Attorney Analyzes Landlord, Tenant Dispute over Collapsed Ceiling

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What could be worse than the ceiling literally caving in on you? What about being forced to pay for breaking your lease because of it all? That’s just what two former tenants at Sacramento’s Riverfront Apartment tenants say is happening to them.

“’Heather, without the lease being signed you are legally obligated to your entire lease. You are financially responsible for your lease break fee,’” said tenant Heather Chaplin as she read from an email sent by her landlord.

That email to Chaplin followed a May 6 roof collapse that affected 21 units.

Complex owner Clifford Orloff had hired a crew to do roof repair but they had to stop work because the crew was missing required permits.

That crew left holes in the roof exposed to the elements.

Heavy rains were able to pour through those holes and caused the collapse.

While others returned to their apartments after a long stint in a hotel and extensive repairs, Chaplin took Orloff up on his offer to opt out of her lease.

But now that she has, Orloff’s threatening to make her pay her way out unless she signs a release waiving his liability for her damaged personal property.

“It does seem a little sneaky.  I’d call it a bait and switch at the last minute,” said attorney Deborah Barron.

Barron admits all this is anything, but black and white.

“[Tenants] would have affirmative defenses should they get sued for the full price of the lease by the landlord and they could potentially have a cross complaint for the landlord as well,” she said.

A big snag in all this for tenants like Chaplin could be wording in their original lease.

The wording requires them to have their own insurance to cover losses due to “fire and other causes,” saying the landlord is not responsible.

Chaplin cancelled her renter’s policy a month before the collapse.

Still she says the severity of what’s happened should supersede the lease.

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