If You Rent, Who Is Liable for Fire Damage?
When tenants occupy a rental property in Cary, NC, and that property is subsequently damaged by an apartment fire, it can be confusing to work out who’s liable for any damages and items lost in the fire. The tenants don’t own the building but they do still pay to occupy it, so if there’s a fire, who’s responsible for covering the damage?
Understanding Building Liability vs. Content Liability
The difference is determined by who actually owns the property that’s been damaged in an apartment fire. The proprietor owns the building and thus is liable for any structural damage to the building – that means damage to the walls, roofing, fixtures, pipes, and so forth. The tenant owns the contents of their apartment and is liable for those items. Items that tenants may be liable for include:
- Electronics such as televisions, stereos, and DVD players
- Personally owned kitchen appliances
- Art and other decorations
- Pet care items
- Vehicles or bicycles damaged during the fire
- Personal belongings with or without sentimental value
There may be some confusion regarding appliances, as some appliances will be owned by the tenant and some by the property owner. For example, a refrigerator or stove that was installed before a tenant moved in belongs to the property owner, and thus the owner is liable for any fire damage. However, a coffee maker or toaster likely belongs to the tenant, and the tenant is liable. Determination is made purely on who covered the cost of purchase/ownership.
So What Happens After the Fire?
After the fire, damages are usually assessed by both damage remediation companies and insurance companies. Building owners should have adequate insurance to cover any damage to their properties in the event of an apartment fire. Many tenants do not invest in renter’s insurance, but renter’s insurance usually covers the cost of replacing any destroyed or fire-damaged items that tenants are liable for.