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  1. #1

    Default Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage Caused by Their House Fire

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: CA

    Our neighbor's house was on fire and burned down almost completely. Some of the fences between us were also affected and had to be knocked down by the firefighters. Luckily no one was hurt. Even though we feel sorry for their loss, we are bothered by the fact that we simply couldn't locate them to fix the fences and (maybe) prune the tree branches that was burned.

    Several questions here:
    1. We contacted several departments in the city/county and checked with other neighbors but no one seems to know how to get in touch with them now? We are thinking to write them a letter and hoping it will be forwarded and they will respond. Is there any better way to "locate" them?
    2. Their insurance company (through fire investigator) said we should file a claim through our insurance company instead. I did check with ours and their response was that if we file the claim then it will be on insurance policy (not the neighbor's). How does the insurance part works exactly?
    3. At this point we just want to be able to "fix things and move on". If we still couldn't find them in the next few weeks, can we just remove/repair/rebuild the fences (even those not being knocked down but may potentially needed due to fire or look)? Can we prune the tree branches beyond the property line?

    Thanks very much in advance

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    2,242

    Default Re: Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage (Fences/Trees) Caused by Their House Fi

    As you know who the neighbor's fire insurance company is, call them up directly and ask for the claim department.

    Tell them that you have been damaged by a fire from property which they insured.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    25,852

    Default Re: Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage (Fences/Trees) Caused by Their House Fi

    also understand that the neighbors may have no liability here. Just because their house was burning does not mean they are liable for your damages. Generally they would have to be negligent in some way, either in causing the fire or causing damage to you, to make them liable here.
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage (Fences/Trees) Caused by Their House Fi

    Regarding the insurance company:
    Unfortunately we know nothing about their fire insurance company as it was not on the fire report (any way to look it up?) We asked the inspector last week but he hasn't gotten back to us yet

    Regarding the damage:
    We are not sure who is going to pay for the damage YET (as the fire report doesn't really have anything useful to us). We understand we may not be able to have them pay for it anyway since this is probably the least for them to worry about right now. However we really need to speak to them in order to fix the fence, don't we? Just surprise that they don't contact any direct neighbors

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    25,852

    Default Re: Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage (Fences/Trees) Caused by Their House Fi

    the neighbors didn't damage the fence, did they?

    Along with any other damage: unless there is some negligence on their part that caused the fire, they are more than likely not going to be liable for any of your damages.
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    El Dorado County, CA
    Posts
    338

    Default Re: Can't Find the Neighbors to Repair Damage (Fences/Trees) Caused by Their House Fi

    Generally, fences on the boundaries of properties in CA are by law a shared responsibility between the coterminous owners as to normal maintenance and replacement. If they have no other fencing around their property, that law may not apply. Generally, when damage is caused by one of the landowners, that landowners is responsible for the cost of repair or replacement. The existence of liability due to any negligence may or may not be a factor. Accidental damage to property is exactly what home insurance is for and should cover somewhere between half and full cost of repair or replacement depending upon the condition of the fence before the fire. If the fence was close to being in need of replacement anyway, the cost may revert to being a shared one.

    If there is no similar fencing enclosing all or a portion of their property other than on your common line, or if the fence is fully and clearly on your property, then it is not a shared responsibility with regard to normal maintenance and repair. But since it was damaged by an insured event occurring on your neighbor's home, I would put in a claim with their insurance company anyway.
    I'm a surveyor, not your surveyor & not an attorney.
    Advice is general survey, not legal. Hire a local professional for specific advice.

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