Q: I recently rented a condo in Boca Raton, Fla. Last weekend there was a major sewage backup outside the building, and the apartment above mine got flooded and leaked through to my unit. Almost everything in my condo now needs to be replaced – the carpeting, drywall and even some of the owner's furniture I am using. What happens next? – Anonymous

A: Notify your landlord of the damages and he or she must make every reasonable effort to repair the property. If not, you may terminate the lease and move out and on with your life.

If the landlord does try to repair the property, you do not need to pay any rent while the property remains uninhabitable. If you are able to stay, but the unit is still partly unusable, your liability for rent would be reduced by the fair rental value of the damaged portion.

Keep in mind that if you terminate the lease, you have to give the landlord seven days' notice in writing, as per Florida law.

Your situation highlights the need for renter's insurance. While your landlord will most likely have homeowner's insurance, that policy will not cover you. Any home can be subject to theft, fire, flooding and other issues, and most renters don't have insurance in place to protect themselves from these eventualities.

You should ask about options that not only cover your things, but also provide personal liability protection in case a guest sues you.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at http://sunsent.nl/mR20t7 or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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