If a “State of Emergency” is in effect and mandatory evacuation are in effect, can I demand a refund for money paid on a vacation rental?

I rented a vacation house this weekend, but due to a hurricane there is a mandatory evacuation and I can’t even get to the house. I already paid $2,200 for the house but I think I deserve some money back since the landlord technically can’t deliver the property. I don’t have a contract, but an e-mail exchange stated that there were no refunds or cancellations for weather. Is this still valid once the governor has declared a “State of Emergency”? Can I demand a full refund? What legal recourse do I have?

Asked on August 26, 2011 New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A mandatory evaction may entitle you to a refund. A contract may be voided if it is impossible or illegal. An impossible contract is one which cannot be performed due to circustances beyond the parties' control--like not being able to access the beach house. An illegal contract is one that performance of which would require  an illegal act--like ignoring an evacuation order. The circumstances you describe may meet one or both criteria. This is not merely a weather problem--it's a problem that, as you note, the landlord may not deliver possesion, and that inability may make the contract void. Of course, since litigation can be expensive in terms of time and money, it may be the better part of valor, if it would litigation, to settle with the landlord if possible, to allow him to have something. Good luck.


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