Can I sue for damages on a rented destroyed unit

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue for damages on a rented destroyed unit

Hello, back in August my rented condominium was condemned due to heavy smoke and structural damage due to a fire caused by a condominium in my complex same wing of my condo. I was displaced and had to find another place to live due to the damage caused by the fire/smoke. I did have renters insurance and was compensated for the personal property loss, there was no personal injury suffered.

Does the occupant of the condo that caused the damage hold any responsibility to the others who were affected by the fire? I am not completely sure of the process and being I am only the tenant and not the owner I was not sure if options to claim damages against the owner is viable. A couple of people have asked me if I have contacted a lawyer so I was curious being I don’t know the laws intimately.

Asked on November 17, 2017 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) The neighbor may be liable IF the neighbor was at fault in causing the fire, such as through carelessness (e.g. smoking in bed; leaving a pot cooking unattended). However, if it was not their fault (e.g. a wiring short), they are not liable. This means that you'd have to be able to prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" (more likely than not) that they were at fault, using or presenting evidence, such as fire report and testimony of a fire investigator.
2) However, you are only entitled, when there is no personal injury, to compensation for damaged property, clean-up costs (e.g. to get rid of smoke or water), and for the cost if you had to stay elsewhere while your unit was fixed (like if you had to pay for a hotel). If you have already received compensation (such as via insurance) for all, or even most (since there's no point in suing over a small amount) of this, there's no reason to sue: you can't get additional compensation for anything for which you have already been paid, and are not entitled to compensation for inconvenience, your time, or stress.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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