What do Landlords Need to Know About Rental Fires?

Landlords have plenty to worry about each day. From figuring out how to fill vacancies to dealing with everyday tenant issues, a landlord’s schedule is usually full. One of the last thing on a person’s mind is that a fire will break out in their rental property. When we look at statistics from the US Fire Administration, we see that fires must be taken seriously. For the latest reporting year, there were:

  • 3,400 fire-related deaths
  • 14,670 fire-related injuries
  • Over $23 billion in losses due to fires

There are approximately 100,000 rental property fires each year in the US. That number should make every landlord have a plan in place in case the worst happens.

What do landlords need to know about rental fires?

What a landlord needs to do after a fire

If you are a landlord, you need to know what your obligations are after a fire. Regardless of whether you are dealing with a multi-housing unit or a single-family space, you should immediately:

Gather details about the rental property fire

This is going to be an emotional time for everyone involved, and there will be plenty going on. You need to speak with the tenants about what caused the fire as soon as possible while the details are still fresh on everyone’s mind. They may honestly not know what happened. Sometimes, though, tenants will try to cover up the cause of the rental property fire.

  • They may have been smoking in the unit despite a contractual agreement not to do so.
  • There may have been a party in the house and someone knocked a candle over.

The fire department is going to be conducting their own investigation into the cause of the fire. You may discover that the tenant told the truth about what happened or you may not. Be sure to obtain a copy of all reports related to the investigation.

Help your tenants find temporary housing

If the fire rendered the space uninhabitable, your tenants need somewhere to stay. If they do not have somewhere to go (friends or family), there are several local agencies that help people in these situations. Help them contact these agencies so they have a place to stay. Your rental agreement may have terms dictating that you cover the cost of relocating your tenants. In most cases, your insurance will reimburse you for these costs as long as you were not negligent in the fire or there were no known code violations.

This is a good time to mention that your tenants may have renter’s insurance. This is not required but is helpful in these situations.

Call your insurance company

You want to get your insurance company involved as soon as possible so you can get your casualty loss claim rolling. A casualty loss is one that is caused suddenly, and rental property fires are one of the most common casualty losses claimed.

Get a fire restoration company involved

You want to ensure work begins immediately on repairing damages caused by the fire. If the rental property is vacant, you are losing money. Contact multiple fire restoration companies for quotes and make sure your insurance company approves of the one you choose.

Determine liability

The landlord is always going to be responsible for restoring the property to a habitable condition. However, they may not be financially responsible for doing so. Even if the fire was caused by faulty structural elements, your homeowner’s insurance should cover the costs (your premiums will likely rise). If the fire was caused due to your tenant’s negligence, your insurance company might seek reimbursement through their rental insurance company or from the tenant directly.