Can my apartment manager hold me responsible and bill me for the cost of a palm tree that was alleged to have been set on fire by my 11 year old son?

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Can my apartment manager hold me responsible and bill me for the cost of a palm tree that was alleged to have been set on fire by my 11 year old son?

My son told me that a tree was on fire near the dog park in our complex. He said that he ran and told the downstairs neighbor and she called the fire department. This morning I was called into the office to speak with the manager. She said 3 different individuals told her that they saw my son stand on the gate that encloses the dog park and set the tree on fire. Considering the distance between the gate and the tree, it’s close to impossible for him to have done what he’s being accused of. Am I liable based of illogical hearsay?

Asked on August 1, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

IF you son had set the fire, you would clearly be liable for the tree's cost. If you refuse to voluntarily pay, your landlord could sue you for the money, or take it out of your security deposit. If they sue you, they would have to win in court, based on witness testimony (e.g. the people who claim they saw your son set the fire) that your son caused the fire; you will have your chance to put your testimony and evidence (and that of your son) out, too, to refute the landlord's case, and the court will decide who is more likely right. Similarly, if they withhold money from your security deposit and you feel it was wrong for them to do so, you could sue the landlord for the return of the money, and a court will again hear testimony and decide what most likely occured.


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