Important Information on Fire Damage Responsibilities
A fire can be devastating and affect the lives of both tenants and owners. Understanding the responsibilities of both can make the recovery process after a fire significantly smoother. Find out what the tenant and owner responsibilities are after a fire and how the experts at SERVPRO of Albany and Americus can have your property looking like new.
Rental Properties: Who is Responsible for Fire Damage?
According to the National Fire Protection Association, non-wildfire structural fires cost Americans over $11 Billion in 2019. Living through a fire is stressful, especially when it comes to dealing with the aftermath. From cleaning to recovering your lost goods, the entire process is full of heartbreak.
The effects of fire damage are even worse in tenant/landlord relationships. Determining who is at-fault and untangling the legal mess can lead to litigation and sleepless nights.
Preparation is the best way to avoid much of the stress of dealing with fire damage. Landlords and tenants should understand their responsibilities before signing a lease. They should also know their roles in the fire restoration process.
Who is responsible for coordinating cleanup? What insurance policies are needed?
Answering questions like these makes navigating the process much smoother.
The property owner is responsible for providing a safe living space for the tenant, which means addressing potential fire hazards. Items like bad wiring, unsafe appliances, and construction that does not meet building code can pose a fire risk.
After a fire, the landlord will need to work with their insurance company to restore the building. In most cases, the property owner has to pay for structural repairs, as well as replace building fixtures like cabinets and plumbing.
In most cases, the landlord is not responsible for replacing the tenant’s property, only items that come with the rental.
The tenant is liable for their personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics. Many property owners require that tenants have renter's insurance for precisely this reason. These policies cover their personal belongings in the event of natural disasters, theft, and other incidents.
Even more important, renter’s insurance can pay for fire damage should the tenant be at fault. If the tenant was cooking unsafely or simply knocked over a candle, they could be held responsible for repaying the damages.
Who Caused the Fire?
Insurance companies want to avoid paying out large amounts, so they will want to know who started the fire.
If the tenant can show that the fire was due to poor maintenance on the landlord's part, the landlord may be liable for the renter's property. Similarly, if it's clear that the fire was the tenant's fault, the landlord may seek damages and compensation from the tenant.
In both cases, every party must be adequately insured, but this is especially important for landlords.
Property owners must have insurance that covers the damage to the building and fixtures. More importantly, they need to let their insurer know that someone is renting the property. Without a landlord policy, the owner would not receive compensation for lost rent payments and could be underinsured.
The Recovery Process
After the fire, the owner and renter need to document everything. If possible, walk through the property and take photos and videos.
Both parties should notify their insurance companies as soon as possible after the fire. The insurers will investigate the cause of the fire and determine the financial cost. To do this, the insurance company will send an adjuster to review the fire damage.
Even if the fire was small, it helps to call the fire department for an objective view. They can inspect the cause and demonstrate how the fire spread.
Unless there's clear evidence that the tenant caused the fire, it falls on the landlord to work with a building restoration service or fire restoration companies.
Fire restoration service is about more than just repairing fire and smoke damage — it's also about water removal and water cleanup. In many cases, the water used to extinguish the fire will flood the property. If this water is allowed to seep into the floors and walls, it may result in mold growth and unsafe living conditions.
Typically, it's in the landlord's best interest to work with a commercial cleaning service that offers comprehensive fire restoration and addresses secondary damage as well, such as mold removal, flood cleanup, and even an air duct cleaning service.
About SERVPRO of Albany and Americus
There will be sleepless nights after a fire, but there are ways to mitigate that stress. With the right preparation, insurance, and response, both parties can start the restoration and compensation process.
If you've been the victim of a fire and need a cleanup service, trust the experts at SERVPRO of Albany and Americus. They are your local fire damage restoration service.