Your Rights as a Renter after the Flood

Asiah Lewis comes home to her apartment in Summerton, S.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, three days after severe flooding forced her and other residents to evacuate. The apartment Lewis shares with her four children and her mother took on about six inches of water as record rainfall drenched South Carolina. Now her family is staying at a shelter with no guarantee how quickly the apartment will be cleaned and repaired. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

CHARLESTON, SC – South Carolina has laws to protect you if you rent or lease your home. Attorney Stephan Futeral says that some of the flood damage is your responsibility, but then some of it is the landlords.

Latasia Delaney rents her apartment in Summerville. Water damaged her personal property. Things like TVs, clothing and furniture are ruined.

“All this stuff in this laundry room is molded, she pointed out. “All I did was just set it up on top of that table…the bags here. Everything in those two closets in the hallway is wet and molded ”

But according to attorney Stephan Futeral, her landlord is not responsible for those things. “Landlord can’t be responsible for the damage to a person’s property,” Futeral says. “If they are renting an apartment say and the flood damaged furniture, stereo equipment…personal effects. The landlord is not going to be responsible for that.”

Delaney is not able to live in her house because the floors are soggy, the ceiling is caving in and there is mold growing from the vents. “I can’t stay in filth.” Delaney says, “my daughter right there…she’s pregnant we can’t be here in filth like that.”

Futeral says it is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure a home is livable. “In terms of the overall habitability… In other words, can you live in it? The landlord is responsible for that,” Futeral stated.

If it is a situation where you cannot live in your home, Futeral says there are steps you can take. “Number one, the tenant can stop paying their rent for the period of time that they are not able to occupy the premises. And two, the tenant can send the landlord a letter or something in writing saying they have 14 days from the receipt of the letter…or from when the letter is sent rather. They have 14 days…the landlord does…to repair the premises. Otherwise, if that isn’t done on a timely base…then the tenant can walk. They’re free from the lease.”

But for some like that Delaney getting out of a lease doesn’t help.

“How am I supposed to find another place to stay,” Delaney asked. “I’m on my own. I am on my own.”

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