Is the tenant responsible for damages caused by a natural disaster to rental property if no rental contract has been signed and/or notarized?

About 1 1/2 years ago, I entered into a verbal contract with a landowner to rent property as long as I pay the mortgage to the mortgage company. Then 7 months ago I stopped working due to health issues and was not able to pay the mortgage. I lost my income taxes to student loans. About 2 months ago I received partial income tax. I paid the landlords daughter $800 and made my regular payment. I have told the landlord on many occasions that the roof needed repaired. Then 2 weeks ago, during a bad storm the roof was damaged. I called the daughter today I am being threatened with eviction.

Asked on July 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You cannot be evicted for causing property damage if you were not responsible for  the damage--i.e. it was due to an "act of god," like a storm. However:

1) If the premises is not habitable due to damage, the landlord could terminate the lease without penalty to either you or him/her: when a contract (like a lease) become impossible, it can be terminated at that point. A leasee is impossible if the premises was damaged too much by a storm or natural disaster to safely rent.

2) If there is only an oral (or verbal) agreement, your tenancy is a month to month tenancy and the landlord could provide you thirty (30) days notice terminating your tenancy, then evict you if you hold over past that.

3) If you are in arrears on the rent (the mortgage payments) you owe, even if you've paid one or more of the recent payments, you could be evicted for nonpayment of rent. So if you're not fully up to date on all amounts you owe, you could be evicted.

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