Who is responsible for the costs of staying in a motel when flooding occurs in a rental home?

UPDATED: Jan 28, 2011

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Who is responsible for the costs of staying in a motel when flooding occurs in a rental home?

Rental home flooded from broken washer hose. The tenant was away at the time and all her furniture had to be removed from the house and put in storage in order to pull up carpet and flooring and open walls, etc. She returned 3 days later and needs a place to stay for 1 or 2 months while repairs are done. Costs for alternate housing/motels will be more than rent has been. Who is responsible to find a temporary place and who pays for it? Does she continue to pay us rent if we have to pay for alternate place? She has no renter’s insurance. What is the landlord’s obligation?

Asked on January 28, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

As a very general rule, the landlord can't take the rent without providing a place to live for the tenant. For advice relevant specifically to your situation, you'll need to consult with an attorney w/landlord-tenant experience who can evaluate all the facts in detail. Some general guidelines or principals:

1) The leak was the tenant's fault--the tenant abused, damaged, etc. the washer. In this case, the landlord can continue to collect rent; can apply the security deposit vs. repairs or sue for repair costs; and does not have to pay for a motel.

2) The leak was the landlord's fault--poor or no maintenance, ignoring problems or complaints with the machine, installed badly by landlord, etc. In this case, the landlord is reponsible for the tenant's loss. May collect rent but must also pay for the tenant to live somewhere (somewhere decent and more or less comparable in quality) and other related costs, like storing and repairing belongings, moving costs, etc.

3) The leak is no one's fault--no one did anything wrong but the machine/hose gave out. This might be grounds for the landlord to terminate the lease early the basis of impossibility or impacticality--with no fault, the landlord can't provide what the lease calls for. Or the landlord could collect the rent but put the tenant up somewhere else (which may be impractical, in which case the landlord would probably prefer, if possible, to terminate the lease).

Note that if either the tenant or the landlord has insurance, the insurer may cover some of these costs.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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