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A Part of My Roof Caved in During A Storm. Can I Require Compensation for Ruined Items from My Landlord?

No one wants to be affected by natural disasters, but they are an unfortunate reality. When weather systems like storms strike, they can cause significant damage to buildings. While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November, storms can occur at other times of the year. They can catch both tenants and landlords off-guard.

Storm-force winds can cause tree branches and entire trees to fall on homes. In extreme weather or cases where the roof was already in bad shape, cave-ins can occur. When the roof is compromised, rain can do considerable damage to the contents of the home. If you live in a rented home, it’s natural that you’ll want to know if you can recover the cost of your damaged possessions. This may seem like a straightforward query but as with all matters involving agreements and the law, it can get complicated. If you want to ensure you’re treated fairly, it’s best to seek advice from an experienced landlord-tenant attorney.

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Who is Responsible for Storm Damage

If you were a homeowner, it would be clear that the responsibility for repairing your damaged home would fall on you. Your insurance company would provide you with a settlement so you could repair your home and replace the contents, provided that both were insured. However, if you’re a renter, you may be left wondering if you’ll need to replace your carpets, furniture, clothing or other personal possessions on your own.

Usually, if a storm causes damage to a house or apartment, the landlord is responsible for the repairs. They would likely draw on their insurance policy to get the roof repaired. They would also take care of any other damage to the building. The rules governing landlord-tenant agreements can vary based on location and the specifics of the lease. However, landlords generally have a responsibility to keep the property in good condition.

Using Georgia as an example, the lease should not ask the tenant to do their own repairs or relinquish the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property. If your lease contained a provision that made you responsible for repairs, you could legally challenge it. Landlords in Georgia are also responsible for fixing the heating and air conditioning and ensuring minimum safety standards are met. In some states, the landlord may have to pay for alternative accommodation while they repair an unlivable rental unit following a natural disaster.

Damage to Items in the Home

Things get a little tricky where your possessions are concerned. There are no clear rules about what should happen if a renter’s items get damaged. However, if you brought the item into the apartment, it is likely your responsibility. You would probably have to pay for the repairs or replacements. If you have renter’s insurance, you won’t have to foot the bill alone. Therefore, if your belongings got damaged after a storm, you need to take a careful look at your policy. If you have any doubts about whether your items are covered, you should call the insurance company or reach out to an attorney.

It’s important to note that some types of storm damage may not be covered by your renter’s insurance policy. Typically, flood damage and earth movement are excluded. If you can show that the damage was caused specifically by the roof caving in, you should be able to recover your losses. This may be damage caused directly by wind and rainfall. If you want to be certain that your belongings would be covered during future storms, you may be able to purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Even if you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get some of your things replaced. If you rented a furnished apartment or house, the landlord may be required to replace the furniture. They may also have to replace major appliances like the refrigerator since the property must be kept in a livable condition. Your attorney will advise you on what you can realistically expect to get.

There is one other way you may be able to get the landlord to pay for your ruined possessions. You would have to sue them for negligence. This means you would have to prove that their failure to maintain the property led to your personal property being damaged.

Maybe the roof had been leaking considerably before the storm and you reported it, but nothing was done. Or maybe there was a large, old tree hanging over the property which the owner knew was a hazard and it fell on the home during the storm. While there is no guarantee that you’ll get full compensation for your losses, there’s no harm in discussing the situation with an attorney. You may be able to get relief.

How a Landlord-Tenant Attorney Can Help You

When you work with an attorney, you’ll find out if your landlord is fulfilling their obligations. They don’t know all the responsibilities of a landlord or all the nuances in the law. After a storm that results in something as serious as the roof caving in, you should seek fair compensation. A lawyer is best placed to look into the matter and advise you of all your options. If the property owner kept putting off repairs despite your requests, you may be able to hold them liable for your losses.

Your attorney can advise you about your state’s remedies for landlord-tenant issues like repair and deduct or rent withholding. They can talk to your landlord for you, try to negotiate a settlement or sue them for damages if necessary. If your items get damaged during a storm, you’ll benefit significantly from hiring a lawyer who specializes in landlord and tenant matters. You’ll learn about your rights and get help in protecting them. Don’t delay in seeking assistance.

This content is informational only and is not legal advice. Please seek the advice of an attorney about your case.

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5 Cited Research Articles

  1. Arizona Department of Housing. (2018). Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
  1. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. Landlord-Tenant Law.,state%20statutes%20and%20common%20law.&text=Further%2C%20federal%20statutory%20law%20may,in%20preventing%20forms%20of%20discrimination.
  1. The National Flood Insurance Program.
  1. Insurance Information Institute. Facts + Statistics: Hurricanes
  1. State of Georgia Department of Community Affairs. (2012). Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook.
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  1. A Part of My Roof Caved in During A Storm. Can I Require Compensation for Ruined Items from My Landlord?
  1. Who is Responsible for Storm Damage?
  1. How a Landlord-Tenant Attorney Can Help You

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