While reliable data about tenant fires remains hard to come by, there are just shy of 360,000 residential structure fires each year. Whether it's a rental or a privately owned home, these fires usually create devastation and havoc. Property that isn't destroyed outright often suffers from smoke or water damage.
Of course, for the approximately 19 million rental property owners out there, those fires take on a different meaning. After an accidental fire caused by a tenant, an owner might ask, who is responsible for what? What becomes a problem for the landlord's insurance?
If you own a rental property and wonder what happens after one of these fires, keep reading for an overview.
While the exact terms of a rental agreement vary from landlord to landlord, many leases include a provision about tenant relocation in the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster.
If your rental agreements include one of these clauses, tenant relocation will prove a top priority. The last thing you need is a tenant bitterly angry because they spent three days sleeping in their car while they try to make their own arrangements.
If you work with a property management company, that task will typically fall to them.
You should also engage in some basic information gathering. Assuming the tenants in the unit where the fire started escaped more or less unscathed, you'll want to talk with them. Ask them questions about where, when, and how the fire started.
Your local fire department will probably also issue a report or finding about what they believe started the fire. However, you can't rely on that report telling you everything you need to know. The more you can learn upfront, the better off you'll be in the long run.
Talk with the Insurance Companies
You should absolutely talk with your own insurance company at the first possible opportunity. Answer all of the questions that you can. At least some of the money for repairs or rebuilding will come from them, so you want them well-informed.
If a tenant's mistake caused the fire, you should also speak with the tenant's insurance company. While it's not universally true, rental insurance coverage is required in most areas.
The tenant's coverage should also help you cover the costs of fixing the damage to the unit or structure. Just remember that a tenant may think they started a fire when the problem was with the building.
After an Accidental Fire Caused by a Tenant
An accidental fire caused by a tenant is probably a recurring nightmare for some landlords. After all, it doesn't take much to start a fire.
Grease fires in a kitchen are painfully common. Knocking over a single candle can set a home ablaze if it falls near the right things.
Just remember to focus on the important things. Get your tenant relocated, gather information, and talk with your insurance company.
If you want to offload some of these responsibilities, HomeRiver Group offers property management services in the Idaho Falls, Idaho area. For more information, contact HomeRiver Group.