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I rent an apartment in Oregon and have been out of power for nearly a week following a pretty nasty ice storm that hit the area. Our local power company has so far been unable to restore power due to the widespread nature of the damage (our block is apparently low-priority!)

The unit is heated electrically, so without power I have no heat and I'm unable to live in my apartment. I'm couch surfing with friends and family until power is restored. Since a landlord is required to provide heat and electrical power to the dwelling, is this something I should expect to see a reduced rent for?

The Oregon Tenant and Landlord Duties document I found from NCSL states

ORS 90.320 A landlord shall at all times during the tenancy maintain the dwelling unit in a habitable condition. For purposes of this section, a dwelling unit shall be considered unhabitable if it substantially lacks:

...

(d) Adequate heating facilities that conform to applicable law at the time of installation and maintained in good working order;

(e) Electrical lighting with wiring and electrical equipment that conform to applicable law at the time of installation and maintained in good working order;

  • I'm hardly willing to burn a bridge with my landlord over what will constitute less than $100.00, but it would certainly help with the extra costs that have come from lengthier commutes to work, pitching in groceries with the people who've been putting me up, etc. – Adam Smith Dec 20 '16 at 23:30
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    You probably dont have a "legal" claim against the landlord. Do you pay the landlord for Electricity, or do you pay it directly? There is nothing to stop you asking the landlord if he is willing to reduce the rent for the period as the place is not useable - the worst he can say is no - and he may be willing to do that to keep a good tenant happy. – davidgo Dec 21 '16 at 18:45
  • @davidgo worth a shot, but unlikely to help. This landlord, although professional and prompt, isn't likely to do anything for a tenant out of the kindness of his heart. Thank you for the advice though! – Adam Smith Dec 21 '16 at 18:46
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You could first look for a force majeure clause in the lease which says something about natural disasters and the like. If there is a clause which says e.g. "Landlord will not be held responsible for problems arising from ice storms", that doesn't help you, but maybe it specifies e.g. rent reduction of $2/day for lack of electricity. That doesn't mean he can ignore the law. However, in this situation, a particular reading of the law ("there must be an infallible supply of electricity") imposes an impossible requirement on the landlord, and the courts probably won't require a landlord to do the impossible.

It is not clear that your situation violates either the letter or the spirit of the law. Take clause (d): your "heating facilities" presumably conformed to applicable law at the time of installation and have since been maintained, and they are adequate, but they don't work if the grid doesn't supply power (and that is not a matter under the landlord's control). In other words, he provided the "infrastructure", and the problem is on the power company's end. Likewise "electrical lighting with wiring and electrical equipment" -- an ordinary interpretation of that clause is "wires and fixtures", and doesn't include "flow of electrons", which is supplied by your local power company.

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    I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of thing has already been settled by a court. A local landlord/tenant lawyer ought to know of course, but a local tenant assistance program, if one exists, would probably also know. – phoog Dec 22 '16 at 19:41
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To Answer your question. Absolutely not. Landlords are not responsible for the weather and weather related power outages. If the electric company can not deal with the problem that how on earth should the landlord be expected to deal with it.

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    The landlord doesn't need to be responsible for the weather or the outage, they just need to be responsible for providing electricity and/or a means of heating the place. Landlords can rent a generator or install a temporary furnace - that it would be expensive is their problem, not the tenant's, modulo cost-sharing in reasonable basis. Universal claims that mislead are not appropriate responses. – Nij Oct 31 '17 at 3:23

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