Renters’ rights: what if a storm damages your home?

Renters’ rights: what if a storm damages your home?
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 5:28 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 21, 2023 at 7:09 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - What are your landlord’s responsibilities if your rented home is damaged by a storm? The 13 News Fact Finders learned, the most important thing to know is the landlord has a responsibility to make sure your dwelling is habitable and in compliance with your lease.

An attorney with Southern Arizona Legal Aid, a non-profit, free legal service for low income people and families, helped clear up the confusion.

”The first thing is to decide if you want to stay or not, they may have ten months left and they don’t want it. They have the option of moving out. They can give notice, they’re gone. Get the security deposit back,” said attorney Alan Solot. “Compensation for things like hotel or moving expenses, I don’t think that’s going to be available. If there’s some negligent behavior by the landlord, which would be unusual.”

Unusual because it can be tough to prove negligence. The landlord may also provide another place for you to stay, but where that is probably won’t be up to the renter. In other words, you can’t just pick a swanky hotel and get reimbursed.

“The tenant has a right to move out. It’s always important to notify the landlord in writing, no matter what it is - within 14 days - and the lease is terminated within 14 days of move out date... and they have to return the security deposit,” Solot said.

If there’s damage, but you can still live there, the landlord must make repairs and reduce your rent in proportion to the damage, but there’s no formula for that portion, so it’s smart to talk to a lawyer.

Something else to keep in mind: many leases have “act of God” clauses, meaning the landlord can draft their own result if a problem is out of their control. Since the landlord drafted the lease, that clause almost certainly favors them, so read over your lease.

“The lease also might have a provision that refers to act of God - the phrase is “force majeure,” which basically means it’s out of the landlord’s control and by contract you can agree what the result would be if those sorts of events happen,” said Solot. “Of course if the landlord’s drafting the lease, which is always the case, the language is going to be in the landlord’s favor, so the tenant is going to lose out.”

To be sure, check with a lawyer. Those who qualify can get free help.

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