If we rented a home and it caught on fire because the gutters were not cleaned, is the landlord responsible to pay for our loss and find us a place to stay?

We rented a home without a contract month to month. We moved in on the 1st and it caught on fire the 16th. We paid $1400. We lost a lot of our items and have know where to live. We are staying with my niece in a 2 bedroom 1 bath home 6 people and 4 dogs. We are in our 60’s and have know place to go. We did not have renters insurance because we were waiting for the home owners insurance rebate to come from our home we had just sold (which we just got a few days ago). We were in the rental 16 days and didn’t get a chance to get it.

Asked on September 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You need to carefully read the written lease that you have with the landlord (assuming you have one) in that its terms set forth what obligations you owe the landlord and vice versa in the absence of conflicting state law. Most likely the landlord had the obligation under the rental agreement if maintence is stated in the written lease to clean the gutters and if not stated, he would have been obligated to do so under New Jersey law since he owned the unit you were renting.

If you wish to bring a lawsuit against your landlord for your damages (loss of items from the fire), you will need to prove that the landlord was negligent for allowing the fire to happen and you must prove the fair market value of the items lost in the fire. Many times fires happen for no apparent foreseeable reasons. To see if the landlord was negligent for the fire's cause, read the fire report. It should state the reasons for its cause and possible negligence of third persons.

Unfortunately the landlord is not obligated to find you a new place to stay since you were on a month-to-month rental. You are entitled to a partial refund of your rent paid and your security deposit back from the landlord.

Good luck.

 


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