Rent rebate sought after evacuation

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Q: We live in an apartment complex in the San Diego area, for which we pay $2,400 per month. During the fires of October 2007, the authorities ordered all of us to evacuate on Sunday the 29th, and we spent five days at a shelter. Fortunately, the building wasn't damaged. We think we're owed a retrospective rent rebate from our landlord to compensate us for the time we couldn't live in the apartment, but she disagrees, saying that the wildfires were hardly her fault. Still, the 20 of us who live here paid for apartments that we couldn't use. Who's right? --Bill L. A: Your question would warm the hearts of law professors and law students everywhere. At the risk of arousing their ire, here's my take: Let's suppose that the wildfires had destroyed the building instead. According to the laws of many states, in that situation the tenants would not be entitled to a rebate of rent already paid, but the lease would terminate. In your case, I assume you had paid the rent for October...