What to do if my brother and his family were displaced due to an electrical fire and the inspection proved it to be the landlord’s fault?

My brother and his family have been displaced due to an electrical fire in one of their bedrooms. The inspection proved it to be the landlord’s fault due to the electrical in the entire building not being grounded. Fortunately, everyone made it out alive. They have renter’s insurance. But they now have nowhere to go and are in need of emergency services shelter. The building has been condemned. Are they entitled to having their rent security deposit returned?

Asked on July 20, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

They would get their security deposit back when a lease terminates not due to their actions or fault, such as due to the condemnation or lack of habitability of the premises, unless--

* at the time the premises were condemned/rendered uninhabitable, they had failed to pay rent due and owing; if so, the landlord may apply it against the security deposit; or


* they did other damage to the premises against which the landlord may apply the deposit--for example, say that two bedrooms were damaged/destroyed by the fire, but the kitchen was untouched; independently of the fire, they damaged the stove in some way; in that case, the landlord could take the stove's repair/replacement cost out of the deposit.

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