Can my landlord’s insurance company press charges against me for fire damage?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my landlord’s insurance company press charges against me for fire damage?

When I moved into my condo, I had an accidental kitchen fire. I notified my landlord of the damage, who then notified his insurance company. I was in regular contact with my landlord regarding the situation, and ended up paying him the insurance deductible. After I paid the deductible, he let me know that his insurance company found me at fault and wanted to get in contact with me. I soon received a letter from them informing me of how much I owe them under subrogation. However, I am a college student with little income and no money to pay. Can they press charges against me if I am

unable to pay? Also, the fire happened after I had signed the rental lease but before the date that the contract was specified to begin my landlord allowed me to move in a few days early, as I know him personally. Does this mean that I was not yet a tenant at this time? What does that mean for the


Asked on November 14, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

They can only press charges if there is evidence that this was an intentional fire (e.g. arson). However, if you were at fault in any way in causing the fire, even by simple carelessness, they could sue you and recover the money they had  to pay out under their policy due to your fault: this is subrogation. A person who is at fault in causing a loss can be forced to repay the insurer who paid out under a policy.
If had signed the lease and moved in, you were a tenant, even if you were allowed to move in early. Even if you had not been a tenant, if you were at fault in causing the fire, they could still sue.

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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