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A home fire is one of the worst things that can happen to any property.

The rental property fire can bring down the entire property, along with everything inside of it.

This is not only a huge blow to both the landlord and property owner, but the tenants as well.

After the fire, it could be difficult to know exactly what the course of action should be.

In this guide, we will be going over the most appropriate course of action for property owners to use after suffering a fire on personal property or a rental property.

To begin, let's go over some of the potential losses that can occur due to a property fire.

Potential Losses Due to Rental Property Fire

One of the most important things to note during a property fire is the scope of the damage. It is essential to determine this as quickly as possible because this is what will tell the insurance company how much needs to be repaired.

Below, we will be going over some of the losses that can occur from a fire.

Property Damage

The first thing that is noted after a property fire is damage to the property itself. This means things like walls, ceilings, windows, etc. Basically, all the structural components of the property.

If the fire department's report determines that it is safe to enter the property, there was probably not too much structural damage. If there was more structural damage, the property would probably not be marked as safe.

It is also important to look at things like kitchen countertops and cabinets as these can be easily affected by fire damage. After documenting the damage on the major components of the property, you may begin to document any personal belongings that were damaged.

Personal Belongings

Typically, fires occur in properties that have tenants residing in them. This means that the tenant's belongings were probably damaged as well.

When it comes to the tenant's belongings, it very much depends on the cause of the fire. For example, if the fire was caused by extreme landlord negligence, the landlord can be sued for the cost of the lost belongings.

However, if the fire occurs because of anything else, it is up to the renters' insurance to cover them. Depending on the insurance company, and the kind of liability insurance the tenant had, all financial losses of a fire can potentially be covered. This includes medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and potentially even legal fees. We will be discussing more about renters insurance later in this guide.

Relocation Cost

If the fire was caused by the negligence of the landlord, they may be responsible for providing the tenant a place to stay while the repairs are being done. This can get extremely expensive because, apart from the landlord's repair efforts, they must also provide housing for the affected tenants.

This is even worse when the landlord is responsible for multiple tenants in a single property. Then, the landlord pays for housing for each of the tenants until the property is back. The landlord also loses rental payments from the time that the tenants are out of the property.

However, many landlords invest in their own insurance which will likely cover most, if not all, of these costs.

So, now that we know about all the costs of a property fire, let's go over some of the other steps involved.

What To Do After A Property Fire Has Occurred

Below, we will be going over some of the general steps that should always be taken after a house fire has occurred.

Document Everything

As with almost everything in property management, it is super important to document everything. After the fire department has cleared the property, it is time for you to conduct your own investigation.

In this investigation, it is vital that you document everything you see, smell, or even hear. Since all of this can be used in a potential lawsuit, it can even save you money. It is also super important in the process of filing an insurance claim.

Also, since the landlord's deductible can be affected by the damages, they would not want any extra damages being reported. The landlord should also inspect all rental agreements to make sure that they are knowledgeable of any language about property damage within the agreement.

If the lease does not have anything on it regarding property damage or renters insurance, it may be a sign for the landlord to make some lease provisions.

Determine Liability

After documenting everything and speaking with the tenant and fire department, the cause of the fire should be known. Once the cause of the fire is known, liability can be determined.

As mentioned before, the landlord's insurance will typically be responsible for covering a large chunk of the costs. However, this is only if the fire was caused by some faulty structural element. If not, the tenant may be liable for all the damages caused by the fire.

In this case, the landlord's insurance company may seek the tenant's insurer for the costs. If the company provides limited coverage, or the tenant does not have insurance at all, the landlord's insurance may seek compensation from the tenants themselves.

Being Repairing Immediately

This is especially important if the landlord is bearing all costs of the fire themselves. In these cases, the landlord already has to pay for damages, relocation, and even the tenant's inconvenience. The last thing the landlord would want is to have a vacant property for an extended period of time.

Another thing that is important to note is that the landlord should never do this work themselves. This is because damages from fires are usually much more severe than typical property damages.

Getting The Property Reinspected

One of the final things that should always be done on the rental property is getting it reinspected. By getting the property reinspected, you can officially continue renting it out to the original tenants. Or, you can list it back on the market and find a different set of tenants.

Without reinspection, the tenants may not feel comfortable with going back to the property. Also, this is the only way for the property to get a certificate of occupancy, which is the only way for the property to be released.

The laws regarding this may be different regarding the state where the property is located. If you want to find out more about your state’s landlord-tenant laws, check out DoorLoop’s Laws Page to learn more.

Conclusion

Overall, a property fire can be a very costly event. Not only can it result in heavy financial losses, but it can also result in personal losses in the form of belongings or even family members. For this reason, it is important to do everything with caution and care. It is also important to provide the tenants with support when they need it as they can be suffering more than you in those times.

David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!