What are a tenant’s rights to re-occupy their rental after small fire?

Living with a year lease as a tenant. There was an electrical fire in the wall of our apartment, determined by inspectors to be from old wiring over 100 years old. The fire was in a small portion of the house, which requires minor work to patch things. I think the landlord is required to redo the electrical in the house as well, to bring it up to code. The damage to our belongings is minimal and some things near the fire are covered in ashy dust. The owner asked us to remove our belongings and to relocate, which I find unnecessary and painful after such an event with no where to relocate. Isn’t the landlord responsible for cleaning my household items first? I have asked the landlord for the insurers contact but they did not give it to me. It is my right to speak with an adjuster directly and not the owner. What are my rights as a tenant, in terms of occupancy? I feel the owner is not being completely forward about all the information to either save money or extend time to renovate at their leisure? Should I call the building inspector on my own to determine date of occupancy and should I contact the fire department for the insurance company contact? What are my rights as a tenant?

Asked on November 12, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If there was a small fire in the unit that you are occupying and there is not stay out order issued by the fire department or police department for the rental, you have the right to re-enter the unit and reside in it so long as you are paying your monthly rent to the landlord.

The caveat is that the above answer is based upon the assumption that repairs can be made while the unit is being occupied.

As far as the insurance issue goes, I would right the landlord a letter asking for the name, telephone number, claim number and address of the adjuster by a certain date keeping a copy. If the requested date comes and goes, you could consider an action against the landlord for damages.

You should also contact the fire department who was at the unit to confirm that you can return to it for occupation. Good luck.


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