What Landlords Should Know About Fire Damage Responsibilities
As the owner of a rental property, you’re responsible for providing a place that is safe, clean, and well-maintained for current and future occupants. Part of your duties is making sure that you have insurance to cover losses associated with covered perils, such as theft, natural disasters, vandalism, and fire.
Although you never want to experience a fire at your property in Sandy, UT, having insurance is strongly recommended, and may even be required if you have a mortgage. Do you know what your obligations are for repairs and restoration in an apartment fire? Here’s what you should know.
Understanding Fire Damage Obligations
As a landlord, you’re generally responsible for providing a livable or habitable place. This includes maintenance and repair of your property’s structure and inner workings, such as roofs, foundations, plumbing, wiring, HVAC systems, etc. Typically, your property insurance would cover damages, and costs to repair and restore the rental property.
Your policy would not cover any occupant’s personal items as those are covered by renters’ insurance. Generally, this is how responsibility for damage coverage lands in most situations.
Exploring Responsibility for the Fire
Things become more complicated if one party is at fault for the fire. Let’s suppose that the first started due to a tenant overloading a circuit or leaving a candle unattended. You’d still be obligated to notify your insurance company and contact a fire restoration services provider to start the cleanup process, making your property habitable.
That said, your insurer would reach out to your tenant’s renters insurance company for compensation up to a certain liability limit. This is why you should have clear language in your lease agreement about your tenant’s obligations after an apartment fire.
If the fire was due to faulty wiring or negligence on your part, you may be obligated to also cover damages to an occupant’s possessions. Their renters’ insurance company may work with your insurer to pay for damages. You may also be sued by a tenant for these losses. Another thing to consider is that a tenant may want to break the lease or withhold rent if the home is unlivable while it’s under repair. This is why it’s incumbent upon you to familiarize yourself with local laws when it comes to your obligations related to fire damage.
Getting Back to Normal
Because you’re obligated to provide a livable space, it’s critical that you hire a professional restoration company for cleanup and repair. These pros work to restore the rental unit back to pre-fire conditions. This includes a comprehensive range of services:
- Removal of items affected by fire, smoke, soot, and water damage
- Advanced cleaning techniques
- Special drying and dehumidification approaches
- Disinfection of contaminated items
- Building repair and reconstruction
- Repair of affected items, where possible
Your cleanup professionals will come up with a plan that minimizes the time it takes to restore your property to a livable condition.
An apartment fire can be devastating to landlords and tenants alike, but the obligations are not the same. Generally, you’re responsible for restoring the property structure and its internal systems, while an occupant’s renters policy covers their possessions.
You may be liable for additional damages for a fire that resulted from poor maintenance or negligence on your part, so it’s important to stay on top of property upkeep.