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I live in Sweden and the last 29th of July a flooding occurred in the basement of my building. I am renting a flat there and it goes with a small storage in the basement where I had some furnishings from the apartment there (bed, mattress, carpet). I was abroad on holidays at that time, I came back the 14th of August (16 days after). The 15th of August I received a mail from the landlord asking all the tenants to remove all the moldering furnishings that were starting to smell. That's how I learnt about the disaster.

I threw away the items that were smelling as they were asking to do so if the items in the basement were damaged. There was a container for this purpose at our disposal. It was their only answer to my proposal of checking by themselves whether they wanted to decide if the items were salvable or not. They said that they would send an invoice to replace these items (my personal estimation of the invoice is about 350-450$).

I checked the contract and it says that their insurance doesn't cover my personal belongings. But these items are their belongings, not mine. In the contract, it also says that I am responsible to take care of the furnishings, and financially responsible to replace missing or damaged items. I did not directly damaged these items, I am not responsible of the flooding. If I was there during the flooding maybe I could have dry them faster which would have prevented the moldering? But I had no idea how much time it took them to remove the water and dry the basement.

My question is: am I really supposed to pay for these items? Were they responsible to warn me sooner about the disaster so I could have come back earlier to take care of it? Could I really have done something to avoid the moldering? Is it my responsibility to be informed of any sinister happening in the basement of my flat even if I am abroad?

------------------------Edit/Updates 1 -------------------------

Direct explanation from the responsible:

From the moment the tenant moves in, she/he is responsible for the apartment and the items that this includes.

As you removed these items from the apartment and unfortunately they were damaged you need to answer for them.

Our insurance does not cover those damages but you are welcome to ask your home insurance if they can take this costs for you.

You are also welcome to take a look at your contract:

“Furnishings The tenant undertakes to take good care of the apartment and the furnishings. The tenant is financially responsible to the landlord for missing or damaged furnishings. If something is damaged upon arrival, the landlord has to be informed within one week after arrival.”

------------------------Edit/Updates 2 -------------------------

Parts from the leasing agreement

Insurance The landlord has an insurance for the apartment regarding fire, break in or other damages. Personal belongings are not covered by this insurance, neither is health care. It is the responsibility of the tenant to have a proper insurance.

Damages The tenant is responsible to take good care of the apartment. Costs for repairs of damages in the apartment caused by accident, neglect or on purpose will not be covered by the landlord or house owner. Only costs for repairs that can be considered as a result of normal use are covered.

Furnishings The tenant undertakes to take good care of the apartment and the furnishings. The tenant is financially responsible to the landlord for missing or damaged furnishings. If something is damaged upon arrival, the landlord has to be informed within one week after arrival.

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  • This is a duplicate of Landlord or tenant responsible for the furnishing damaged after a flooding?, which was posted about an hour later. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 29 '18 at 12:27
  • I deleted the other one. – estelle.chslp Aug 29 '18 at 14:12
  • That's ok. Just don't delete this one. I'm drafting my answer but it's taking me some time. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 29 '18 at 14:14
  • In my jurisdication I would refer people to the Citizens Advice Bureau. They have legal expertise relevant to the area and this issue is likely common enough that they know the law. A quick google makes it seem that this is the Swedish equivalent:- forsakringskassan.se/privatpers – Eric Nolan Aug 29 '18 at 14:15
  • Somebody gave me my local Citizens Advice Bureau today. I will contact them and I will complete this post with their answer. – estelle.chslp Aug 29 '18 at 17:21
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Landlord or tenant responsible for the furnishing damaged after a flooding?

This brief analysis of Scandinavian Contract Law explains the difficulty of addressing with certainty matters of Swedish contract law. Despite the legal and factual ambiguities, it seems to me that the contract terms and landlord's conduct preclude his entitlement to a reimbursement from you.

(Disclaimers: I have never litigated in Sweden's courts; I do not purport to be knowledgeable about Swedish law; and it is unclear to me whether Swedish contract law has evolved since the date of the publication of Ramberg's criticism of Scandinavian contract law)

First, it appears that the landlord was negligent by waiting several days to ask tenants to remove moldering furnishings (as these were starting to smell). If that was the landlord's earliest reaction to the flooding, then the delay might evidence [landlord's] failure to mitigate damages. In other legal systems, failure to mitigate damages is an obstacle to recovery from the sued party.

Second, the landlord's unqualified instruction to throw everything away --in response to your proposal of checking for salvage-- might forfeit his entitlement to reimbursement. In this regard, page 4 of the aforementioned publication points out that

[t]he Swedish Supreme court [...] generally stated that a contract containing the standard terms was deemed to have been concluded due to the parties' behaviour.

Obviously, not all of the contract would be void, but only the application of the clause about tenant's financial responsibility for missing or damaged items in this particular context of landlord's delay and reckless response to your proposal.

Third, in the clause regarding tenant's financial responsibility "to replace missing or damaged items", I would say that the qualifier "missing" is key. Here, the usage of "missing" connotes a deliberate act of taking items away in violation of the landlord's proprietorship, regardless of whether it was the tenant or a third party who removed/stole them. That same connotation of deliberate act should govern the very next qualifier, "damaged", absent any language that expands the latter's connotation of causality.

Also a criterion of negligence would fail, because you were not notified that a flooding occurred.

The contract's clarification that their "insurance doesn't cover [your] personal belongings" opens --albeit weakly-- the door to the possible interpretation that instead the policy covers the counterparty's (that is, the landlord's) belongings.

On the other hand, the landlord could avail himself of arguments such as (1) tenant should have made arrangements prior to leaving for the holidays; and (2) landlord's bed & mattress were not intended to be stored in the basement, and instead should have been notified toward procuring an appropriate storage for them.

It is hard to make a more precise assessment without knowing more about the terms of the contract and the circumstances. Therefore, the best thing to do is to look at the subtleties in the language of the contract (as I did above regarding the deliberate nature inherent to the adjective "missing" and its interpretative effect on the adjective "damaged").

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So from your question i deducted these things but correct me if i am wrong.

The items in the basement storage were the landlords items. Im assuming you brought some of your own stuff with you and put theirs in the storage.

It was a flood that caused the damage and nothing on your part as you were out of town at the time.

You did as instructed by the landlord and threw out the damage items and now they are attempting to charge you for them.

If the above is true then the Landlord has no recourse to get payment from you as nothing ahout this incident is your fault at all.

You are not responsible for flooding. Would he charge you for these items if they were in your flat and damaged from flooding ?

I would speak to them personally asap and find out exactly what he expects then speak to a laywer. I would think even if it is in your contract to replace damage items an 'act of god' such as flooding would not make you liable for this.

  • You are right. The only thing that they could reproach me is that I was not aware of the situation because I was abroad. Hence they could argue that an earlier intervention could have salvaged the items by drying them faster. – estelle.chslp Aug 29 '18 at 17:23
  • They cannot reaproach you for that either. It is not your fault that you were abroad. You are not responsible for 24/7 security of the building. Do they expect you to never leave your flat in case it floods ? – GamerGypps Aug 30 '18 at 9:20
  • @GamerGypps “You are not responsible...” Do you know this or are you just making things up? – jqning Sep 1 '18 at 4:54
  • @GamerGypps this answer sounds reasonable, but the law is often not reasonable. The lease may put an obligation on the tenant to be responsible for damaged furniture, even when the damage was in no9 way his fault, nor could he have prevented it.I would be much happier about this answer if it cited a specific source. – David Siegel Jan 6 at 4:14
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There are two different issues at hand here.

You are responsible for the items in the flat. If you move stuff to the basement and it gets stolen it is your problem, not the landlords.

When the landlord asked you and your neighbours to get rid of the damaged goods, it was to prevent further issues or problems. You were of course free to try to salvage anything that was mouldering or ruined but the purpose with cleaning out the basement was to prevent follow-up damages.

Yes, you are responsible for the damage. However, your insurance will pay for it. Don't you have an insurance?

  • So you who downvoted me, are you familiar with Swedish housing and contract law or what? – hensti Jan 8 at 8:27

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