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Re: recent building fire

Posted by DK on January 03, 1999 at 19:54:04:

In Reply to: recent building fire posted by jennifer on January 02, 1999 at 16:56:50:

You should look at the fine print in your lease to review your rights in the event of substantial damage to your apartment. Often the lease gives either the tenant or the landlord the right to cancel the lease in the event of substantial damage.

Even if the lease does not specifically authorize you to cancel it, you might be able to claim that you are constructively evicted from your apartment. You would have to be able to show that the landlord's failure to make repairs has prevented you from residing in the apartment. This is not a sure thing. If you were sued for the rent for the balance of your lease term, the court would look to what the hypotethical "reasonable person" would have done in your situation.

If you are going to claim that you are constructively evicted, it is critical that you be able to prove that the landlord had notice of the condition which you claim made it unreasonable for you to remain in the apartment, and that the landlord failed to correct the condition within a reasonable time. It is up to the court to determine what is "reasonable" under the circumstances, which is why it is not a sure thing.

: Last week, we had a fire in our building in the middle of the night.

: The location of the fire was in between the 2nd and 3rd floors. I am on
: the 4th floor directly above the units which were damaged. The cause of
: the fire was found to be damaged electrical wiring in the 2nd floor ceiling.
: Both units are now completely uninhabitable and the landlord began making
: repairs immediately--reinstalled door locks, replacing windows, etc. My
: apartment, being directly above the fire, sustained smoke damage but was
: otherwise unharmed by the fire itself. My questions are:
: since the fire was found to be caused by faulty wiring, will an inspection of
: the rest of the building automatically follow by the Electrical Control Bureau
: or will I have to request one?
: do I have a case for witholding any rent on the basis that there was a fire?
: that the apartment still smells awful? that there is broken glass and debris from
: the damaged apartments in the hallways and dust/ash in the air in the common
: areas? I understand that a certain amount of debris and dust can be expected,
: given the current situation, but is there an amount of time after the fire which
: would be deemed "too long" for the remaining tenants to have to put up with the
: situation? I am asthmatic.
: Also, the firemen, in an effort to release the smoke from my apartment damaged one window
: screen and two blinds. An inspector came by shortly after to take note of
: what the firemen damaged and then left. He did not give me a copy of his report
: or any other information. Is the landlord required to replace these items? Should
: I buy them myself (since he has a lot of other work on the fire-damaged floors
: to contend with at the moment) and give him the bill? Thank you for any
: informed advice you can provide.

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