Water Pipe Burst in Apartment? Here’s What To Do Right Now

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: November 14, 2023

It’s been a long day. You’re headed home to the apartment. Evening plans include relaxing and enjoying well-earned downtime. Wet furniture and soaked floors aren’t on your list of expectations.

When you walk through the door, you’re greeted by water damage in the apartment. How did this mess happen? Who’s responsible for cleanup and repairs?

Our water restoration pros have years of experience taking care of flooded apartments in Chicago, IL and suburbs.

Read this guide to find out what to do if a water pipe bursts in your apartment.

How to Deal With a Burst Water Pipe in Your Apartment

The signs of a burst water pipe aren’t always as obvious as a flooded unit.

A ruptured line can leave water standing in just one room.

Broken pipes behind a wall can slowly leak into cabinets and closets.

Regardless of the extent of damages, you need to deal with the problem right away.

When a water pipe bursts in your apartment, follow these six steps.

1. Try to Identify the Source

If the broken pipe is under a sink or behind an appliance, try turning off the supply valve to that line.

If water is seeping through the ceiling or pooling at the base of a wall, make note of the exact location.

2. Notify the Landlord and Neighbors

Call the landlord right away.

Ask how soon you can expect a response to the burst pipe problem in your apartment.

Be sure to alert neighbors whose units might also be affected.

3. Secure Your Belongings

water damaged belongings due to burst pipe apartment chicago il

Move belongings off the floor, or place them in plastic bins.

Elevate cords connected to lamps, electronics and appliances.

Consider transferring personal items to self storage until the apartment is cleaned up and restored.

4. Document the Water Damage

Take photos and videos of water-damaged furniture, belongings, walls, floors and ceilings.

Make sure everything is time-stamped. Save it all to a digital documentation file for quick reference.

5. Follow Up With the Landlord

Once the burst pipe is repaired, talk to the landlord about what caused the break.

This information helps determine who’s responsible for damages. Ask for a timetable covering any necessary repairs in your apartment.

6. Contact a Water Damage Restoration Service

Bring in a water damage restoration service like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba in Chicago that handles broken pipe repairs, cleanup, property restoration and mold remediation.

This gives you better control over the process because you’re working directly with a team focused on taking care of your water-damaged apartment.

They can also help you with the insurance claims process.

7. Consider a Temporary Relocation

It might be easier to relocate during repairs, cleanup and restoration.

You may be able to recoup moving expenses through the landlord’s insurance or your own renters insurance coverage.

Many leases allow you to forgo rent payment if you have to move out temporarily.

How to Deal With Water Leaking From an Upstairs Apartment

water leaking in chicago apartment

Water dripping through your apartment ceiling poses additional problems. Soggy ceiling materials can collapse. Most surfaces, including furniture and countertops, are usually soaked. Follow the steps outlined above, but tell the landlord you want restoration professionals to take care of the water-damaged ceiling.

Who is Responsible When a Pipe Bursts in an Apartment: the Tenant or Landlord?

The cleanup process gets underway. The landlord makes arrangements to remediate water damage in your apartment.

Who’s responsible for the initial plumbing failure? Who pays for cleaning and repairs?

The landlord is responsible for keeping the building in good shape.

In most cases, he or she addresses problems that inevitably arise in an apartment building, including burst pipes and water damage in the units.

If the pipe burst occurred because of tenant negligence, water damage costs can fall back on the individual leasing the apartment.

Failure to report something obvious might be construed as negligence.

That could leave the tenant responsible for damages and repairs.

Apartment Pipe Bursts: What Are My Rights?

water pipe burst in apartment in chicago, il

A pipe burst in the apartment soaks your property. What are your rights?

The answer often depends on local ordinances.

For example, Chicago tenant rights are clearly defined by the Department of Housing.

The city’s ordinance covers details such a landlord’s general obligations to maintain basic living condition standards.

Your responsibility in case of a mishap like burst pipes should be outlined in your lease.

For detailed information, download Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant ordinance summary from the DOH website. The publication includes sections on security deposits and tenant remedies.

How Does Renters Insurance Work?

Renters insurance usually covers situations such as pipe bursts or water leaking into a downstairs apartment.

Some policies cover interior walls, floors and fixtures, while others only cover personal belongings.

Look closely at these two key points in a renters insurance policy.

  • Property Damage Coverage – While the landlord is generally responsible for damages to interiors, you may want a policy that covers your expenses for cleaning and restoring the entire apartment.
  • Personal Belongings – Renters insurance should cover your personal property losses, including furniture, clothing and electronics. It should also cover the costs of cleaning and restoring your belongings.

Always review policy details.

For example, if you have to deal with water damage from an upstairs apartment, a good renters insurance policy covers both repairs and personal property loss.

It can also help offset the cost of temporary relocation while your unit is cleaned and restored.

It’s important to understand that this type of insurance doesn’t protect you in case of natural flooding.

However, renters insurance for natural disasters is available through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.

How Common Are Burst Pipes in Apartment Complexes?

During the winter, a burst frozen pipe can become an urgent issue in an apartment. Building maintenance affects the plumbing year-round.

Most landlords work hard keeping tenants happy, but a building’s water supply system handles thousands of gallons of water every day.

Burst pipes in apartment complexes often result from these problems.

water heater burst pipe in chicago il apartment unit
  • Water heating system leaks
  • Faulty air conditioning lines
  • Clogged drainage pipes
  • Broken fire sprinkler systems

Dealing With a Flooded Apartment in Chicago, IL, or the Suburbs? We Can Help!

The damage from a burst pipe can spread through an apartment in just a few minutes.

Cleanup isn’t easy. Repairs are often complicated.

We’re here to help Chicago tenants and landlords with all types of apartment flooding. Our services include emergency pipe repair, water damage remediation and certified mold removal.

We can’t make it easier to come home to a burst pipe, but we can get everything back to normal as quickly as possible.

Here at ServiceMaster by Zaba, our teams are standing by and ready for your call: 773-647-1985

What causes a pipe to burst in an apartment?

Pipes can burst for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to water pressure issues, freezing, old age, rust and corrosion, clogs and blockages, damage and pressure from tree roots, and more. The best way to avoid burst pipes is to have a qualified plumber inspect and maintain your pipes on a regular basis, and deal with any warning signs promptly.