Is the tenant or landlord responsible for damages in an apartment fire?


Both the tenant and the landlord have their specific responsibility in providing insurance protection (and subsequently, damages) as a result of a fire in a rental home or apartment. This means that both the tenant and the landlord have their particular responsibilities and rights when a fire occurs.

The landlord is responsible for the damages incurred by the building's structure and fixtures - including cabinets, countertops and plumbing. The renter or tenant, on the other hand, is responsible for the damages incurred on their personal property.

That means that if there is a fire that caused damage to the structure and fixtures of the apartment, the landlord will be the one responsible for having these fixed. The tenant will go to his insurance company in an effort to recover whatever loss or damage he has with his furniture, equipment, clothes and so on.

As for legal liability regarding on who caused the fire and the circumstances of the fire, that will be another issue.

  • If the renter can prove that the landlord was responsible for the fire (i.e. he was remiss in maintaining the apartment's electrical system and that caused the fire), he will pay for the damage, as well as for the renter's inconvenience. This includes damaged personal possessions, lost wages, the cost of renting another house as well as additional expenses related to the need to live in an alternative living arrangement.
  • If the landlord is unable to prove that the renter was the one who caused the fire, he is responsible for making sure that the damaged structures are repaired. This is because the landlord has the responsibility to maintain the rental unit in a condition that is considered habitable.
  • If the landlord can prove that the renter was the one who caused the fire, then he will be liability for paying to have the damage repaired.

When a fire occurs, you should:

  • Take pictures or videos of the damage. A claims adjuster may also be sent to investigate what caused the damage.
  • Notify your insurance company.
  • Investigate the cause of the damage. Was it caused by the tenant? Is there a failure in the electrical system?

Whether you are the tenant or the landlord, doing the three steps above can help you prepare to work with your landlord or tenant.

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