Natural Disaster



Weather destroyed the house I am renting, and it is not livable. Does my landlord need to fix the house? Do they have to pay my hotel bills while the repair is happening?


The answer to this question will be governed by state law, County-specific law, and your lease. In general, in California, a landlord is obligated to maintain the premises’ habitability. So, if repairs need to be made to make the house liveable, the landlord needs to make those repairs. If they do not, you have some options (withhold rent, etc.) When the repairs are caused by an act of God, like a weather event or fire, the landlord typically would not have to pay your hotel bills or relocation assistance. There is a general understanding that when something unexpected happens, that is nobody’s fault; the lease will be considered impossible to continue. Meaning they can’t rent you a place that doesn’t exist/is burned down/has a hole in the roof. The parties’ understanding and intention when entering into the lease are now impossible to carry out. Usually, this is a good time for the landlord and tenant to speak and work out an arrangement. If the fix will take a short amount of time, the landlord would waive rent for that time period, and the tenant would be responsible to pay for their own alternate housing – this would be the standard approach. If the fix will be long-term, then an agreement ending the lease is likely the preferred option. Either way, the best approach is getting together with the landlord and writing up a quick agreement. You can both agree that the lease has ended, state the amount of rent (if any) and security deposit that will be paid, the last day to remove your items from the premises, whether you have the first right to rent the place once it’s fixed again, etc.

Sometimes Counties have rules that provide added tenant protection. The same is true of your lease agreement. So long as the County rule or lease provision provides the same or better protection as the state law, it would generally be upheld. Working out a new written understanding with your landlord is always preferable so all parties are on the same page going forward. But if that is not possible, refer to your specific lease and County rules for what happens when there is an act of God-like event. For example, if the lease says the landlord has to pay for 3 days in a hotel, then that is what they’ll be required to do. But when the lease is silent, typically, the legal requirement would be for the landlord to waive rent but for you to foot the bill for your alternate housing.

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