Disaster Information & Resources
My rental was flooded, burned, destroyed, etc., what can I do?
The County of Napa, The City of Napa, The Red Cross, The Volunteer Center, Catholic Charities and Napa Valley Nonprofit Coalition all have a role in assisting people before, during and after a natural disaster.
The Coalition of Non Profit Agencies sponsors NCORD (Napa County Organization Ready for Disaster) http://www.napanonprofits.org/committees.html
FOUR GENERAL SCENARIOS THAT MAY ARISE BETWEEN LANDLORDS AND TENANTS:
1. Both landlord and tenant want to cancel the rental agreement;
2. The landlord wants the tenant to move out; however, the tenant wants to stay;
3. The landlord and tenant want the tenant to stay; and
4. The landlord wants the tenant to stay; however the tenant wants to leave.
Given Napa’s lower than average vacancy rate and the impact of a disaster on the available housing, it is important to give tenants enough time to vacate and salvage their remaining and damaged possessions. Landlords and tenants should communicate openly about moving out or making necessary repairs or any other problems that may exist.
SCENARIO 1: Both landlord and tenant want to cancel the rental agreement
The landlord and tenant agree that the tenant will vacate. In order to begin repairs, the anxious landlord enters the tenant’s home. Since he only finds damaged furniture, the landlord assumes that the tenant has already cleared out everything he wants to keep. The landlord discards the tenant's ruined possessions. The next day the tenant returns to recover the remaining possessions that he intended to repair; however, the tenant find the door locked and the landlord tells the tenant that he has already removed all of the tenant's possessions. The tenant explains that he had not yet finished cleaning and that among the possessions thrown away were some antiques. Also, inside one of the discarded dressers was a valuable ring. The landlord could be held liable for lost property since he entered the premises and threw away the tenant's possessions without the tenant's knowledge or consent.
Even though the tenant wants to vacate, the landlord cannot enter the unit without permission or notice. The tenant still possesses the property and is entitled to privacy. The best way to handle this situation is to communicate and arrange a flexible, convenient, and expeditious manner of vacating the unit.
Landlords should provide a tenant with the time needed to vacate and salvage the remaining possessions. If the tenant seems unsure about how much time is needed to move out, a landlord can facilitate the tenant’s move out by assisting with moving costs, refunding the tenant’s security deposit, or moving the tenant into a different unit. None of these incentives is required, but may be worth the investment if they permit repair crews to fix the problems to enable the landlord to re-renting the dwelling.
SCENARIO 2: The landlord wants the tenant to move out; however, the tenant wants to stay
It is important for a landlord to remember the tenant’s right to notice to vacate, and the value of their possessions and privacy, regardless of the damage caused by the disaster. Although the unit may not be technically habitable, the tenant is still entitled to a 30-Day No Cause notice to terminate tenancy, (a 60-Day No Cause Notice is required for tenants that have resided in the unit for over a year).
The only agency that can ask a tenant to vacate immediately is the City of Napa Building Department & Code Enforcement Agency. If a landlord attempts to coerce or intimidate a tenant out of the unit, the landlord could be held responsible for damages in accordance with Civil Code 1940.2.
If a landlord needs a tenant to move out to make repairs, but the tenant does not want to leave or has no where to go, the landlord could consider assisting the tenant’s temporary relocation by returning the tenant’s security deposit and/or place the tenant in either vacant units they own or in hotels until the dwelling has been repaired.
When the unit is fixed, the tenant would be responsible for paying rent while beginning repayment of the deposit.
SCENARIO 3 The landlord and tenant want the tenant to stay
If the unit is damaged or destroyed and both the landlord and tenant want to return to life as usual after the necessary repairs have been made, the landlord has several options. In this case, it is easiest if the tenant is flexible and can stay with a relative, not pay rent, and move in once the unit is repaired. If this is not an option, the landlord can collect reduced rent and lodge the tenants until the dwelling has been repaired. The landlord and the tenant should always communicate clearly about the terms and timelines of the tenancy and repairs.
SCENARIO 4: The landlord wants the tenant to stay however the tenant wants to leave
If a tenant wants to leave a destroyed unit, he can terminate the tenancy as long as the dwelling is “destroyed” in accordance with Civil Code 1933. If the unit does not qualify as a “destroyed” unit, the landlord is still entitled to rent. This rent, however, should be pro-rated to represent the proper value of the dwelling.
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A landlord must serve a tenant with at least a 30-day No Cause notice if he requires the tenant to move out, (a 60-Day No Cause Notice is required for tenants that have resided in the unit for over a year).
Mutual agreements to terminate the rental agreement are permissible and should be done in writing.
Landlords cannot charge tenants for damages to areas destroyed by natural disasters. This does not prohibit a landlord from charging a tenant for damages to any other areas not affected by a disaster.
MOST COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Question 1 - Do I have to pay my rent if my dwelling is destroyed and I can't live there?
No. If a tenant cannot use the dwelling she is renting because it was destroyed, the landlord should not attempt to collect rent for the dwelling unless he intends to provide the tenant with lodging. If only part of the dwelling is damaged, the landlord can only collect pro-rated rent for the unaffected portion of the dwelling. We encourage landlords to provide their tenants with transitional lodging if necessary and possible. This, however, is not required unless the tenant paid rent and the unit was damaged and not repaired.
Question 2 - My home was not destroyed; however, when it rained water came in
through the walls and ceiling and destroyed my possessions. What are my rights?
In accordance with Civil Code 1941.1a, landlords are required to provide their tenants with "Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors." If a tenant's possessions are damaged as a result of repairs the landlord knew they needed to make yet neglected to make before the rain, the landlord could be held liable for the damages suffered by the tenant.
Question 3 - Can I get out of my contract because my unit was destroyed?
Yes. If a natural disaster has displaced you, and your dwelling has been destroyed and needs to be repaired before it can be re-occupied, you should consider finding a new rental. You should communicate with your landlord if you intend to vacate -- it is always best to keep landlord well informed of everything having to do with the tenancy.
The legal basis for the annulment of the contract is based on Civil Code 1932 and 1933. The Code states that a tenant ("hirer") may terminate their agreement as soon as they are no longer receiving the "thing" (dwelling) for which they paid, which in this case was presumably destroyed by a disaster. To ensure that this is a correct claim and the dwelling has been destroyed, the tenant should call the Building Department and ask for an inspection of the dwelling.
Question 4 - We need to move but we don't have any money. What can we do?
In a situation where the dwelling has been destroyed, forcing the tenant to vacate, the tenant should begin looking for either transitional or permanent housing. It is in the landlord and tenant’s best interest to return the tenant’s security deposit as soon as possible, enabling the tenant to pay for a security deposit on a new unit. With pro-rated rent and return of the security deposit, the tenant should have enough money to negotiate with a future landlord for a new dwelling.
If the dwelling is totally destroyed, it is fair to assume that the landlord will have to redo the entire house – replacing floors and walls – and as such, the tenant can only be charged for repairing damages to areas not affected by the flood.
Question 5 - Is the landlord responsible for paying me for my damaged possessions?
The landlord is not responsible for compensating tenants for their lost possessions or moving expenses resulting from the recent disaster. The landlord is only responsible for damages created or aggravated by the landlord's negligence (e.g. failure to fix a hole in the roof resulting in a carpet being destroyed by rain water); as such it is the renter's insurance policy that should compensate the tenant for possessions damaged by the disaster.
To review applicable law, please click the link below:
California Law: Civil Code Section 1925-1936.1
DISASTER INFORMATION & RESOURCES
• The California Emergency Management Agency Cal EMA: http://www.oes.ca.gov/
• The Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies sponsors the Napa County Organization Ready for Disaster NCORD http://www.napanonprofits.org/committees.html
• Napa County Red Cross: http://www.napacountyredcross.org/
• Napa County Volunteer Center: http://www.volunteernapa.org/Disaster.html
• NapaHelp.Info: http://www.napahelp.info/en/napa/cgi-bin/location.asp to locate different agencies and information about the type of assistance provided.
Napa River Levels: www.co.napa.ca.us/LIVING/LivingDetail.asp?LID=494
County Road Conditions: www.co.napa.ca.us/News.asp?ID=279
County of Napa Public Information Line - 707.299.1593. Live information on flood status available 24 hours a day during emergencies.
City of Napa Flood Information Line - 707.258.7813. Recorded message on flood status in English and Spanish from Public Information Office.
Napa City Sewer - 707.258.6014 (24-Hour emergency number)
Northern California Earthquake Hazards Program: http://quake.usgs.gov/
PG&E 24-hour Power Outage Hotline - 800.743.5002
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