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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 118634
Experience:  Licensed attorney practicing landlord-tenant, land use and other real estate law and litigation.
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I live in Houston, Texas, in a home I just moved to six

Customer Question

I live in Houston, Texas, in a home I just moved to six weeks ago that is near the Addicks Reservoir flood control project. I am a 72 years physician surgeon who is a veteran with vision in one eye but hold an active State medical license Upon searching for a home to move I found a licensed realtor in Texas who also is the sole owner of the house I leased. I made it clear before signing a one year lease with a one month rent deposit on 15 June, 2017, that I was still active in surgery and required a residence where there was no history of road blockage or flooding that could prevent me from answering an emergency call. I asked the owner directly is there was any history of flooding both into the house or blocking the streets since it was built in 1993, and he said there had been only one flood in the street that cleared in less than an hour but never any water inside the home. I had noticed that the entire very tall house which had only a small second flood with two bedrooms and a full bath leaving a huge open space 25 feet put to the ceiling in the combined great room and dining room. The master was on the first floor which I needed with my bad football knees as I am a very big man and still very strong. I asked him these questions in his office with his assistant receptionist present which included his advice about my taking out renter's insurance. He suggested the usual renter's policy that covers everything but a flood but he advised against flood insurance as it would be far too expensive for a renter to carry. He told me he did carry flood insurance on the property but it would not cover any of my property if there was a loss. But since in nearly 25 years since built even close to a large flood reservoir he said the cost to me would be so high that he doubted if I could afford to pay the lease and both types of insurance. When Harvey hit I was the only person I am aware of who stayed the entire time now almost three weeks up on the second floor. I used my own property to dam the three doors into the house and fought for days to save the home actually in an emergency situation using me own personal property as part of my make shift dams that for the first water that tried to come into the home they held letting none in. Then just hours after the Army Corps of Engineers and the Houston Flood Control spokesman went on the Sunday 10pm news warming people in communities they named near this Reservoir and one other that at 2am the flood gates would be opened four miles away from this house which is at the highest beginning of the Reservoir and that 1000 homes would flood and that people listed by color on their flood map would have up to noon Monday to get things in their car and drive out. I finally found a copy of the map published on the TV station home page and it showed by color that this house was would not flood but the street in front of the house would up to about where my driveway began. So I worked for hours packing my car and at just after 8am I was shocked to find the unflooded street at 4am now under a foot of water and rising very fast which seemed impossible since I am located that the opposite end from the dam that drains toward the City of Houston. I jumped in my car be at the street level the rear of the car started to float and I had to race back up my short drive and get out taking what I could as the water came up a full foot in less that an hour causing my car to flood and float so I tied it to a tree with a heave rope and rushed inside through the flooding garage just in time to get the door closed into the kitchen and put my previous make shift dam in place. But this time even as I fought using my own property to fortify the entrances the water seemed to come in through the walls as the house sits on a concrete slab and construction is all large brick outside. i then spent the next day fighting to get things further elevated trying to save anything possible and with my bad knees getting what I could u
JA: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: Texas, Houston involving the Hurricane Harvey flood loss.
JA: Has any paperwork been filed?
Customer: I filed for FEMA emergency assistance and the inspector came so awaiting his findings, He was a veteran structural engineer and noticed the amazing work I had done saving the house while seeing the near total loss of all my personal property including my car.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No, if he or see reads my blight that I have endured here that should do it to help give me guidance. Thank you.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

What is your specific question about this issue, as many houses in Houston that never ever flooded before, including those of several of my colleagues, did flood? Do you have any evidence to suggest that the landlord misrepresented prior flooding you asked about?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
In his office this owner realtor sat with me and his assistant and we thoroughly talked my situation out concerning my history as a veteran plastic surgeon and also an ENT surgeon who often received emergency calls that I had to respond to at all hours. I asked directly about the amazing shape of the house which seemed almost all new inside as if there had been some major event to cause such a redo of a home. I was concerned there was something I was not being told. I asked directly about the history of flooding both in the streets or into the house in the past. He said in 25 years only one street flood that cleared in less than an hour. So I was still concerned so I directly wrote in the lease words to the effect that:, "that I had fully disclosed my needs as a professional surgeon and my limitations at my age with limited vision in one eye and that the realtor owner assured me that there was no history of repeating problems with the house of neighborhood including no history of house flooding or street flooding that could affect my needs as a surgeon.: In fact on research there was a major flooding in this area, Bear Creek Village including the home and street each of the last two years in 2015 and 2016 that caused significant damage. Neighbors I have met since the flood all tell me that street flooding preventing anything but a monster truck getting out happens as often as ten or more times per year and stays flooded for hours if not days. Had he disclosed this I certainly would nave not leased this home and as a result not lost about everything I own with no insurance coverage which he also advised me to no get,,flood,,as it would be far to costly and I would likely not be able to pay the rent and normal renters insurance if I added flood on as well. Not to worry as never flooded when in fact it has.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
As power goes on and off here and my phone has been also damaged, I am concerned out call would get dropped.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

Thank you for your reply and the important additional information.

If you specifically asked about flooding and the landlord misrepresented the nature of flooding in the street as well as in the home, then he would be in breach of lease based on misrepresentation. By being in breach of lease for the misrepresentation about prior flooding, you could potentially sue him for your damages, including rent to stay elsewhere, damage to your property from flooding he said had never occurred previously. I said potentially because there is another issue (and his likely defense) in that if he can prove that even if the area had never flooded before your house would have flooded because of the nature of Harvey (causing flooding to houses that never flooded previously). The counter to his likely defense would be that the house HAD flooded previously and you have proof which you would present to the court, which shows intentional misrepresentation, which makes his possible defense invalid, since misrepresentation voids a contract and is grounds to seek damages.

So, yes, you could sue him for damages resulting from his misrepresentation.

Please do not forget to leave positive feedback by clicking on the 5 stars at the top of your page, as the experts are not employees of the site and get no credit for spending time with customers unless they leave positive feedback. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
What would you recommend I do to his demand yesterday that I sign a Termination of Lease, and agree to vacate the property including removing all my property in just 48 hours? He knows the heroics I did saving massive additional damage to his home, and the fact I have NO car,,can find no car to rent,,,my car still not picked up so cannot get a voucher of total loss to put towards a purchase of another car, I am and have been stuck here for almost three weeks having had the chance to get out by boat twice with the police but was given no time to get my vital things like medications and cpap supplies and such, so I had to stay. No FEMA help yet and I have only had Internet on for two days to try and ask for help like we are doing. I have saved thousands of lives over the years and have been the good guy giving my all to those in need while now I am the one in need. This looks like the classic good guys finish last, set up. Should he be required to pay for a temporary hotel or apartment for me while repairs to the house are accomplished? And I did not request a lease termination, he did in spite of all I have done and my current situation of being stuck here. The fact it is clear from photos that I used my own personal property to dam the doors and limit damage to him count for something related to his covering some of the cost of all I have lost? What if he tries to have me evicted when I cannot get out to even get packing supplies and tape or get food and water. Is there not a clause where by a landlord and owner is responsible of paying for temporary housing and movement a tenants property during the home reconstruction of a property leased and damaged by such a natural disaster?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

Thank you for your reply.

He cannot DEMAND you sign a termination of lease, you have a lease and you are entitled to enforce the lease. He cannot evict you. If the home is not in livable condition, he must pay for you to stay elsewhere or forgive the rent until the home is habitable again and you are entitled to continue with the remaining time on the lease. You need to respond to his demand stating you have a written lease, one that he induced by committing a material misrepresentation regarding prior flooding and that you seek to enforce your rights under the lease and the law based on his material misrepresentations including a complaint to the real estate licensing board for him materially misrepresenting the prior flooding in the property. You should also tell him in the letter that in lieu of enforcing your rights you are willing to consider a reasonable offer to buy you out of the lease which must include the cost of damage to your property and give him what you believe to be a reasonable estimate of your damages and costs of moving in the letter.

If he refuses your demand to settle, you should not sign the termination of lease and consider hiring a local attorney to sue him for damages.

Please do not forget to leave positive feedback by clicking on the 5 stars at the top of your page, as the experts are not employees of the site and get no credit for spending time with customers unless they leave positive feedback. Thank you.