THERE'S A STORM COMING: WHAT EAST BAY TENANTS NEED TO KNOW
What if the storm impacts my home?
Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home safe and habitable.
However, to respond to a problem, they have to know there is an issue in your unit. A tenant's first step should always be to contact the landlord and ask them to address the problem. If your landlord refuses, you will need to decide if it is an emergency. If it is an emergency, you must call 911. If it can wait a few days, you can call 311.
When is the condition of my home an emergency?
It is an emergency when you believe you might be at risk of immediate harm. This is not a black and white decision, so trust yourself. If you are scared, call 911. The operator is trained to help you know when you need emergency assistance.
Is my landlord responsible for flood damage, or is there a “natural disaster” exception?
Flooding due to rain does not mean your landlord is not responsible. If there was a hurricane and the entire city flooded because the rivers overflowed or there was a tsunami, then some relocation protections might not apply. However, every rental should stay water-free even when there is extensive rain.
What should you do if your home is flooding or your roof is leaking?
Call your landlord immediately. Even if the landlord responds, follow up with an email or text restating what you said during your call so that you have proof you informed your landlord. If your landlord does not respond, call 911 or 311, depending on how serious it is.
You can use our sample email here.
Thank you for speaking with me today. I wanted to remind you that we talked about the following:
[I tried to contact you __ times by ________. I could not reach you]
The rains have caused serious problems at my home at [your address]. These issues include
1) [insert specific issue]
2) [insert specific issue]
3) [insert specific issue]
Please contact me immediately to tell me how you plan to resolve these issues.
What should I do if my roof caves in?
Get out of your home to somewhere safe, call 911 and then call your landlord.
My utility (electricity or gas) has stopped working. What can I do?
What to do when you lose a utility service depends on whether you can wait for it to return. If you are on a breathing machine or have another medical emergency, you should call 911 immediately.
If you are not in danger, your first step is to confirm whether it is an issue with your building or unit or if it is an issue with PG&E. You can sign up for PG&E power outage text notifications or see if your PG&E is out at the following website: Power outage alerts and information. You can also call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.
If your apartment has PG&E service, but you still don’t have electricity, you should contact your landlord immediately. Advise them that you have checked and there is no power outage in your neighborhood. If your landlord does not respond, call city code enforcement through 311.
I have to leave my home. Who is responsible for paying for my hotel costs?
Your landlord is normally responsible for paying for your hotel. You can ask your landlord to pay for the hotel when you tell them that you need to leave your home because of bad conditions.
If your landlord refuses to pay for the hotel and you have to pay for it yourself, keep all your receipts. This includes all receipts for your hotel stay and any food you buy or other expenses you have while you are out of your home. You should ask your landlord to reimburse you for all of these costs.
If you live in the City of Richmond, your landlord will have to pay you larger relocation payments or offer you replacement housing. You should contact the Richmond Rent Program for more information.
If you live in another city with a rent board, contact your rent board about your city’s relocation requirements.
Do I have to pay rent while I am outside of my apartment?
This depends on the situation and the other resources that are being provided by your landlord. If your landlord is paying for your hotel and all other out-of-pocket expenses, then it is likely that you should pay rent.
What if I continue to live in my home, but the electricity or other utilities are not working?
If your utilities are not working because your landlord has failed to make the repairs, then your landlord should reduce your rent during the interruption. If you ask for repairs and your landlord refuses, you can file a petition with the Rent Board to ask for a reduction if you have a rent board in your city.
If your utilities are out because there is a service interruption in your area beyond just your building, your landlord is not required to reduce your rent.
What do I do if the storm damages my belongings?
Generally, your belongings should not be damaged when it rains. This is usually a sign that your landlord has failed to maintain the property. When landlords do not maintain a property in good condition, they must pay for the harm caused.
Your first step should be to document any damage to your belongings by taking pictures or videos. You should send your landlord a letter or email asking them to reimburse you.
What role does insurance play when there is a storm?
Most landlords have at least some insurance covering their property. This insurance often covers issues such as damage to tenants’ property. Many landlords do not want to file claims on behalf of tenants as they fear their insurance rates will go up. If you have suffered significant financial harm that your landlord has not reimbursed, you should contact a private tenant attorney who can help you access the landlord’s insurance policy.
You might also have renters insurance. Renters' insurance can be a valuable tool if you are displaced or your property is damaged in a storm. If you have a renters insurance policy, you should file a claim with your policy.
What if I don’t have renters insurance, and my landlord says they are not responsible for reimbursing me?
If you ask your landlord to reimburse you for your belongings and they refuse, you should contact a private tenant attorney. If you cannot find an attorney, you can file a case in small claims court. If you file in small claims court, you should be prepared to explain why the damage was your landlord’s fault. For example, “my apartment flooded because the windows were in bad condition” or “my apartment flooded because it is at the bottom of a hill and my landlord did not install a drainage system.”
What if I permanently moved out of my apartment because of bad conditions?
You do not need to permanently give up your tenancy just because your landlord is delaying making repairs and you are living away from your home. However, if you choose to move out permanently because the conditions are too bad to live in, you also have that option.
California law says that if a tenant lets their landlord know about an uninhabitable condition, and the landlord does not fix it within a reasonable time, the tenant can move out and end their tenancy, even if they have to break their lease to do so. The tenant cannot have caused the condition.
If you need to do this because your landlord is not making repairs, you should make sure you ask for the repair in writing, take pictures and video of the issue, and also let your landlord know in writing that you are moving out permanently because of the bad conditions they did not fix.
In some situations, depending on the city you live in, your landlord may owe you additional relocation payments. These can be substantial amounts. You should contact your local housing department or rent board for more information.