What to do if my family and I have been a victim of a hurricane but my landlord will not take care of things?

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What to do if my family and I have been a victim of a hurricane but my landlord will not take care of things?

We lost everything in our home, including furniture, clothes, a motorcycle and car. Our apartment was flooded from seawater from 40 inches up from the ground. My landlord refuses to replace sheetrock from my apartment. She also said she will not hire professional contractor to inspect the apartment for mold. My daughter has asthma I’m very worried if the apartment is healthy enough for us to live in. My level suggest that we move out of the apartment. I really would like to know my rights as a tenant. We have nowhere else to go. I’m curious if I can sue her for what she is doing?

Asked on November 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitablity which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with state and local housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability (such as health and safety issues), the tenant notifies the landlord and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following options:  The tenant can make the repairs (contact someone to make the repairs) and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You can also contact the local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.

The landlord is NOT liable for your personal property which was lost in the hurricane.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You have two different options:

1) Consider the lease and your tenancy as terminated due to the uninhabitability of the premises, IF there are health risks or damages that prevent the premises from being used safely as a residence. In this event, you could move out without penalty.

2) Again, if there are health risks or conditions which prevent the apartment from being used as a residence, you could take legal action against the landlord, seeking both a court order to compel repairs and also compensation (a rent credit) for the time the apartment was impaired.

The key factor is that the apartment must be, in whole or in part, not safely inhabitable. Damage that does not affect habitability do not give tenants the rights to these options. It would be best is you consulted with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney to evaluae the situation and your options.


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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