Part 2 – Tenant To-Dos After Fire

In our previous blog post we explored the responsibilities of landlords to repair damage and return apartments to displaced tenants after a fire. We looked at timelines, the importance of good communication, legal guidelines for landlords mandated by the San Francisco Rent Board, and how to cope with construction delays.

Sometimes landlords attempt to bend the rules. They may fail to contact you when repairs are complete and, instead rent to new tenants. They might take advantage of the fire restoration process to upgrade the apartment  with expensive projects, such as new floor plans or adding a bathroom, to attract new tenants at higher rents. They may deny responsibility if neglected maintenance issues caused a fire.

Many tenants struggle to find alternative housing after a fire. Tenants usually  prefer to return to their apartment as soon as repairs are complete, under the same terms defined in the leasing agreement.  If you are a tenant struggling with your landlord after a fire, what can you do?

Determine Landlord Negligence

What caused the fire? Did you report issues with your electrical service or other dangerous problems before the fire? Some apartment fires are caused by electrical issues like faulty or outdated wiring, old or damaged appliances, and even rodent damage. Were smoke detectors or fire extinguishers missing or non-functional?

If your landlord or property manager failed to correct a known risk, they could be liable for damages due to breaches of your rental agreement. You must be able to prove your landlord failed to provide a safe and livable home. If you sue your landlord, you could receive compensation beyond the right to return to your apartment after repairs. Calculate the replacement cost of lost possessions, lost income and anything else impacting you after the fire. Be as thorough as possible.

Rental insurance is a good idea, but it does not provide a free pass to a negligent landlord. Read the fine print.  Your policy may not fully cover all of your personal loss and expenses after a fire.

Devastating fires causing total loss of your apartment , injuries, or even death are serious issues you should evaluate with an attorney.

When The Tenant Accidentally Causes the Fire

Accidents happen! That’s why landlords carry insurance. If you left a hot pan on the stove and caused a small kitchen fire in your apartment, now is the time to work with your landlord on repairs. If you have renter’s insurance, look through the policy for details of your coverage. You might be asked to cover the landlord’s insurance deductible.

Be aware your landlord will try to recover damages from somewhere if you cause a fire in your apartment. If you do not have solid renters insurance your situation can become very complex and stressful.  Seek legal advice.

Landlord Retaliation and Unlawful Eviction After a Fire

Even if you closely follow the repair process timeline and stay in close touch with your landlord after a fire, things can still go wrong.

Your landlord might illegally delay repairs and take advantage of your vulnerability to stop communicating with you or attempt an unlawful eviction.  Act immediately  to secure legal advice if this happens.


Know Your Rights. Protect Yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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