if a tenant loses his apartment because of a flood should he get his deposit back

Asked by Jonjon, Pennsylvania Furnace, PA Sun Oct 3, 2010

Septic backed up into tenant's apartment through no fault of his; tenant lost his home and many possessions were ruined. Landlord (who is a Realtor) does not want to return the deposit. Meanwhile the tenant is homeless and needs to find a new apartment. Tenant also did many repairs to the apartment, at his own cost with approval fromthe Realtor/Landlord. All the tenant is asking for is his deposit returned. What are his chances of getting it back and what shoudl he do?

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5
Erica Ramus,…, Agent, Pottsville, PA
Sun Oct 3, 2010
Please read your lease. What does it say regarding emergencies or loss? Something should be in there regarding what happens if tenant cannot occupy due to destruction of the premises.
0 votes
Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Sun Oct 3, 2010
As for getting your deposit back--much will depend on your lease, review the document as the answer can most likely be found in it--or for any legal rights you may have, consult with an attorney who specializes in real estate--most professionals do offer a free consultation--if you cannot afford one contact your local Legal Aid Society for a pro bono attorney--free.
0 votes
Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Sun Oct 3, 2010
I agree with Scott - it sounds to me as though that deposit should be returned. I would suggest that you google tenant's rights in Pennsylvania and as Scott advises, if you have access to an attorney, that would be very helpful for clarification.

Here in NJ we are required to provide a handbook of Tenant/Landlord rights - it you have that, it will be a good resource. If not google it, ask your agent, or check with your township.

Sorry you've had this trouble and good luck with the resolutation and finding a new place.

Best,
Jeanne Feenick
Unwavering Commitment to Service
Web Reference:  http://www.feenick.com
0 votes
Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Sun Oct 3, 2010
See a lawyer.

And read your lease.

You have a whole bunch of different issues here. Regarding personal possessions--you should have had a renter's insurance policy. That would cover your personal possessions.

Then there's the question of whether the home is habitable. The lease likely specifies what the landlord's responsibility is if a home becomes uninhabitable--either for a brief period or permanently.

Regarding the repairs to the apartment: What is your point? If you had an agreement with the landlord (a written agreement) that you would be compensated for those repairs, then you're owed the compensation, whether or not the septic backup negated those improvements. (I'm not a lawyer, so this isn't legal advice. Check with a lawyer for the legal advice.)

Do you deserve your deposit back? Probably, though that depends on the terms of the lease. Under what conditions will the deposit be returned? And under what conditions may the landlord withhold the deposit? I'm guessing--but it's only a guess, and it depends on your lease--that if the apartment becomes uninhabitable through no fault of your own and you are forced to move, then the deposit must be returned. Again, though, I don't know the details, the terms of your lease, or your local landlord-tenant regulations which may also apply.

So: Read your lease. And then see a lawyer.

Hope that helps.
0 votes
Scott Miller, Agent, Boca Raton, FL
Sun Oct 3, 2010
Hi Jonjon. It sounds to me like the tenant has a claim against the owner's insurance. This was not a flood caused by an 'act of G-d', it was a septic tank. I don't know what your limits are in PA for small claims lawsuits, but if I were in the position of the tenant, I'd file a suit against the owner and his insurance company.

If the tenant has easy access to an attorney that can guide him, that would be ultra-helpful.

GOOD LUCK.

Scott Miller, Realty Associates, Boca Raton, FL
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