How to Recover From a Fire in Your Rental Property
Every year fires kill more Americans than all other natural disasters combined. In addition, fires are also responsible for billions of dollars in property damage, as stated by the National Fire Protection Association.
One of the worst things that can happen to your investment property is a fire. Whether your property is only partially destroyed or is leveled flat, dealing with a fire’s aftermath can be a nightmare. However, it is your responsibility as a property owner to be prepared for even the worst of situations.
Becoming informed about what happens after your rental home is damaged in a fire can relieve some of the stress that comes with this type of disaster and can help you get your property restored and re-occupied quickly.
Before you have to experience firsthand the panic and chaos that comes with dealing with a rental property fire, take a look at what typically happens after a rental property is damaged by fire, so that you can be fully prepared should the unthinkable occur.
Immediately Following a Fire
If the fire department or tenant notifies you that your rental property has been damaged in a fire, it is time to get things moving quickly. This means notifying your property manager (if you have one) and getting all of the details related to the fire so you can take a proactive approach in restoring your property and caring for your tenants.
Here are some of the key things you should do right away after learning your property has been damaged in a fire:
- Contact your insurance agent immediately to report the fire and start the claims process
- Encourage your tenants to contact their insurance agent if they have renter’s insurance
- Compile a list of reputable fire restoration companies that are approved by your insurance company to set up evaluation appointments
- Get all details regarding how the fire started from both your tenants and the fire officials
- Ensure your tenants have temporary housing whether through their renter’s insurance policy or the American Red Cross
After Things Have Settled Down – Approximately 2-3 Days After the Fire
Once things have settled down with your rental property, it is time to further evaluate the damages that your property has sustained. Just remember, as you observe the damage you should never remove any debris or attempt to repair anything until the professionals have made their full assessments and have given the okay to begin the restoration process.
Be on the lookout for damages and know what you should do, either on your own or with the fire restoration company and/or insurance agent responsible for handling the fire claim:
- Take pictures of all structural damage
- In addition to photos, prepare a written inventory of all damages including appliances along with their makes and models
- Note both interior and exterior structural damage in your photos and written records
- Consider taking live video of any damage in addition to snapshot photos
- Collect the official fire report from the fire department outlining the probable cause(s) of the fire
- Try to secure your property as best you can since it will now be vacant and vulnerable to outsiders
Who is Responsible for Fire Damage?
Many property owners and tenants struggle with this question when something as serious as a fire occurs in a rental property. But the truth is each party is that partially responsible when it comes to fire damage.
Property Owner Responsibility
Property owners are responsible for fixing any damages to the rental home as it relates to either the property’s structure or electrical and plumbing systems.
Since tenants have the legal right to reside in a safe and habitable home, it is up to you to repair any damages and restore the property as quickly as possible. The good news is that if you have a solid homeowner’s insurance policy in place, your insurance company typically covers these damages.
If, however, the tenant or the tenant’s guests were at fault for starting the fire, they will most likely be held financially responsible for all repairs. This is why requiring your tenants to have renter’s insurance is such a good idea. Not only does it protect your tenants in the case of an emergency such as a fire, it adds an extra layer of protection for you as well.
Even if the fire was not the fault of the tenant or the tenant’s guests, you will not be held responsible for the tenant’s personal possessions. This is another reason why tenants should have renter’s insurance. This type of policy will cover things such as furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. In addition, renter’s insurance covers the cost of relocating the tenant during the time the property is repaired.
If your tenants do not have renters insurance because you did not require them to have such a policy upon moving into your property, they will have to take the loss on their own. This is an unfortunate reality for many tenants that underestimate the importance of having renters insurance.
Altogether, as a property owner it is important you fully understand the things you should do in the aftermath of a fire in your rental property before a fire actually happens. This will help calm a highly stressful situation down and ensure that everyone, including your property and tenants, are well cared for after the fact.
Great article @Patrick Freeze, do you know what would be the end result if the tenant had renters insurance, but the owners insurance had laps, yet the tenant was found to be at fault for the fire?
Jamal L., about 6 years ago