Lesser Law Group

Who is responsible when a commercial business floods?

For Sheila Harris-Young and her daughter, Toni Young, opening Bumzy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies was a dream come true. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the pair opened the shop in the Fillmore neighborhood of San Francisco in 2010.

The dream is no longer so sweet now that the family business received an eviction notice. The landlord served the notice for failure to pay rent. The mother and daughter contend the failure to pay rent stems from continued flooding at their commercial property, including one instance of a raw sewage flood that kept the doors closed for almost 10 months. Harris-Young states the repairs cost $18,000.

In cases like Bumzy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, it may seem like the landlord should be held responsible for the flooding. However, this depends on how the commercial lease is drawn up, as well as California law regarding commercial properties.

In California, a commercial lease usually only covers repairs to the roof, exterior walls, and utilities. That leaves the tenant, like Bumzy’s Cookies, responsible for making all other repairs. If your store floods repeatedly, it is up to you to repair the damage. You can certainly request the landlord do something about the issue, as this mother and daughter requested. However, unless it is written into the lease, the landlord is not legally obligated to do anything.

California law usually finds the landlord is only responsible for unsafe conditions if the conditions cause personal injury. For Bumzy’s Cookies, that would mean the flooding would have needed to cause the mother or daughter injury. The San Francisco Examiner story stated that Harris-Young and Young suffered from health issues from mold that formed in the walls after the flooding. If the two documented the mold and their health problems after, they may have cause to pursue a claim against the landlord.

Unfortunately for Bumzy’s Cookies, likely their best recourse would have been including some provisions in the lease that protected the business, in case damage to the property prevented them from selling cookies.

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