If a tree fell on my rental house, am I responsible to pay my tenants hotel expenses while they are displaced?

UPDATED: May 22, 2012

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If a tree fell on my rental house, am I responsible to pay my tenants hotel expenses while they are displaced?

A tree fell on my home causing significant damage. I have regular homeowners insurance but not specifically for a rental unit. My tenants do not have renters insurance. Am I responsible to pay their living expenses while they are displaced for safety reasons or for the reconstruction?

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The lease would be terminated if you are unable to provide them with the space they are renting (or a reasonable alternative under the circumstances) due to events beyond your control. You have essentially two choices:

1) You can pay for their living expenses while they are displaced, while still collecting rent from them and keeping the lease in force--you would need to provide alternate space which is as reasonably comparable or acceptable to them as is feasible under the circumstances, and resolve the situation as quickly as possible; or

2) You can treat the lease as  terminated not due to your fault, but due to an action or event beyond your control (tree falling); your tenants would be able to move out, you would not collect any more rent (the lease would be over), and it is possible that they might be able to hold you liable for some moving costs, depending on the exact circumstances (or you might choose to pay some such costs in any event, to avoid the risk andn distraction of litigation). This would be based on "impossibility"--the law recognizes that contracts (including leases) can be voided due to the physical or practicality of honoring them, so long as neither party is responsible for that impossibility.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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