who read the lease (and was paid for to read it).

Needless to say your landlord doesn't want to spend any money on repairs.  The only thing for you to do is get the owners to read through the lease, especially the part about "repairs and maintainence" to the building..  If there is a clause in there about "repairs in a timely fashion" you might have something to go on.  In this case you have document the damage done, when the damage was reported to the landlord,,estimated cost of loss of business, and money withheld from rent until repairs are done and compensation for lost business is given.

This is something your boss, the tenant, has to do, as you are probably not privy to reading the lease, nor do you have power to get a lawyer to write the landlord a letter informing him of what's going on.

Good luck..........
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Your owners need an attorney.  My expectation, which is worth exactly what you're paying for it, is that financial responsibility will be split. 

It's critical to hire the attorney as soon as possible, rather than to hope that everything will work out alright.  Make multiple copies of all correspondence, organize it and save it in several places.  Similarly, document, copy, organize and save EVERYTHING else.

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Let me add that if your owners are gearing up for a fight on this, and have not hired an attorney, they deserve to lose.

Lawyers deal with minutia in cases like this that you, and I, easily overlook, and nothing is as it initially seems.

I guarantee that your boss does not understand the nuances in the lease, and if he expects action he needs to hire somebody who does.

What's more, there is a practical side that is too often overlooked. When somebody like that landlord gets a note signed "Charlie Smith, Tenent," it's easy to take an "isn't that too bad" attitude. But when the letter is signed, "Fred Smith, Esq., Atty-At-Law," despite any actual legalities, it promotes action. Reason: Soon as he sees there's a lawyer involved he knows you are serious.

For that reason alone it is often worthwhile getting your lawyer involved; and as quickly as possible.
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
I talked to them this morning and they are getting their lawyer to deal with things.  On the bright side, we didn't have any leaking from yesterday's heavy rains so that was a good thing. 
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