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If there is a fire in a rental unit, should the landlord return some of the prepaid rent to the tenant? For example, if the tenant paid $1,000 on November 1 for the month of November and there is a fire on November 15th making the apartment unlivable for the rest of November, should the tenant be reimbursed $500 (1/2 of the $1,000 monthly rent)?

This is a specific incident, but basically they are legally supposed to release you from the contract and return the full security deposit. However unless it is stated in the lease the rent may held, the landlord can offer the prorated amount, which is fair and decent.
Depending on the cause of the fire.. If the investigator finds that it was due negligence or illegal act by the tenant or his guest, then the landlord may use the deposit to try to reduce the damage caused by negligence.    What caused the fire?  What does your lease say about the premises being made uninhabitable?  Was the entire premises burned?  or was the fire specific to one part of the rental?  If specific, what area of the rental was uninhabitable?  All of these would affect whether the lease is ended, or whether abatement should occur and how much abatement is warranted.  Generally a release occurs if the premises are completely uninhabitable and the repairs cannot be made in a reasonably short time.
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