Q: Do I have a right to break a lease if I was forced out of my apartment?
My apartment was rendered uninhabitable by smoke and structural damage caused by a lethal fire that occurred directly next door to us. I filed a claim with my renter's insurance but we have been displaced for a week now and will be for at least another based on professional estimates. The apartment complex told us we had to still pay a full moth's rent, since it was not their fault, and that the deceased tenant's insurance will reimburse us for any rent paid that was not used. We were also told that we cannot break the lease if we wanted to since the fire is not their fault. Have our rights been violated? I have read Louisiana civil code articles 2693 and 2715 and believe we do indeed have the right to reduced rent and termination of the lease. Also, we are not 100 percent sure that the tenant caused the fire. Should I hire a lawyer? I could really use some guidance here. Thanks!
A: If you cannot occupy the leased premises, you likely should not have to pay rent. However, your lease may have a specific "fire and casualty clause" spelling out the exact remedies. For example, if the premises are untenable, abatement of rent should certainly occur, and if repairs not made by a certain time, the lease should be terminated. Specific review of the terms are necessary to provide more precise recommendations, and then, if warranted, demand to the Lessor.
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