With the winter season fast approaching, we want to make sure that readers of our blog have all the necessary facts when it comes to how storms can affect your real estate property. Whether it be a commercial property or a private residence there are a few things that property owners need to be aware of when it comes to not only reporting damage, but how that damage can affect the people living inside the residence. In this blog post, we will be focusing on what can happen to lease agreements when a property becomes damaged from a storm.

One of the main questions that people in Michigan have been known to ask is, “are tenants required to continue a lease agreement on a home or property if that property is destroyed?” According to many real estate law attorneys, the answer is almost always no. There are a few stipulations though.

First, the answer depends upon the extent of the damage. A tenant is not required to pay rent for a building that has been destroyed, unless agreed upon in the lease or if the tenant was responsible for the destruction in the first place. If the home is currently uninhabitable, but can be repaired, the law requires tenants to notify their landlords so that repairs can be made. In instances such as this, if a landlord makes repairs within 30 days then a tenant may not cancel the lease agreement.

It is also important to point out that the law does not permit a tenant from terminating a fixed-term lease other than for the landlord’s breach or destruction of the premises. Tenants are advised to speak with their landlord to try to negotiate releases from a lease in the event that they wish to move following a storm.

As most people will tell you, timing is everything when it comes to getting out of lease agreements. Landlords want to make sure that they are keeping their occupants safe and happy, while tenants want to make sure that they have the freedom to leave any property they can either no longer live in or no longer desire to reside in without fear of legal repercussions.

Check back later this week when we discuss the sometimes complex issue of property damage and where and when liability comes into play.

Source: The Rockland County Times, “Hurricane Sandy Causes Legal Headaches,” Legal Larry, Nov. 8, 2012

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