Renters Affected By Disasters

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

What Renters Can Do About a Disaster

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A renter who lives in a home that is part of a natural disaster may encounter various legal issues. A renter may take steps to prepare for a disaster. A renter can understand the various steps to take in response to a disaster to get help. 

What Renters Can Do About a Disaster

Renters can avoid issues with a disaster by taking an inventory of their property and keeping a copy of their lease. Tenants might need to access copies of rental insurance policies for easy access, post-disaster. At move-in, a renter should keep photos and/or videos of the property for their records. 

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Tornadoes, fire, rain, hail, and snow damage (non-flooding) are covered by renters insurance. Floods and earthquakes are not usually covered by renters insurance. If you are a renter, you should consider having renters insurance to protect your belongings. If your property sustains enough damage to harm your belongings, then renters insurance kicks in to provide some compensation for your losses. 

You can consider loss-of-use coverage in your renters insurance policy if you're in a disaster-prone area. This also helps you afford alternative housing or accommodations if a disaster event happens and you cannot live in your home. Loss-of-use coverage is not available in all instances. Check your policy to find out whether you are covered. 

If you are affected by a non-covered disaster or do not have renters insurance, then the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) may help you. 

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Renters who carry renters insurance may have a policy that requires them to file a claim within a certain period of time after a disaster or incident. Ask for a copy of the insurance policy if one is not available. This helps to verify what damage may or may not be covered. Once the insurance company gets the claim, they may send out an adjuster to look at the property damage and help with the claims process. If the insurance denies coverage or doesn't pay you what you believe is owed, then you can ask the company for reasons in writing and if there is an appeals process. If you believe your claim was wrongfully denied you can file a claim with the Louisiana Department of Insurance

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Renters who live in a flood-prone area may consider getting flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Most homeowners insurance policies and renters policies do not provide coverage for floods. Flood insurance helps renters who have damages to their property because of a flooding event. The federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood insurance. The cost of the policy is based on several factors including the flood risk of the building that you live in. If you are a renter in a low-to-moderate risk area, you may be eligible for a Preferred Risk Policy. A preferred risk flood insurance policy from the NFIP has the same coverage as the standard policy at a more affordable rate. 

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Renters who are affected by a disaster may not have renter's insurance or the renter's insurance does not cover all the losses and damages. Renters in an area affected by a disaster can apply for Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) assistance to help. FEMA assistance helps renters repair housing and obtain safe, sanitary, and functional repairs to make a home fit to live in. 

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Renters who live in an area affected by a disaster may need help with housing or other needs. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to help renters replace personal property, including vehicles. The SBA loans typically carry lower interest rates on loans for vehicles, personal loans, or credit cards. Renters who qualify for SBA loans can apply for help. 

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Renters who return to a home that is damaged to a point that they cannot live in it may call their utility companies to ask to suspend service. By suspending service renters can free up money in their budget for other expenses after a disaster. Renters must call each utility company such as electric, water, or internet, and ask to suspend services. This allows renters not to pay for unused services to a home that is completely damaged after a disaster. 

Common Issues for Renters After a Disaster

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This includes common questions and answers for renters after a disaster. This includes issues with a landlord, security deposit, living conditions, repairs, and evictions.

Common Issues for Renters After a Disaster

Disaster survivors that are renters with a lease are still bound by the lease agreement even if a home is damaged as part of a disaster. If a rental is habitable and the property is not completely destroyed, then renters can return to the home. If a rental is not habitable and the renter cannot move back into the home, then a renter can communicate with the landlord about ending the lease. If a property is not habitable, the renter may communicate with their landlord about terminating the lease. The requirements and circumstances of terminating a lease early due to a natural disaster depend on a renter's unique situation and agreement with their landlord. A tenant and a landlord can end a lease when there is a disaster event that destroys the property completely. 

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Landlords cannot use a renter's security deposit to cover any type of damage due to a disaster event. If the lease is continued after a natural disaster, then the landlord can use a security deposit only to pay for renter-caused damages to the property. A landlord may not withhold a security deposit for damages that are not the fault of the tenant such as a disaster. Renters who want to ask for their security deposit must request their security deposit from their landlord. Your landlord has 30 days to give you your deposit back.

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Renters who live in a home damaged as part of a natural disaster must still continue to pay rent according to their lease, on time. Renters can stay in contact with a landlord, especially after a disaster, to maintain a channel of communication if a renter has questions about paying rent or possible accommodations for late rental payments. A renter should continue to pay rent unless the lease is formally terminated after a disaster

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Disaster survivors may deal with issues with the property that is uninhabitable. A landlord may need to make repairs to the property to make the property livable. A landlord can waive a warranty of habitability unless the issue affects health or safety. When the property cannot be lived in under the warranty of habitability, tenants must request repairs by the landlord. A tenant should give the landlord notice about a property that needs repairs. A tenant who does not provide notice to the landlord about the need for repairs can be liable for damages.

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Renters who return to a property that is damaged as part of a disaster should take an inventory of the damages and send communication to their landlord about the need for repairs. If the property is habitable, then the renter should continue to pay rent according to the lease. A landlord can displace a tenant from a property while making repairs, if necessary. Renters can also ask their landlord to fix repairs that result in damages as part of a disaster event. Landlords must fix repairs that are necessary to make the home habitable. Renters should communicate with their landlord after a disaster event to get repair issues fixed in a home. A renter must continue to pay rent even if there are damages to the property. The renter cannot withhold rent to pressure the landlord to make repairs. 

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A renter with a lease with a term that expires should know that a lease automatically renews unless the lease is a fixed-term agreement. Even if a property is damaged as part of a disaster, the lease continues unless the property is completely destroyed. Depending on the type of rental agreement and duration of the rental agreement, a lease renews under Louisiana law. To end a lease, a renter or landlord must communicate with formal written notice their intention to end the lease. The landlord cannot physically evict a tenant without a formal eviction notice. 

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A landlord can displace a renter from a property for repairs that cannot wait until the end of the lease. After a disaster, if damages occur to a rental property, if the property is not completely destroyed, the landlord has the right to make repairs. The landlord is not required to pay for hotels or pay for other accommodations for tenants who are displaced temporarily due to disaster damages. Renters can ask their landlord to reduce their rent for the period of time that they are displaced

Renters should check their lease to see if there are any special provisions about making repairs to a rental property. 

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Renters who have personal property damaged as part of a disaster need to address their damages through their own rental insurance. If a disaster survivor does not have renter's insurance, then a tenant can file a FEMA claim for personal property. A landlord is not responsible for damages to the personal property of a tenant. A landlord is responsible for fixing repairs for damages to the physical property in the lease that result as a part of a disaster

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Disaster survivors who are being evicted and can't live in their homes due to a disaster may have certain rights. Landlords may not evict renters from their rental property without an eviction judgment from the Court. If a landlord thinks that a renter abandoned a property, then they can take possession of the house and change the locks. Renters who evacuate homes as part of a disaster event should communicate with their landlord to let the landlord know they have not abandoned the property. 

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Disaster survivors may have to leave or evacuate the homes that they are renting during and after a disaster. During a federal disaster declaration when a renter is not living in the home that is not considered evidence for abandonment - or for the landlord to consider abandonment under law. Abandonment might ordinarily allow a landlord to retake the premises upon reasonable belief that the tenant no longer lives in the home. In all parishes, during a federal disaster declaration, a landlord cannot consider the property abandoned for thirty days following the initial declaration of the federally declared disaster. 

 

Last Review and Update: Sep 29, 2022
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