Fire and your wrongful eviction

A fire happens in your building. You get out all right, but your home and all your personal property is damaged. What happens next?

The San Francisco Rent Ordinance mandates that the landlord allow a tenant to reoccupy her home after repairs have been made. Unfortunately, it does not allow for payments from the landlord to the tenant in the event of a fire. But the tenant has a right to return to her home after repairs.

What if the landlord refuses to timely make repairs? When can the tenant declare a constructive eviction and sue? After a fire, you should send the landlord your address, e-mail address and your telephone number. In the event you may be moving from place to place while waiting for the building to be repaired, send the landlord the name and address of a relative who knows where to contact you. You can check on the Department of Building Inspection website to see if permits have been issued and periodically go by the building to see if repairs are being made. If no repairs have been begun within six months, you should consult an attorney about your rights.

In one case, the landlord failed to repair, among other items, electrical wiring after he had been cited by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection. After the fire, it was discovered the extinguishers had not worked because they were old, the exits were blocked by junk, and the fire alarm system did not work because of the defective electrical system. Luckily, no one died. The landlord then refused to make repairs to the building. The tenants sued for constructive eviction and settled for a large sum.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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Courtney Brown
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