What do I do if I am being sued for a house fire if I don't have any money? 2 Answers as of April 28, 2012

I am being sued for a house that I was going to live in based on a rental agreement that caught on fire. I hadn't even spent 1 night in the home before it caught on fire. I paid my security deposit, first month's rent, and signed a lease agreement. I moved my belongings into the house over the course of a weekend. The electricity company was going to turn on the electricity on the following business day. They did not specify a certain time. So it was to my surprise when I arrived at the house that afternoon that it was on fire! Apparently when we moved my belongings into the house a knob on the kitchen stove had been moved and when the electricity was turned on, the stove ignited some boxes that were sitting on top of it. The landlord came and notified their insurance company. They returned my first month's rent, but kept the security deposit. What should I do? I am a single mother of 3 and have a very limited income. I am unable to afford an attorney and I have tried to contact legal aid in my area, but they said they don't handle this type of matter. Please help!

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H. Scott Basham, Attorney at Law, P.C. | H. Scott Basham
You can sue in small claims (Magistrate Court) for the return of your security deposit. The challenge will be explaining why you piled some boxes on top of a stove, even though at the time it was not turned on. A judge might deem that to be negligent conduct, and decide the landlord was right to keep your security deposit. Be sure to check the terms of your lease as it relates to security deposits as well.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 4/26/2012
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