Can You Claim Compensation for Inconvenience and Discomfort If Rented House Becomes Uninhabitable Due to Owner's Negligence
In McBride v. Dice, 23 Kan. App. 2d 380, 383, 930 P.2d 631, 633 (1997), it was held that the plaintiffs, who were displaced from their home while termite damage was repaired, could recover only pecuniary damages and were not entitled to compensation for inconvenience and discomfort during the period of repairs.
On the other hand, some courts have extended the rule to occupants who have been driven from their homes.
In Truelock v. City of Del City, 1998 OK 64, 967 P.2d 1183 (Okla. 1998), the plaintiffs were forced to leave their house because of "constant flooding and sewage overflows," resulting from the defendant's negligence, that "made the house uninhabitable." Truelock, 967 P.2d at 1190.
They rented a house two doors down from the one they vacated.
The defendant argued that the plaintiffs were not "occupants" of the damaged property and therefore could not recover damages for annoyance, discomfort, and inconvenience. Truelock, 967 P.2d at 1190.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court reasoned that the record sufficiently established that the plaintiffs occupied the home, because the inconvenience and discomfort they endured was incidental to an interference with their possessory interest in the property. Truelock, 967 P.2d at 1190; accord McFadden v. Thompson-Starrett Co., 116 A.D. 285, 286, 101 N.Y.S. 467, 468 (App. Div. 1906) where defendant's negligence rendered the house plaintiff rented uninhabitable and plaintiff's family and servants lived in a hotel for 63 days, it was proper to instruct jury that damages could be awarded for, inter alia:
(1) the difference between the cost of the hotel suite and the rent for the house and;
(2) "the loss of comfort suffered by plaintiff and his family in consequence of defendant's negligent acts".