Tenants Rights Upon Condemnation

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 Does a Lease Terminate When a Building Is Condemned?

A lease is a type of legal agreement that is entered into when an individual, called a tenant, rents property from the owner, called a landlord. A residential lease is signed when the property is used for a residential purpose, or for living.

Lease agreements usually contain terms and conditions of the lease, including the date that the lease expires and the amount of rent the tenant is required to pay. The lease will also outline the legal rights and responsibilities of the parties.

Specifically, a residential lease is used to ensure that the residential property offers sufficiently habitable living conditions and that the landlord does not interfere with the rights of the residential tenant unless absolutely necessary.

There are several different types of residential leases which may be used for houses, apartments, or other types of residential units. Although it is not absolutely necessary to hire an attorney when considering a residential lease, it is very helpful to have an attorney review the document prior to signing.

An attorney can ensure that the prospective tenant is not agreeing to any terms which would constitute unfair bargaining practices and that the document is not fraudulent or forged. In addition, if the prospective tenant wishes to negotiate a lease term, their lawyer would be able to assist and ensure their interests were protected.

Condemnation is defined as the taking or acquisition of private property for a public purpose. In some cases, the right to condemn is referred to as the power of eminent domain. According to condemnation law, local, state, and federal governments have the right to condemn private property.

These rights have been delegated to governmental agencies. In addition, these rights have been delegated to certain private entities, including public utilities and common carriers. An entity that has the right to condemn is known as a condemning authority.

A property is condemned when a local government determines that a property is no longer fit for human habitation. There are numerous housing code violations that can result in a building being condemned.

Individuals are not permitted to live or work inside a building that has been condemned. However, it is possible to reoccupy the building if all of the violations are corrected to the local government’s standards with the necessary documentation. If an individual is unable to fix the problems, they may be required to move out immediately and permanently.

Some of the reasons that a local government may condemn a home include:

  • The home is vacant and has been abandoned or completely boarded up for at least 2 months;
  • There are no utilities connected to the home such as power, running water, etc.;
  • An inspector makes a report which cites specific hazards in the home which may include dangerous materials or locations;
  • The home is dilapidated, meaning the inspector determines the home is qualified for condemnation without citing a specific hazard.

Complete condemnation of a property will terminate a lease because there is no housing remaining for the tenant to reside in. Pursuant to condemned house rules, condemnation terminates the tenant’s liability for the accrual of rent after title to the property vests in the condemnor, which is typically the local government or housing authority.

Is Rent Paid after the City Housing Authority or the Government Takes over Returnable to Me?

If an individual receives a notice that their residence is going to be condemned, there are steps they may be able to take to prevent that from happening. In many cases, the individual can create a contract with the local government agency to negotiate a timeline for the rehabilitation of their property.

Once the repairs are completed, the individual can schedule a time for the local inspector from the housing authority to visit the residence and confirm all of the code violations are remedied. In order to reverse a condemnation status, the individual will need to have at least the following items in working order:

  • Heat;
  • Hot water;
  • Light fixtures;
  • Plumbing;
  • Safe electrical outlets; and
  • Ventilation.

The individual will need to ensure their residence does not have any pest issues and is structurally sound. This includes having any balcones, porches, and railings in good condition.

Condemnation can also apply to land. Land condemnation is a legal process by which the condemnor seizes private land for a public purpose, benefit, or use pursuant to eminent domain. In order for the condemnation to be constitutional, the condemnor must demonstrate that the action serves a public purpose and pay just compensation to the owner of the land.

If an individual is renting a residence or a piece of property, any rent that was paid in advance prior to condemnation should be refunded to the tenant. A condemnation provides a tenant with two possible claims for compensation. These include:

  • The value of the unexpired portion of the lease; or
  • The value of the fixtures that the tenant has made on the property, including:
    • Installations;
    • Alternations;
    • Additions; and
    • Improvements.

What Happens If Only Part of the Land, Property, or Building Is Condemned?

Partial condemnation occurs when only part of a piece of property or part of the property rights is seized under the power of eminent domain. The condemning authority will be required to provide just compensation for the decrease in value of the remaining portion of the property.

For example, if a partial condemnation results in a city taking most of a store’s parking lot, then that store will likely suffer a loss of revenue because customers cannot park. In addition, the property not taken will decrease in value due to the partial taking.

With a partial condemnation, the question of whether that taking terminates a lease is not entirely clear. Courts are split on how to handle a lease connected to a partial condemnation.

Generally, the courts have held that if a condemnation affects the nature and character of the lease and substantially impairs the habitability of the residence, then the lease should be terminated.

Can a Tenant Recover for the Remaining Part of the Lease?

Generally, so long as there is no agreement to the contrary, a tenant whose lease is terminated by a condemnation has a claim for the value of the unexpired lease term. However, the tenant can only recover for that unexpired term if they are likely going to suffer losses related to being required to pay for alternative housing.

In other words, if the residential market for similar accommodations requires the tenant to pay more, the tenant may recover losses. In addition, the tenant cannot recover attorney’s fees for going to court for their claim to recover losses that are related to the lease.

If a tenant is a month-to-month tenant, they can only recover a portion of the rent they would have paid if they had lived on the premises for the entire month. In other words, if the tenant had intended to reside on the property for 30 days but the condemnation required them to leave after only 15 days, they would only be entitled to recover half the rent. A month-to-month tenant is not entitled to recover moving costs or attorney’s fees which are related to the condemnation.

How Often Do Condemnation Clauses Appear in Leases?

It is common for a condemnation clause to appear in a commercial and a residential lease, especially in areas which are disaster prone, including areas near:

  • Oceans;
  • Rivers; and
  • Earthquake zones.

A tenant should review these clauses carefully before signing a lease. If condemnation does arise, the tenant should refer to the clause in their lease.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Yes, it is very important to contact a landlord-tenant lawyer with any condemnation issues you may face. If you are a tenant who is in a long term lease or a tenant with a commercial lease, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

The termination of a long term lease can result in serious loss for you as a tenant and, therefore, you have substantial rights. Your lawyer can review your lease, explain your rights, and help you recover for your losses sustained as a result of a condemnation.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer