What should renters do if a pipe bursts?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It happens a lot this time of year: pipes freezing and bursting, causing water leaks. The problem can cause a lot of damage and if you're a renter, you need to know your rights.

Whether you're renting a house or apartment, the first thing you should do is tell your landlord. If you do live in a house, and are able to shut off your main water line, you need to do that too.

Renter's rights attorney Michael Working says landlords are responsible for fixing the problem. If you have trouble with yours, here's what you can do. Keep in mind options may very from case to case.

"Number one, cut the water off as fast as you can so it doesn't do damage, it doesn't mildew stain and mildew carpets," he said. "The first thing that you need to do is go out to the street and turn off the water line."

"You can move into other housing like a hotel and the landlord can be responsible for that. You can cover the repairs and deduct it from your rent and the landlord can be responsible for that. And, of course, you can contact an attorney who could demand that the landlord fix it and you could recover whatever fees you have to pay an attorney," Working says.

Whatever you do, keep a paper trail.

"Save your texts and emails when you tell your landlord what the problem is," Working says.

Of course, legal options take time. That's why nothing beats a good relationship between a tenant and landlord when a pipe bursts.

"You might get something done about that in a couple of months at best in a courtroom, whereas if you have a decent relationship with your landlord, you can be like hey man it's going to f*** up your property. Like you need to get out here and fix this," Working says.

Working says all renters should sit down with a lawyer and know their rights, so they're prepared if something happens. He says a lot of attorneys will do that for free.

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