22 Replies

Hey everyone, 

If you are in Dallas, Texas you have likely seen my story on the news over the last two days. A car crashed straight into my building and the fire department speculated they were going 120MPH! Needless to say, it severely damaged the building. Luckily, the tenants are all okay. All three passengers did die. Considering the media has grabbed onto this event, I want to make sure to have all my bases covered. I have a few questions but also just looking for overall advice. See attached pictures. 

A few facts to help you fully understand the situation: 

  • I live in the basement of the building (the 5th unit).
  • The basement and the one other unit were damaged very badly
  • The other 3 units are ok for the most part
  • All the meters were pulled
  • I do not have replacement cost insurance
  • I have full coverage up to 310K (my estimated value of property) 
  • loss of rent is not on my insurance


  • My tenants cannot currently live in the building. Should I terminate their leases? Do I need to pay for their logging?
  • What red flags should I be looking for with insurance?
  • Should I hire an insurance advocate? 
  • Will the city require me to take the whole building to code?
  • Should I hire an insurance contractor? Or will any quality contractor suffice? 

wow, this is crazy. so sorry for you and the dead passengers.

check with your insurance, but most have a "rent loss" and "event placement" meaning they cover hotel costs until it's repaired.

actual building does not have much damage though. you are lucky the steps took most of the blow.

@Andrew Ramler

  That is HORRIBLE!  You will need to consult an attorney., Much of the cost might be covered by the auto insurance of the driver (even though they died) Also, here in California we have to disclose if someone dies on the property, do you there? 

Though the damage doesn't seem extensive, you will want to have a structural engineer look at the building. The force of the impact may have traveled throughout the entire structure and there could be cracks you are not seeing, etc. 

Not knowing what the laws in your state are, it's hard for me to give you any specific advice. Obviously you will need to talk to the local building department and find out what will be required as far as bringing up to code. It will probably be the same as if it were intentionally demolished. Due to the fact that 3 people died and the continual perception it will give future tenants, you might want to tear it down and rebuild new. 

As to terminating the leases, what does it say in the lease, is there any verbage that addresses disasters, or other instances where the house becomes uninhabitable? Does your insurance cover paying for temporary housing and for how long? You might have to buy out the leases.  Again, CONSULT AN ATTORNEY, as nobody on BP can give you legal advice and that's what you need. Good luck. 

Absolutely get an experienced business lawyer to advise you on this. Good luck.

This is a crazy story.

You should file a claim with the driver's insurance company as soon as you can. The info will be in the police report.

Tough situation. I wish you good luck.

There are companies that will represent you in the process with the insurance company, someone else will have to help with what they are called. Absolutely get the lawyer as others have mentioned, but you also want someone to help with the insurance claim process and make sure you don't get shafted by the insurance companies (car owners and yours). The lawyer will not be an expert in that part of the process.

On your to do list after the immediate needs are taken care of ... you need to address many f the questions you are asking about the tenants in your lease. For example, I limit my liability to the pro rated daily rent that the structure is uninhabitable. 

Wow that is a terrible tragedy.

Do your tenants have renter's insurance?

You will most likely have the most luck working with your property insurance, but as mentioned earlier also get insurance info for the driver.

Sorry to hear about that!  Were you home when it happened?

Most rental agreements just say that if the unit is uninhabitable, you just have to give them back their rent for the  day(s) it is uninhabitable.  You would not be required to pay for their hotel/lodging.  Check your agreements to see what they say.

Depending on how long it will take to make all the repairs, you may want to consider releasing your tenants from their leases.  Not sure if you're required to, it may be up to you.

Since the driver was (likely) at fault, you shouldn't have to pay for anything for the repairs, and you should also get reimbursed for lost rent, all from their insurance.  As others stated, you'll have to do a claim with their driver's insurance for that.  If they were uninsured, then you'll probably be on the hook with your insurance most likely, and then you'll probably have to pay your deductible and you'll lose out on the lost rent reimbursement, though you could try suing the estate of the deceased driver for all that.  If they somehow determine that another driver was actually at fault for this accident (which I doubt), then you'll probably have to deal with their insurance.

Also, you're not the first one here on BP to have someone crash into your rental.  You can check out this post to see if there's any more helpful info (although this one was in NC):

I don't know enough about this whole process to give more advice, but it's probably not a bad idea to get some pro's on your side (lawyer, etc.).  Good luck!

Thank you everyone for your help! They had auto insurance, a 25/50/25 policy.  I have an attorney helping me and will keep everyone updated. I have two more questions

My insurance is replacement cost but it looks like I may be under insured. Has anyone dealt with this before?

My insurance only covers 10k in Ordinance improvements(updating to code). Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Thank you so much!

RIP passengers and speeding driver!

was alcohol/drugs involved, considering the speed and all?

can imagine the lawyers banging on ur door, if only there was still one intact enough to knock on.

of course, pick the best lawyer and SUE for all ur losses. GODSPEED!

@Karen Margrave has given you the right advice.  As she said, listening to any advice from BP'ers on here that say anything else but, talk to your lawyer. Run everything through the Lawyer.  Since your story has been in the media, everything you do should be going through your lawyer. Reviewing your insurance policy: Lawyer.  Asking questions to your insurance company: Lawyer.  Questions from the Media : Lawyer.  

Report to your insurance and let them fight it out.  If your insurance is decent they will do whatever they can to get the most out of his insurance as they wind up picking up the underinsured part in my experience.  We had a truck hit our house in Pennsylvania and it was an ordeal. The adjuster can make or break the situation for you. If they are unresponsive ask for a supervisor.  Once we got to a higher level we were told the original adjuster was no longer with the company.  I'd like to think I had something to do with that.

On the uninhabitable units that will take a while to get repaired your lease should address that point. Mine says the lease is terminated. Good luck.

i almost forgot to add that before i pick a LAWYER, i would contact my homeowners and/or landlord insurance policy issuers to see if all claims can be handled by THEIR lawyer.

i for one don't believe in individuals (natural persons) being required by today's litigious society to 'have a lawyer' for legal counsel burying themself deeper in debt (lawyers aint cheap or even necessarily affordable by ur average civilian) -  especially when we are the plaintiff and/or when our insurance is supposed to provide that service we pay monthly or semi/annually for - but that's just me, pro se.

Wow. I googled and found the coverage on the news there online. Wow.

I have a friend who's vacation rental burned to the ground; she said hiring an insurance adjuster of her own to work with her insurance company was helpful.

If your tenants have their own renters insurance that should help.

I agree you should get a structural engineer out there to determine if there is any structural damage, and I think getting a lawyer to assist, maybe two, one who is familiar with landlord/tenant law and another who deals with insurance perhaps.

There's been a rash of older drivers around here driving into store fronts, not at a million miles an hour like in your case, but they all after-the-fact get those steel posts in front of the building, since you're at the end of an intersection maybe installing something like that might make sense, although I doubt it would have helped in this case given the cars became airborne. This is just a freak accident and you can't plan for every freak accident that could happen.

If you could find the time at some point to update this post with how it's going/what you've learned I would certainly appreciate it, good luck!!

Thanks everyone, I will keep you posted!

Hello everyone, 

Just an update, after almost 3 month the insurance and I have come to an agreement. It's been a crazy learning experience!!! Below are a few things I have learned.

  • If you have a mortgage on your property, they are going to want to be very involved in repairs. In my case my settlement was so large I am paying the mortgage off. I work for GC, and believe I can cut out some cost and hopefully be left with some $$$. This lead me to the next problem...
  • The insurance holds back depreciation to basically keep you from having any left over money or making any money. In my cased they wanted to hold back 45k. I offered to sign a release in exchange for them to give me this money. This is a bit risky, but at that point I had all my bids(for work) in and had a big chuck left over just in case there are any surprises. 
  • Everything is 100% negotiable. Never take the first offer. My final settlement is over 3 times their first offer. 

My hope is to be able to own the property cash and have it fully repaired at the end of the day. Now it's time to get to work putting my place back together. It's been a great learning experience so far and I look forward to continuing learning!

Ill keep you posted!

-AJ Ramler

@Andrew Ramler

 Thank you for keeping us updated. What a crazy story. What happened with your tenants, did you terminate their leases? Glad to hear the settlement worked out at least!

In the last 12 years I have had 3 buildings hit by people but nothing to this extent!  Wow!  Fortunately nobody in my cases were hurt.  I'd definitely get an attorney and a structural engineer to look at the bones of the house.  You said the basement was damaged badly.  It could be a tear down.  Good luck. 

That is unbelievable! Sorry to hear about the passengers but I'm glad your tenants are OK. With this size of a deal, I would definitely get an insurance advocate on board. I would also talk to your attorney. If your units are unlivable, I would let your tenants out of their leases (do you have lost rent insurance) but I would not think you would be required to pay for their lodging, unless of course they only need to be out for a short while. Good luck!

Probably the most insane post I've seen on here. I wouldn't know how to handle it, but hopefully insurance can help reimburse everything that's damaged and lodging

Unfortunately as an insurance agent I deal with these issues all the time.    Glad you got through it ok as it sounds like you had a really stripped down policy.    Having loss of rents and Ordinance or Law is very, very important and the coverage is fairly inexpensive.   You dodged a bullet.   I have seen an increased cost of construction to bring things up to code approach the total value of the building in places like Napa and SF.   

I read your first post and I read your last post and you have sure come a long way.  You went from knowing nothing in your first post to becoming the final expert on what you could do, what you should do and how you  should do it in your last post.   You have become an expert on your situation and no one knows more about it then you.  You know more then the insurance compny on your particular situation.   Very impressive.

It sounds ike it has ended up being as good as it could get for you.

It sounds like you know what you are doing and you are going to go the extra mile and do what ever the extra work and sub contracting is  needed  to come out whole and  with some extra money

Nothing wrong with that and there is a lot right with it.

You have embraced the extra job of monitoring this and sub contracting it and you are entiteled to come out of this  smelling like a rose.

Good luck to you

Hey everyone!

Thanks for all the advice and thoughts. It's been almost 4 months since the crash and I have learned so much! We are still in constructions but very close to being done and I very happy to have this whole thing behind me. A few things I have learned below.

  • If you are a house hacker you can still have renters insurance… well at least I did and they respected the policy which I maxed out.
  • Require your tenants to have renter insurance… it’s so cheap and crazy to not have.
  • I terminated my leases for obvious reasons. However I have already preleased all of them for over 50% more because the renovations I was able to do.
  • Get a good attorney but do as much of the leg work as possible! Mine only put around 7 hours into my case and was worth every penny. That being said I had many people try to talk me into a contingent’s fee and that would have been a total waste as my claim was very large.
  • I didn’t use a public adjuster and am happy I didn’t. However I am very hands on and in the construction industry so I was able to do that job myself.
  • Document everything and send as much as you can to the insurance.
  • Get letters from GCs, plumber, engineers, ect… Stating how much damage there is. If it’s possible to create a since of there being possible “unknown damage” that is yet to be discovered that can be of great value to you. The insurance is simply trying to mitigate their risk. Unknown=risk... That’s really important.
  • My policy didn’t have loss of income and that didn’t really bother me. Even after my building being empty for 4 months, I don’t think I will pay the extra for it. It’s so unlikely you have something like this happen.
  • I had 10K in ordinance, but at the end of the day that didn’t really matter because we settled on an arbitrary amount and I signed a general release.
  • You don’t have to pay income tax on insurance money.

If you have a loss like this happen I cannot stress how important the following few months are. If you are creative and savvy there is a lot of money on the table to be had for improvements or even a new investment. It’s been an incredibly stressful situation and very hard and time consuming navigating the unknowns. However, in this situation I was able to leverage it to my advantage in a life changing way. 

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