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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    3

    Default Can Tenant Recover From Landlord After An Apartment Fire

    i lived above a business of which my landlord owned and operated. the neon business sign of the outside of the building caught fire and burned up my apartment. i did not have renter's insurance and the lease states that the landlord is not at fault for any fires that break out.

    do you think i can get anything out of this?
    can the landlord/business owner, electrician, sign manufacturer be at fault?
    i was returned my security deposit and 1/2 the month's rent at least.

    everything i owned is gone. i have a lot of receipts and i took inventory and pictures of the ruins. it is estimated that about $10,000 worth of stuff was lost (not included keep-sakes).

    where do i go from here?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Do I have a case over an apartment fire?

    You didn't identify your state, so nobody can give you a certain answer.

    My impression would be that whatever it says in the lease, you would have a potential negligence action outside of the lease. The lease language might protect the landlord if the fire were caused by another tenant or "act of god" (e.g., a lightning strike), but I am skeptical that it would provide any protection to the landlord for fire caused by the landlord's own negligence. If this was the landlord's sign and he was negligent in relation to its maintenance, there would be potential liability. If this was another tenant's sign, the same type of theory would apply - if the tenant who owned the sign was negligent in relation to maintenance, and that negligence caused the fire, there would be potential liability. Also if there was a third party (e.g., an electrical contractor) responsible for the installation and maintenance of the sign, depending upon how long ago it was last serviced there may be a legal claim against the contractor.

    Do you have access to a report (or reports) from the police, fire inspector, insurance company, etc., to see what they describe as the cause of the fire? (They're unlikely to just say "electrical sign" - they're likely to identify a specific problem with the sign, such as an electrical short circuit, which resulted in the fire and, to the extent possible, identify why that occurred - e.g., rodents chewing through insulation, improper installation, birds or animals nesting in the sign, etc.)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Do I have a case over an apartment fire?

    Ohio is the state.

    The following is from my lease agreement:
    Uniform Rental Lease Agreement by RealChek America Inc. 7/98
    Notice: ...the resident is hereby advised and understands that the personal property of the resident is not insured by the landlord for either damage or loss, and the landlord assumes no liability for any such loss. the resident is advised that...

    He made sure that he "starred" this area of the lease. this was a very old building and he was a cheap ass as far as repairs and up-keep was concerned. i wouldn't be surprised if he wired the damn sign himself. can i check if the sign and/or building were up to code?

    the fire inspection determined that the wiring to the letters of the sign of the business that i lived above caused the fire. i will go get the report today to see what it says.

    what do you think?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Do I have a case over an apartment fire?

    I think what I said before.

    From the snippet you post, the clause seems to be about the duty to carry insurance. It's a really good idea to have renter's insurance. I still don't think it would excuse a landlord from a negligence claim in relation to a fire for which the landlord is legally responsible. But be forewarned that Ohio has landlord-tenant laws which are heavily skewed in favor of the landlord.

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