If you have a fire or water emergency, please call us now at (817) 589-1499

To have the optimal experience while using this site, you will need to update your browser. You may want to try one of the following alternatives:

Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Understanding Landlord Responsibilities After a Fire in Fort Worth, TX

12/15/2020 (Permalink)

understanding landlord responsibilities after a fire If you've experienced a fire at your rental property, contact the Fort Worth fire damage restoration experts at SERVPRO for guidance and free pricing.

Rental properties are perhaps the most sought after financial assets these days. But with assets come liabilities. Gains become a loss when a Fort Worth, TX property sustains severe damage such as flooding, tornado, or a fire.

As with any big business decision, investors should weigh the risks before entering into a rental property venture. Full awareness of these risks includes understanding landlord responsibilities after a fire.

SERVPRO in Fort Worth is all about preparedness for a disaster. In this guide, we share essential information about landlord obligations so that you can be proactive in protecting your investment.

What Is A Landlord Responsible For?

Because maintaining a rental property is a lot of work, property management is a lucrative industry. Rental property owners intend for this investment to bring in passive income, and they can make it so by handing off most of the landlord's responsibilities to a management company.

The core responsibilities of a landlord are to draw up a proper lease agreement, comply with fair housing (anti-discrimination) laws, follow proper eviction and rent collection procedure, and return cash deposits in a timely manner. 

Fort Worth landlords are also responsible for maintaining a certain level of living conditions and maintaining insurance on the property. They are on the hook for aspects of the property that "materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant." If a tenant takes the recourse of reporting unlivable conditions to the authorities, a landlord is forbidden from retaliatory actions.

Landlord’s Responsibilities After a Fire

One of the downsides of being a landlord is not having control over the actions of tenants who live their lives privately in the property you own. According to a FEMA report on multifamily residential building fires, cooking is the leading cause of these fires (74%).

So when a landlord gets the call that a fire has happened at one of their properties, what are the responsibilities of a landlord? What should a landlord do first? If you have staff at the property, they can act on your behalf with clear instructions concerning what to do if a fire happens.

Immediately After the Fire

Below is a list of landlord responsibilities after a fire immediately after the event has occurred.

  • Do not attempt to enter the scene where the fire occurred. Authorized personnel such as a fire marshall or the fire department will need to do an investigation and ensure the area is safe for others to enter again.
  • Either the landlord or those working on behalf of the property should check on the tenants. Be prepared to direct those displaced on where they can go for alternative places to stay (such as the Red Cross).
  • While you communicate with the tenants, try to piece together what the cause of the damage was. The details of these accounts should be documented by either the landlord or their representatives.
  • Contact your insurance company to discuss if a claim should be filed or not. 
  • Even if the official investigation is not yet complete, you can still call fire damage restoration companies in Fort Worth. SERVPRO’s local franchises have substantial experience working with insurance companies to make the process as efficient as possible.
  • Get in touch with the fire department to find out when it will be clear for people to reenter. At this time, the landlord can personally assess the damage, and tenants can salvage what’s left of their belongings.

With landlord responsibilities after a fire, communication and coordination are the top priority. The landlord should keep in touch with everyone involved and document everything.

Days After the Fire

Until the property has been investigated and clear for people to re-enter, all a landlord can do is follow up with all involved parties: the tenants, staff, fire department, insurance representatives, and perhaps the restoration company as well.

Once the property is ready for you to enter, here are some of the steps a landlord would take:

  • Document the damage by doing a walk-through of the damaged unit (and those surrounding units if it’s a multi-family property). It helps to take photos and videos of everything.
  • At this phase, no one who enters the property should attempt to clean it up until the insurance company has given the go-ahead. No one should use the utilities until the fire department says it’s okay.
  • List an inventory of everything damaged: both the interior and the exterior fixtures. Make note of damaged appliances and include brand names and model information as best you can. The personal items of the tenant are not typically involved in the claim as this is not one of the landlord’s responsibilities after a fire.
  • After a walk-through of the fire scene is complete, the property should be closed off to trespassers and the elements with either board up or tarping. This is SERVPRO’s first step in the fire restoration process. The insurance company will want to know that measures were taken to prevent additional liabilities, and board up and tarping is a proactive measure.
  • Communicate with your tenants about lease cancellation or rent abatement. Use wise discretion on whether to continue collecting rent. When appropriate, a landlord can suggest the tenant file a claim with their renter’s insurance policy.
  • Hire a restoration company and stay in communication with your point of contact regularly. SERVPRO has one point of contact with property owners who are ready to provide clients with any updates.

Who Pays for Fire Damages?

Typically, the landlord’s insurance is supposed to cover the costs of restoration to bring it back to preloss and habitable conditions. Renter’s insurance normally covers the tenant’s personal items like clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. However, if the fire was due to landlord neglect, they may be liable for the tenant’s belongings.

With kitchen fires being the leading cause of apartment fires, it’s ideal that tenants have a renter’s insurance policy for the duration of the lease term. Before requiring renter’s insurance as a lease term, the landlord should consult a legal expert.

Unfortunately, what cannot be covered with insurance or by being awarded damages through the courts is on the property owner. They will need to decide if they are willing to reinvest in the property with out-of-pocket restoration costs.

Restoring Property Into a Habitable State

The landlord is responsible for providing safe and habitable housing, and they want to earn money from the investment rather than lose out. So, it’s within the property owner’s interests to recover the unit(s) as soon as possible.

SERVPRO is set up to manage the entire fire damage to the rental property.  Being able to handle it all is how we effectively organize all the restoration process efficiently. Our Fort Worth ceiling repair and full-service fire restoration services include:

  • Roof tarp, board-up, and live security
  • Fire cleanup
  • Fire smoke odor deodorization
  • Moving services and long-term storage
  • Clothing sanitization 
  • Sanitization of all belongings
  • Electronic restoration services
  • Reconstruction

Depending on local laws, a landlord may need to apply for a certificate of occupancy before units can be lived in again.

What Happens While the Property Is Uninhabitable?

If the damage is minor, tenants may be able to stay in the unit while the property while repairs are being done. If the unit is not safe to live in during the restoration process, they will either secure temporary housing through insurance coverage payout or other reasons. 

For liability reasons, no one should live in the unit until it’s deemed safe. Tenants may be able to work with non-profit organizations like the Red Cross if they have nowhere else to stay. 

Sometimes the severity of fire damage is extensive to the point that it’s no longer safe to live in. At this point, tenants should be relieved of rent payment obligations. Being let out of a lease may be up to the courts where it is proven that the property is no longer habitable.

Professional Fire Restoration Experts in Fort Worth, Texas

Landlord responsibilities after a fire include prompt action, documentation of what happened and what was damaged, ongoing communication with all involved parties, helping tenants find other living arrangements, and hiring the best Fort Worth fire damage restoration company.

SERVPRO has been restoring fire-damaged properties for decades. Our experienced technicians make it "Like it never even happened." We are available 24/7 for emergency contact, and we communicate with the insurance company on your behalf to help the process run smoothly. 

If a fire damages your rental property, protect your investment. First, call your insurance company, then call SERVPRO of North Richland Hills at (817) 589-1499 any time for guidance and free pricing. We are ready to help you around the clock, 365 days a year.

Other News

View Recent Posts