The number of renters in the United States is on the increase. Currently, there are approximately 44.1 million home renters and due to the recent pandemic and other factors that number is climbing steadily.
If you are one of the many people who are renting their home today you may have several questions and concerns …
With one of the biggest being “What happens if a house you’re renting burns down?”
We are going to answer that question and several other common questions in this short article. So let’s get started.
Are you liable to pay for any fire damage?
This is a big question that renters frequently have and the answer is “maybe.”
The rule of thumb is the landlord is responsible for paying for the repairs and returning the property to a habitable condition … unless it can be proven that the tenant is liable.
If the tenant is liable, then all bets are off. You could very well find yourself with a large debt to pay.
Reasons tenants can be found liable for a fire include such things as:
– Leaving a candle burning in an unoccupied room
– Not properly observing food that is cooking on the stove
– Using an appliance that is in poor condition and clearly a fire risk
If it is determined that your negligence led to the fire, then you can be held responsible for some or all of the damages.
What if I have renters insurance?
It is key that all renters have renters insurance to protect themselves in cases just like the above. Another reason you need renters insurance is because landlords are not required to pay for your loss of personal property.
That is what renters insurance is primarily for, in fact. If you do have renters insurance you can follow your insurance company’s procedures to file a claim and be reimbursed for your losses in the fire.
Can I get out of my lease following a house fire?
This is another common question whose answer may depend on what state you are living in and on other circumstances.
In most cases, if your rental unit was damaged to the degree that it is unfit to live in you have the right to leave the residence and stop paying rent.
As for cancelling your lease, in most cases, if the following conditions are met you can cancel the lease:
– The cost of repairing the property is more than one year’s rent
– You were not found liable for causing the fire
– And you are up-to-date on your rental payments at the time of the fire
How soon should a fire-damaged house be repaired?
If repairs are needed following a fire in a rental house, the landlord is required to repair the property so that is habitable as soon as possible. States vary in their definition of what is ‘habitable.” General requirements include:
– A roof
– Hot and cold water supply
– Sewage disposal system
– Working electrical system
– Working heating system
How do I get assistance if I need it following a house fire?
There are, thankfully, organizations that readily provide assistance to house fire victims. Those organizations include:
The Red Cross
This is a private company that is funded through charitable donations. Its mission is to provide assistance when disaster strikes – whether that is a large natural disaster like a tornado or earthquake or a single-family house fire.
In most cases, the Red Cross will be the fastest acting source of aid in the event of a disaster like a house fire and their aim is to attend to the most immediate needs of you and your family.
That means they will try to make sure that you have food, clothing and shelter (which could include a voucher for a several day stay at a local hotel).
In addition to all of that, they will also help you get necessary replacement medical devices and prescriptions. You may also be assigned a case worker who will work closely with you to help you get any additional assistance you need, such as temporary care for pets or cleanup kits if your house fire was minor and you want to try and stay in your home.
As for reaching the Red Cross, the local fire department will usually contact them on your behalf after a house fire. If, for some reason, they don’t do this you can simply ask Fire Department officials for the number and call them yourselves. The Fire Department should have that number.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Christian-based service organization that also relies on charitable donations to provide aid to those in need.
While not generally as fast in response as the Red Cross – for example, you may have to fill out an application to ensure you qualify for help – they are a good resource for quick relief (a couple of days after the fire) and also long-term help following a house fire.
Aid you could receive from the Salvation Army includes food, clothing and shelter.
For example, they may be able to provide you with a short-term housing solution (such as a hotel or a temporary shelter) if you are not able to stay in our home following a house fire. They may also be able to give you a cleanup kit if your home is structurally sound and you do wish to stay in it.
Additional aid provided by the Salvation Army includes counseling, which can help you deal with the traumatic effects of being a house fire victim.
They also may have financial grants and other vouchers that you can use to replace lost items like furniture, home goods and more. You will need to financially qualify for the grants and vouchers though.
To reach the Salvation Army you can call 1-800-728-7825.
Are you the owner of rental property damaged by fire?
If so, you may be able to sell your property to We Buy Fire Damaged Houses in “as is” condition. Fill out the form to see if you quality to receive a free, no obligation quote.
We Buy Fire Damaged Houses pays in all cash so that you can get your money fast and move past this unfortunate incidents sooner.
Fill out our form to learn more.