Flood and Fire Victims' Rights as Tenants
Q. Can my landlord evict me because of flood or fire damage?
If the flood or fire results in total destruction of the residence by no fault of the landlord, yes. Under the law, the lease can be automatically cancelled, effectively evicting you. However, your landlord has to file an eviction against you in court and a judge has to grant the eviction before you are actually evicted.
If the flood or fire results in only partial destruction, the answer is no. The landlord cannot evict you unless the lease gives him specific permission. Even in those cases, the landlord would still have to file an eviction against you in court and a judge would still need to grant the eviction.
In either case, if you, a member of your household, or your guest caused the flood/fire, your landlord will be able to evict you, and may even be able to collect damages from you. You are responsible for damage to the unit that is beyond normal wear and tear and caused by you, a member of your household or your guests.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code articles 2728, 2729, 2718, 2714, 2686, 2682, 2690.
Q. What if I live in subsidized housing?
If you caused the flood or fire, you may only be evicted if the flood or fire was a serious violation of the lease, connected to criminal activity on the premises, or you caused the flood or fire purposefully. The serious violation of the lease must adversely affect other tenants or the physical/financial security of the residence for you to be evicted. The criminal activity must threaten the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of other tenants for you to be evicted.
If a person you invited into the caused the flood or fire, you may be evicted if the flood or fire threatened the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the residence of other tenants.
SEE: National Housing Law Project, HUD Housing Programs 14.2.2, 14.7.1, 220.127.116.11
Q. Do I have to pay rent if flood or fire damage forced me to leave my apartment?
Rent is generally not due if you are forced out of the residence. However, if you were responsible for the flood or fire, you may be required to pay some or all of the rent, even if the residence is no longer habitable.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code article 2693
Q. Can I cancel my lease because of flood or fire damage to my apartment?
If the flood or fire completely destroys the residence the lease can be cancelled. If neither you nor your landlord caused the fire, it will be automatically cancelled, and no damages will be due.
If the flood or fire partially destroys the residence, you may be able to cancel the lease. The damage must make living in the residence unsafe or unreasonably difficult. This will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Even if you are unable to cancel the lease, you may be able to reduce your rent. This will be determined by the court, and will also depend on the circumstances of your case.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code articles 2714, 2715
Q. Who must repair damages to the residence cause by the flood or fire?
You will be responsible for repairing any damages to the apartment resulting from a fire or flood that you caused. Your landlord will be responsible for repairing any damages to the apartment resulting from a flood or fire he or she caused.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code articles 2692, 2691
Q. Who must repair/replace my property damaged by the flood or fire?
You can hold your landlord responsible for repairing or replacing your personal property only if your landlord started the flood or fire. You should purchase renter's insurance to pay for damage to your property caused by floods and fires that are not caused by your landlord.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code article 2715
Q. What can I do if my landlord does not make repairs?
If the residence is no longer fit to live in, you may cancel your lease. The damage must make living in the residence unsafe or unreasonably difficult. This will depend on the circumstances of your case.
Alternatively, you may make repairs necessary for reasonable use of the residence and withhold the reasonable cost of repairs from your rent. However, you must first demand to your landlord in writing that he or she make the repairs, and give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs after your demand is made. See REPAIR AND DEDUCT
You should NEVER withhold your rent to attempt to force your landlord to make repairs. This is true even for tenants living in subsidized housing.
SEE: Louisiana Civil Code articles 2715, 2694, National Housing Law Project, HUD Housing Programs 8.3.3
Q. Where can I get help for flood and fire damages or losses?
If your losses are a result of a major disaster declared by the president, you may qualify for rental assistance from FEMA. You can apply for assistance online at www.fema.gov, or over the phone by calling 1-800-621-3362. For more information, please visit http://www.fema.gov/assistance/dafaq.shtm.
Additionally, property damage and loss not covered by insurance may be deductible on your income tax return. You should speak to a tax specialist.