Dear Consumer Ed:
The power was out in my apartment for a week as the result of a bad storm. I could not stay there because it was too cold. Shouldn’t the apartment complex prorate my rent?
Consumer Ed says:
The first thing you should do is review your lease agreement to determine whether it covers this particular situation. Your lease agreement governs your rights and the landlord’s duties.
If this circumstance is not mentioned in your lease agreement, you need to consider the following. While Georgia law does not address this exact situation, it does require a landlord to keep the property in good repair. However, Georgia law also states that the loss of possession by any casualty not caused by the landlord would not void or decrease the amount of rent the tenant owes. There is also an implied warranty of habitability requiring a landlord to take reasonable care to maintain the property in the condition in which it was rented.
If your power outage was not caused by the landlord’s failure to maintain or repair your property and if the ability to restore the power was not within your landlord’s control, then the landlord may not be legally obligated to prorate your rent. Nevertheless, you should notify your landlord that you were without power and that you vacated the property for a week because the cold temperatures rendered it inhabitable. He or she may voluntarily agree to prorate your rent under the circumstances.
If your landlord refuses to prorate your rent, and if this is unacceptable to you, you can try pursuing the matter in magistrate court (also known as “small claims court”). The State Bar of Georgia (404-527-8700 or 800-334-6865) can give you information on locating an attorney.