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Tenant rights
We are a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.

Tenant rights

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Rights of tenants affected by a natural disaster

If your home is so badly damaged by a natural disaster that it is unsafe or unsanitary for you to continue to live in, any one of three possible outcomes could occur.

  • You may contact the owner or manager within 10 days of when the damage happened, and tell them that you wish to cancel your lease. If you choose to do this, you are responsible for paying rent up to the date of the damage to or destruction of the home.

  • If you wish to stay or must stay in your home after it has been damaged, the owner must make repairs necessary for the home to be decent, safe, and sanitary. The owner must do so within a reasonable time. If the owner does not make such repairs, you may give written notice that you intend to move out due to the poor conditions there. Again, you will be responsible for rent owed for the time you have lived at the home. The amount of such rent could be lower than the rental rate due to the damage which occurred.

  • If you have to move out of your home for repairs to be made, your duty to pay rent lapses for the time period you are out of the home. Again, if you are leaving the home for a period of time, or if you are not going to return to it, it is important to put it in writing and give to the owner a statement of your intent and your reasons for your action.

Generally the landlord cannot be held responsible for damage to your belongings caused solely by the natural disaster.

If you have renter's insurance that covers your property, contact the insurance company as soon as possible to file a claim. Take photos of all the damaged property.

Make a claim to FEMA for loss of personal property or assistance with relocation. Call FEMA's toll-free disaster survivor hotline at:

  • 800-621-FEMA (3362)

  • TTY: 800-462-7585 (711 or Video Relay Service Available)

Or fill out FEMA's online form for disaster survivors: