Can I withhold rent if apartment is uninhabitable after a natural disaster?

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Following Hurricane Sandy, there were a lot of tenant-landlord cases that was filed in court. There was a lot of misinformation on whether the tenant has the right to withhold rent because the place is uninhabitable. On the other hand, landlords sue because they want their rent to be paid. Although you will think that landlords can collect from their insurance companies, not all of them have a policy.



For instance, large property management companies may have their own insurance policies so they do not need to collect your rent in order to get the damages restored. Meanwhile, individual landlords will need to collect from you in order to get started on the repairs and renovations following a natural disaster. If you haven’t experienced this situation, you’re good. But if it’ll happen in the future, here are some facts that you need to know.

  • You may be entitled to prorated rent.

You will need to check your lease agreement and state tenant laws but usually, you will be given rent credit for the days that you had to leave the rental property in order to give way to repairs.

  • You may mutually agree to cancel the lease agreement.

In almost all leases, the landlord will be given a month to repair the building and bring it to state-acceptable standards. If the property cannot be made habitable in a months’ time, your landlord may give you the option to either break the lease or move temporarily and just pay a certain dollar amount each month to hold on to your tenancy.

If you do not agree to a certain dollar amount, you can go to court and let the judge decide on it. Discounts may also be available ranging from 10% to 25%.

  • You cannot charge your landlord for damage to your personal property.

The landlord’s responsibility will only be limited to repairing the structure. For your personal belongings, you cannot hold your LL responsible for their replacement. This is why it is important that you have renter’s insurance to protect you.

  • What if there is no lease?

For month-to-month tenancy, you would still be required to send a 30-day notice to your landlord to move out and look for another apartment. In the same way, your landlord can give you a 30-day notice to vacate if he decides to cancel the lease and not rent the apartment until it has been fully restored.

As a tenant, you may want to escrow the rent while your landlord is still doing the repairs. This way, you are giving your landlord some assurance that you have the rent money and that you are willing to stay until the apartment has been fully restored.

If your landlord fails to do the repairs on time, demands the full rent and refuses to review the lease agreement with you, you can file for a complaint against that landlord. RPA has that option that you can use and this is the link http://www.rentalprotectionagency.com/complaint_center.php.

Edited on: Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 11:29 pm
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