Apartment Fires and Tenant's Rights

What Are a Landlord’s Obligations in a Rental Fire?

Recently, an apartment fire in Florida destroyed eight units and displaced thirty renters. The property management group relocated the tenants to available empty units, but is now asking them to sign a new lease agreement or move out. The tenants are upset, and seeking legal action. This begs the question – what rights and responsibilities do landlords and tenants have after a rental unit is damaged by fire?

The answer to this will vary by location and insurance policies. For example, Massachusetts requires all landlords and property owners to carry insurance on any multi-unit rental that guarantees up to $750 to any tenants who are relocated due to fire. You should review the laws for your state, and know what your responsibilities are to your property and the tenant.

Tenants Need to Protect Themselves

In all states though, it is still up to the tenant to carry their own renters insurance to cover the loss of their personal property damage and relocation fees. A landlord’s homeowners insurance policy will likely not assume responsibility for a tenant’s personal property. You should also mandate in the lease agreement that all of your tenant’s have proof of renters insurance.

Your lease agreement should also include a clause that nullifies the contract immediately if the house becomes inhabitable for any reason, so that you do not have an obligation to pay a tenant’s relocation costs. You might also consider adding a clause that makes tenants responsible for paying deductibles if they are the one’s responsible for the fire or smoke damage.

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