What to do if my cousin’s rental house caught fire a few days ago throgh no fault of their own?

It is now unsafe to live there. What are their rights? Are they entitled to their deposit back? Are they entitled to this month to move their stuff since it is already paid for? And as to the the items that were heavily damaged by the fire, who is responsible to move those?

Asked on November 14, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the house is not inhabitable, they may terminate (break) their lease without any penalty. They would recover their deposit, unless they had already owed the landlord any money (such as unpaid rent) which he could legitimately take out of the deposit. They should receive back any rent paid for which they did not get the use of the house (e.g. say they paid for November and the house burned after the first week--they should get 3 weeks back). They have to pay to remove their own damaged items; if they do not, the landlord may take the cost of disposing of them out of their security deposit, or even sue them for that cost if it exceeds their deposit--even if the fire was not their fault, they are not allowed to leave debris and abandoned goods on the landlord's property.

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