Renter Repairs 101

Homeowners are responsible for fixing hurricane damage on their homes, but what about renters? Who’s supposed foot the bill to repair the property?

Heather R. Breaux
September 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

RENTERS RIGHTS. If you’re a renter with hurricane damage, it’s best to review your lease and know the laws.
Courtesy Photo
RENTERS RIGHTS. If you’re a renter with hurricane damage, it’s best to review your lease and know the laws.
Like most St. Charles Parish residents, Lola Sanchez of Luling evacuated the area before Hurricane Gustav made landfall.

And although most of the parish was spared widespread damage, Sanchez returned home to her apartment to find a 5-foot branch that broke way from an Oak tree piercing the ceiling of her 6-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

“I was very happy to see that not much damage was done to the rest of the apartment, but my daughter and I are staying with some friends until the roof in her room is fixed,” she said.

Sanchez wasn’t sure if she was required to pay rent on her apartment while the repairs were being made. In fact, she wasn’t sure what her rights as a renter were.

According to LSU AgCenter researchers, there are rules and regulations that a landlord is required to follow in the event of a disaster.

If you rent or lease an apartment, house or business building and the structure is damaged in a natural disaster, read your lease carefully to determine what you need to do regarding damages, terminating the lease, securing temporary housing and other matters.

However, regardless of what the lease states, your landlord has a legal obligation to provide fit and habitable premises and to make any repairs necessary to keep the premises livable and usable.

Who is responsible for repairs?

Your landlord must repair the rental premises as quickly as is reasonably possible. You must cooperate with the landlord’s requests, such as removing your property if that is necessary to make repairs, and you must take steps that will assist in the repair efforts.

Must I continue to pay rent during the repair process?

If the place you are renting is damaged to the extent it is unsafe or unfit to live in, you are not required to continue pay rent. You should give the landlord your temporary address.

How do I cancel a lease if my home has been damaged or destroyed?

If your rented home, apartment, or business building is destroyed or damaged to the extent it cannot be reasonably repaired, you may be able to cancel a long-term lease. To exercise this option, the following conditions must be met.

•The cost to repair the damage must exceed the total of one year’s rent.

•The destruction or damage occurred without negligence on your part.

•Your lease does not cover how repairs will be made and makes no provision for destruction or severe damage.

•You notify your landlord in writing within 10 days of the destruction or damage that you are canceling your lease.

•At the time of the notification, you must pay your landlord all unpaid back rent that has accrued up to the time of the destruction or damage.

•Your lease does not indicate that you cannot exercise this option.

•You may have other grounds on which to cancel a long-term lease, such as failure of the landlord to repair the premises properly or within a reasonable time.

Therefore, a tenant should talk with a lawyer before attempting to cancel a longterm lease to make sure that all conditions are met.

A month-to-month lease can be canceled by written notice given at least ten days before the end of the month.

A week-to-week lease can be canceled by written notice given at least two days before the end of the week.

A lease on space for a manufactured home can be canceled by giving at least 30 days written notice before the end of the current rental period, regardless of the term.

If possible, talk with a lawyer to determine what type of lease you have to ensure that you are giving adequate notice.

Can I get a refund of rent if my home or building is damaged?

The general rule is that the landlord must provide a fit and habitable place to live or conduct business. If you cannot live in the house or apartment or conduct business in the building, the landlord may be required to return a portion of any rent that has already been paid. If the landlord fails to refund your money, you can take him or her to Small Claims Court.

Who pays the cost to repair or replace my personal property that has been damaged or destroyed?

The landlord is not responsible for the damage or loss of your personal property. If you have renter’s insurance, read the policy, take pictures of the damage, contact your insurance company as soon as possible, and closely follow the insurance company’s procedures for filing a claim.

For more information, consumers should visit the Louisiana Attorney General’s Web site at

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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