More mailbag questions today, this one inspired by this scene in The Flash Vol. 3, #2. Charles asks:
Now, what the Flash does here is pretty freaking cool, but as you can see in my tags… what happens afterwards? Who owns that building? Do the tenants have to pay rent? Is there going to have to be a contract worked out between the landowners and the Flash? Even if it passes code, will it still be approved for someone to live in because the Flash, from all appearances, isn’t a certified home builder?
There are a lot of questions here, but let’s start at the beginning.
I. Who Owns the Building? And What About Rent?
Regardless of the prior ownership situation, it’s clear that The Flash is offering the building as a gift. Acceptance of that gift won’t require a contract (indeed gratuitous transfers are a classic example of a situation in which a contract does not exist). Whether the owner will accept that gift is the real question.
If the owner of the prior building is the same as the owner of the land it sat on, then they’re unlikely to turn down a nice new building (assuming we can handwave any building code issues). But if the landowner is not the same as the building owner, then the landowner might have welcomed the opportunity to terminate their agreement with the building owner, perhaps to consolidate lots, rezone the property, redevelop, or simply to sell or lease to someone else. They might not be so keen on the new building.
It is also possible that the building and land were owned by the tenants themselves, which would probably simplify matters.
In any event, the tenants would almost certainly have to continue to pay rent. They might not have to renegotiate their leases. Apartment lease agreements commonly refer to a unit at an address, not to a specific building. They also typically have clauses dealing with the destruction of the building, but from what I’ve seen of lease agreements it’s entirely possible that the tenants would have a right to continue to lease a unit in the new building (assuming the building owner accepted the gift, etc).
II. Building Code and Permit Issues
Now we start getting into the real problems. In addition to The Flash (presumably) not being a licensed contractor, he certainly didn’t pull the required permits for rebuilding. There may not be much legal leeway for the building to be approved without those licenses and permits. And there are good reasons for this: we’re given to understand that The Flash did a good job of rebuilding, but what if he missed something? It might not be so easy for the injured party to haul him into court.
And moreover, although the tenants ask “where are we going to live now?”, unless there’s a housing shortage the answer is “another apartment, since you can terminate the lease for the now non-existent one.” To the extent that their property was destroyed, well, that’s what renter’s insurance is for. Now, they may not have had insurance, and finding and moving into a new place is costly. But it seems to me that The Flash could have more easily (and legally) used his powers to quickly make a bunch of money and then just given that to the tenants. That might be more realistic, but it wouldn’t be very fun.
More questions remain: where did he get the building materials? How did he pay for them? If he could buy a building’s worth of materials, why not just give the tenants the money? But the bottom line seems to be that even if he could convince the landowner to accept the gift of the building and the city to approve its construction, it probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. It did make for an awesome comic book scene, though.