Fire accidents associate with trauma, injury, loss of lives, destruction of properties, and displacement from homes, with victims uniformly sent into turmoil and puzzling circumstances such as payment of medical bills, replacement of destroyed personal possessions, difficulty in finding alternative housing, and the most overwhelming; the question of who is responsible for the expenses of the fire-damaged apartment building.
The response to that question however varies, depending on the circumstances that caused the fire, the insurance involved, and the terms of agreement of the residential lease.
Procedures essential to determine who is liable for the damage
Investigation and Document on the damage
The Landlord, tenant and any insurance carriers’ rights will be obligated to investigate and document the damage focusing on the scope and cause of the damage. Reports will, however, be made written with photographs to describe as well as illustrate the damage.
Insurance companies expert advice
The insurance carrier will survey the damage. However, prompt notice by the landlord to the Insurance company is essential as several policies have been made that relieve an insurance company from liability if the company isn’t informed promptly. As paragraph Eight of the Texas Apartment Association however states that: ‘the owner’s insurance does not cover loss to a resident’s personal property’ as such properties do not have an insurable interest. But this can be argued if the insurance company is promptly notified.
Determine the landlord’s as well as the tenant’s obligations
Ordinarily, the owner’s insurance covers damages to the building and its premises and destroyed properties of the third party ‘only’ due to the landlord’s negligence. Most of the time when the owner fails to maintain proper smoke detectors, provide emergency exits, provided hazardous materials that accelerated the fire, and generally failed to abide by the fire code standard of construction, they would be liable for the damages of the apartment’s fire.
It should, however, be considered carefully that a third party can also be liable for the damages caused by the fire if the cause of the damages is a result of faults caused by such person. Such a person’s rental insurance may cover some Fire-Related losses.
However, in the absence of proper documentation of lease provisions and rental insurance, the law provides that:
- The lease is terminated: As a tenant has the right to occupy the property until the right of occupancy is terminated by law, at the end of the agreed term or when both the landlord and tenant agree to terminate the lease.
- Responsibilities of Repair: A landlord is ever obligated to maintain the rental premises in a habitable condition. However, if evidence indicates that the landlord neglected in their responsibility, they must repair it. And if the tenant out of his way damaged the property; is obligated to make repairs.
- Other Payments: If a fire accident is caused by a landlord’s negligence, then the landlord becomes liable for the tenant’s inconvenience. If a tenant causes a fire and if found responsible, the tenant is liable to pay damages to the landlord in addition to rental payments.
Notably, it is essential to talk to a lawyer during conflicts regarding “who is liable for the fire damages” as this simultaneously calls for an investigation into the cause of the fire. As the owner of the damaged property may sue the renter for the fire damage and unless there is a contract that says otherwise, a tenant will be liable to the fire damages over negligence.
Ultimately, determining who is liable for the apartment fire requires determining the cause of the fire. It is therefore paramount that tenants in Texas uphold legal options in such accident cases and obtain renter’s insurance for themselves.