If my apartment burns down adur to no fult of my own, do I still have to pay the rest of my lease?

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If my apartment burns down adur to no fult of my own, do I still have to pay the rest of my lease?

If the apartment burns down, do I still owe rent money? I know for actually buying property equitable conversion andrRisk of loss apply but what about just renting?

Asked on June 30, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A lease is a contract, and is subject to alll the rules and doctrines that govern contracts. One is impossibility: parties to a contract are excused from performance if it becomes impossible due to some supervening event beyond their control or responsibility. So if the apartment burns down and is not inhabitable, the landlord is excused from having to provide you the apartment and you are excused from renting it. Alternately, it can be viewed that the landlord is in breach by not providing you habitable space, the landlord's breach allowing you to terminate the contract without penalty. You would owe rent for all periods up to the fire, of course.

Note that if the landlord provides you with acceptable alternative living arrangement, like a comparable unit is the same or nearby building, or the landlord puts you up for a few weeks in a decent hotel or motel while quickly repairing the apartment, he could treat the lease as still in effect and you'd still be bound by it; in that case, you are still  getting (more or less) what you are paying for and the landlord is taking reasonable steps to remediate the situation.


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