We Lost Everything in a Fire in Our Rented Home. How Do Insurance Claims Work?

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‘My husband and I signed a rental agreement in June 2010. The home was to be rented until we were able to purchase the property outright in March 2011. The security deposit was $1100, rent was to $1100 total, $800 was to cover the rent and the other $400 was to cover the house insurance only. On Dec 9th, 2010 the house caught fire and we lost everything, including 2 vehicles and a 4wheeler. The only insurance we had was on 1 vehicle and payoff coverage on the 4wheeler. The Home Owners insurance investigator came
interviewed myself and my daughter about the events leading up to the fire. He asked if we had any idea what might have caused the fire, I told him it could have been from a coil heater that was in my bathroom ceiling, and I had used it that night. For awhile the light in the hallway had been blinking off and on, sometimes it would go off and not come back on for awhile or it would come on and do the same. After he did 3 hours of digging around in what was left, I asked if it was the heater and he informed me that he wasn’t
concerned with it, his primary interest was fixed mainly on the light fixture in the hallway.The fire had burned for hours in the attic without us knowing. I know the the State Investigator and Home Owners Investigator have given their final determination to the owner, stating the cause was due to faulty wiring. It wasn’t due to any negligence on our behalf, although we have not yet received a letter stating their final determination. We keep getting advised that we need to see if we have any legal options or binding rights, since it was the bad wiring. Would we have a case of any kind, in maybe receiving some kind of restitution for our loss. I would greatly appreciate any advise you can give me, I just don’t know what else to do or where else to go for help?’

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Generally speaking, insurance purchased on a rental unit by the landlord covers only the building itself. Coverage for the tenant’s possessions, cost of alternate housing, and so forth are left to a renter’s policy, which I gather you did not have.

To answer your question, where to go for help, I would suggest a couple of possibilities. A local personal injury attorney may be able to point you in the right direction as to whether you have a case. Most PI attorneys do not charge for the initial consultation, so if the answer is no, you won’t have lost anything but time.

You also didn’t specify the details of your agreement regarding the purchase of the property. Depending on the exact terms, you may have enough of a right in the property itself that you would be considered an
owner for insurance purposes. It’s a bit of a longshot, to be honest, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into. In this case, I’d suggest reviewing your agreement with a real estate attorney. You’ll probably have to pay
for that consultation.

Failing that, you might want to ask if there are any auxiliary parts of the landlord’s policy which might cover some of your losses. Again, this is a longshot, as policies for rental units do generally try to exclude such things, but if, for example, someone suffered from smoke inhalation in the fire, some or all of the medical expenses might be covered.

Those are only the ideas off the top of my head; there may be other avenues for you to explore, but it’s a start.



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Author: House Attorney

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