Breaking Lease due to flooding in Houston

15 Replies

Hopefully someone can shed some light on this. My sister n law's apartment was flooded during the storms here in Houston. My question is what rights does she have in regards to breaking her lease. The complex is saying she still had to pay because the lights and air conditioning work. they said they are going to mop the floors and replace the sheetrock. if anyone has any insight on what her rights are as a tenant that would be a great help. Thanks

That is surprising that they are not evicting.  Due to liability concerns, most complexes would like the unit vacated for work.  I have seen this scenario though. 

Pay attention to what local and state authorities say on this.  What are your tenant-landlord laws in the city and Texas?  In Louisiana, when this happened to us in 2016, all leases for flooded properties were invalidated. Not everyone was aware of this. Again, this is highly local.

@Anthony Ellison Call the building inspection dept and ask them. If the sheetrock needs replacing that means it got wet. That means that it may not be safe. I can guarantee that the complex does not want to be liable for hospital bills from breathing disorders. Its just not worth it. 

They will be able to fix the repairs in short order and rent them out at a premium to the workers coming in anyway. Win,win situation for the owner and tenant. When I was in West Palm Beach after Wilma it was a nightmare. I went to NOLA first and was late getting to Floruda. I first stayed in a National park. Then it caught fire and we had to evac. I found an out of the way old RV park that had two spaces. They were so small I had to wedge them in the space. I could reach out and touch the other RV. I paid 800 a month each for this privilege. 

The landlord needs to see the whole picture and not be short sighted. 

Have her check the landlord tenant laws for Texas state.

From what I saw she has the right for discounted rent per sq footage of unusable space prorated for days not able to use. Her water service must provide hot water, and cooling system needs to be working with in normal service outage conditions,, 

or the unit is not considered suitable for living. 

She needs to follow the procedure in the tenant laws to protect her rights. Everything in writing, and take photo's / videos of current and coming living conditions. 

@Anthony Ellison I am certainly not saying she should have to stay in the apartment but does the amount of flooding play a factor in this? If they can clean everything up with a mop perhaps the flooding was only an inch or two? I have friends who's water line to the washer broke while they were on deployed and it wasn't caught until 2 weeks after. They replaced the carpet and drywall up to 1 foot and moved them back into the house after about 1 month. 

@Jessie Nunley

 Flooding of this nature is contaminated water,, it has more potential for health hazards and of course who know what's involved or how bad each situation is but the clean up efforts are going to be huge and each has it's own measure of how to deal with individual cases, broad spectrum is this is going to be worse than Katrina for housing losses

@Deanna McCormick the flooding is horrible and I fully understand the magnitude of housing losses. However, not every house, apartment, store is going to be 100% flooded. The degree of flooding will be dictated by the location. I do not know about the laws and rights of renters in Texas but I am sure a home that is 10% flooded is far less of a priority than a home that is 100% flooded. 

@Anthony Ellison, where is she now - in a shelter?  What about her furniture?  She has to get it to get pictures.  But even a little bayou water will smell!  And if the landlord is repairing sheetrock how long is that going to take?  I cant understand the a/c still working after flooding unless they were elevated?  Check with the area health department.  Good luck.

Once a area has been declared a disaster leases are terminated Fema quickly sets up shelters and assist people in finding new places to live The faster you move the better because there is a mad scramble to find new homes This exact situation happened to my sister-in law during Hurricane Sandy     

In the few cases I've seen, if the property is not habitable, it will eventually be condemned until it is fit for occupancy. 

The good thing is that every renter and every owner has insurance!! Right?? 

Contact your tenant insurance carrier and they will guide you through the process. 

The answers to your specific questions lie within the lease and your state law, both of which your insurance agent can answer. 

If the property is not habitable due to health or safety issues, the tenant may have the right to break the lease. They should contact an attorney immediately. There are too many unanswered questions for the BP internet lawyers to give proper legal advice:)