If tenant causes a cooking related fire in the kitchen, who is responsible for the damage? 7 Answers as of May 21, 2013

My tenant caused a fire (cooking related) that caused an enormous amount of damage to the kitchen. The fire department deemed the house unlivable. My question is: Who is responsible to pay for the damage? If the renter has renter insurance, will that cover the damage since it was due to the actions of the tenant?

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Law Office of Lisa Hurtado McDonnell | Lisa Hurtado McDonnell
Renter insurance cover the tenant's possessions. The kitchen damage is covered by your property insurance.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 5/21/2013
Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
If the tenant was negligent in causing the fire then they are responsible for the damages. Their own insurance may be just to cover the damages to their own property and not liability coverage. You need to see what their insurance coverage is. Your own insurance on the house should cover the damages and then they may go after the tenant, who probably has no assets.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/20/2013
Law Offices of John S. Keating
Law Offices of John S. Keating | John S. Keating
If the tenant's negligence caused the fire, as opposed to, say, faulty equipment (in which case the landlord could be liable, if it was the landlord's equipment that is at fault, such as a kitchen stove that malfunctioned), then the tenant would ultimately be liable for the damage. If the tenant has admitted that his/her actions caused the fire, then take good notes of what he/she said (ideally, he/she made a statement admitting fault, and did so in front of not just you, but some other third person as well, who could then be a witness to the tenant's admission). Any such statements could be vital if this matter became the subject of litigation and/or an insurance claim. If the tenant has renter's insurance, then he/she should certainly make a claim under that renter's policy. But any such policy is likely to cover only the damage to his/her personal property, although it may also cover certain items of yours, such as furniture, if any of the furniture is yours. I would ask the tenant whether he/she has renter's insurance, and, if so, for a copy of the policy, so you (or your lawyer) can determine what is and is not covered. You will probably also need to make a claim under your property insurance policy, as the tenant's renter's insurance, if he/she has such coverage, is unlikely to cover structural damage to the dwelling. Hopefully, your policy covers this rental unit. If the tenant's own negligence was the cause of the fire, then the tenant would ultimately be liable for any damage that is not covered by your policy, such as the deductible. The tenant may also be liable for any increase in your premiums as a result of the fire. It is likely that the security deposit will not cover 100% of any losses that are not covered by insurance, so you may need to ask (or sue) the tenant to make up the difference. If you have any questions concerning the above or decide that you need legal counsel, please feel free to contact me.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 5/20/2013
Universal Law Group, Inc. | Francis John Cowhig
It will depend on the exact cause of the fire. Although you state it was "cooking related", there may be extenuating circumstance, such as a faulty venting system, which could place liability somewhere else.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/20/2013
Peters Law, PLLC
Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
I would submit it to your insurance and let your insurer figure out what to do from there.
Answer Applies to: Idaho
Replied: 5/20/2013
    Harper Law Offices, Inc. P.S.
    Harper Law Offices, Inc. P.S. | Joseph T. G. Harper
    There is a recent case out of Washington's Division 3 Court of Appeals, called Trinity Universal Ins. Co. of Kansas v. Cook, 168 Wash. App. 431, 432, 276 P.3d 372, 373 review denied, 175 Wash. 2d 1016, 287 P.3d 11 (2012), which states: "The rule in this state, and the trend nationwide, is that the tenant is a coinsured with her landlord under the landlord's fire insurance policy, absent a specific provision in the rental agreement or lease to the contrary. This case was relying upon an earlier case out of the Division 2 Court of Appeals, Cmty. Ass'n Underwriters of Am., Inc. v. Kalles, 164 Wash. App. 30, 36, 259 P.3d 1154, 1158 (2011), which said the same thing. A tenant paying rent can reasonably expect that the fire insurance will cover them as well, unless the landlord and tenant have agreed otherwise. What this means, usually, is that your tenant who causes the fire would be responsible for the deductible, but not anything more unless your lease specifically stated that the landlord's insurance will not cover them and they must have their own renter's insurance. If that is the case, and they had renter's insurance, it would then depend upon what the renter's policy covered. The language in the lease is what is important here. You should take your lease and have an attorney review it and your situation with you right away to make sure that your rights are protected and that you know what may or may not be covered. You may have to tender a claim to your insurance and if you have not done so, there could be adverse ramifications to you for any delay.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/20/2013
    Highpoint Law Group PLLC
    Highpoint Law Group PLLC | Jeffrey L. Smoot
    Assuming the tenant's negligence was the cause of the fire, the tenant should be responsible for the damage. If the renter's insurance covers damage to the premises caused by the tenant's negligence, you should be able to recover from the policy, up to the policy limits. Anything beyond the policy limits would be the responsibility of the tenant. If you have your own insurance, you should report the fire damage to your insurer as soon as possible, otherwise they could deny coverage for your failure to promptly report the incident.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/20/2013
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