If you own an apartment complex, a fire can be devastating to your reputation, your business, and your tenants. Preventing structural fires in your apartment building is absolutely vital to your livelihood, and so is dealing appropriately with the insurance claims that follow.
Even the damage caused by a relatively small fire can be extremely expensive to repair. Not getting the right amount of money to rebuild could leave you without an income. Attorney Bill Voss understands what a complicated position landlords and property owners are put in after a fire, and he knows how important it is for policyholders to make informed decisions. If your apartment complex has been damaged by a structural fire, it is imperative that you understand the cause of the fire and file an insurance claim if your policy covers that cause.
Understanding the Causes of Apartment Structural Fires
When it comes to questions of fault, insurance claims, and repairs, an apartment structural fire can be much more complex and confusing than other commercial property fires. Why? Because both the landlord and the tenant likely have responsibilities and insurance coverage. Depending on the details of the fire, the insurance company for one or the other may pay for the property damage, or each party’s coverage may cover different portions of the overall losses.
The first step to making sense of it all is to find out how the fire started and what might have interfered with extinguishing it. The insurance companies for everyone involved—whether property owner or tenant—will look at these factors and determine what is covered and who is responsible. To get an idea of why these kinds of claims are so complicated, read your current insurance policies carefully, and think about where the responsibility might lie in the event of these common causes of apartment fires:
- Kitchen fires and cooking fires. By far the most common cause of apartment fires can be traced back to the kitchen, where tenants may leave food on the stove or in the oven. This type of fire is troubling to landlords, since there is little you can do to prevent these fires from taking place.
- Appliances and electrical fires. The second leading cause of apartment fires is electrical fires, often caused by faulty wiring, aging appliances, or overheated appliances. Appliances frequently involved in these fires include space heaters and clothes dryers.
- Smoking and open flames. Any time there is an open flame in an apartment, there is a risk of the fire spreading. The most common open flame fires are started by cigarettes, but some fires are also caused by fireplaces, candles, and incense.
- Arson. Some fires are started on purpose, with the intent to harm others or destroy property. Whether an arsonist was targeting you, a tenant, or simply setting a fire anywhere, the results can be devastating.
- Accidental fires. Finally, some fires are started purely by accident, oftentimes by children. An accident with lighters, matches, or fireworks could damage an apartment or bring down the entire complex. The best prevention for these fires is educating children about fire dangers and keeping these objects out of the hands of children.
Remember, landlords and property owners have some responsibility to make sure that their properties are safe and properly maintained. Learn more about preventing structure fires on commercial properties.
What Is Covered by My Apartment Owner’s Fire Insurance Policy?
Commercial insurance coverage is vital to your success as a business or landlord, and yet the process of choosing your property insurance policy and filing claims can be very confusing. It is important to understand that different insurance companies—and differing policies—cover different loss events. The only truly reliable way to know what your insurance policy cover will cover after a fire is to read the contract you signed with your insurance company.
Typically, however, apartment building insurance policies provide coverage for direct fire damage and smoke damage to structures on the property. These policies often include the main apartment complex, as well as any adjoining garages, storage facilities, recreational areas, office areas, swimming pools, fences and walls.
Insurance also may cover the tenants’ rent for the period that it takes to repair or rebuild the apartments. As a landlord, you may have “loss of rents” coverage. This provides business interruption coverage for apartment and office buildings that covers the rents you would have received if your building had not suffered a covered loss and were tenable.
Benefits of Requiring Renters Insurance
Landlords have the opportunity to require a number of things from their potential tenants. For example, they can specify a no-pets policy or ask them to sign a multiple-year lease. Some landlords require their tenants to buy a renters insurance policy. This can be a good idea, especially in the context of a major fire. Requiring renters insurance can:
- Decrease your chances of a lawsuit.
- Increase chances of quick cleanup.
- Decrease your chances of a move out.
- Protect your tenants from property losses.
- Protect your tenants from some on-property injury lawsuits.
- Avoid arguments about liability.
Ensure your renters have money to cover rent after a loss
What Happens If the Property Owner’s Apartment Fire Insurance Claim Is Denied?
When an apartment structural fire damages your apartment complex, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the details and legal aspects of the fire. Some insurance companies may take advantage of the complexity of these incidents to delay your claim, deny responsibility, or try to give you an unfair amount. However, an unfair claim denial doesn’t have to be the final word if you know your rights.
If your apartment fire claim was denied, you should consider seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in denied insurance claims. An attorney will be able to review your insurance claim, let you know what your rights are, and explain what avenues and options are available to you.
At the Voss Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping commercial property owners with complicated or large-loss insurance claims. We want to help property owners collect a fair payment on their insurance claims and fight back against insurance companies that are acting in bad faith. For a free claim review and more answers to your questions, reach out to us today.