My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Missouri
A metal water pipe in my dishwasher at my apartment broke several days ago. I wasn't home at the time, so the it flooded the apartment and the apartment below mine.
They have agreed to let me break the lease and move out since I don't wish to wait for everything to be repaired in order to move back in.
I have a pet snake which I took with me when I went to stay in the hotel. The problem is, when my landlord came in to inspect the damage, they saw my snake's cage. My snake is a small corn snake, but I have a very large, custom made cage for him, so it looks like a cage for a large animal. I did not report my snake to my landlord when I rented the unit. I've had my snake for years and it has never caused any type of trouble and doesn't leave its cage unless I'm handling it, so I figured it would cause unnecessary trouble to report it (I accept full fault for not reporting it). My landlord immediately asked what was in the cage. I told them it was empty (which was the truth since my snake was not in the apartment at the time). My lawyer has instructed me to continue stating that the cage is empty and there is no animal inside (which is true).
Now my landlord is claiming that the damage to the pipe looked like "chew damage". It is my belief that the landlord thinks I had a rodent in the cage which escaped and chewed the water pipe. This is obviously untrue, and they don't have any proof of this. However, I am still concerned that they will try to come after me for the damage since they believe it was me who caused it.
My questions are:
1. Can the landlord charge me anything for the damages without proof that I had a pet which caused the damage? They most likely have pictures of the empty cage, but nothing else.
2. Should I continue to just state that the cage is empty or should I tell them that I did have a pet snake? This would be a violation of my lease of course, but it might be better than having them think I had a rodent that damaged their pipe. (Also, I only feed my snake frozen, pre-killed mice, but I have no way to prove that and I'm afraid they will try to claim I was feeding my snake live rodents or something)
3. Do I need to do anything special when I move out to insure I'm not charged extra for anything?
I would truly appreciate any advice. I just don't want to be charged for something that wasn't my fault. I know that not reporting my pet to the landlord was a very bad decision so I'm not looking for a lecture.Thanks in advance!
ETA: Unfortunately I do not have renters insurance.