If a tenant’s apartment catches fire and they loseeverything, is the complex liable?

UPDATED: Sep 21, 2010

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If a tenant’s apartment catches fire and they loseeverything, is the complex liable?

The apartment had no smoke detector’s,or fire alarms, and the fire extinguisher did not work, when the fire was containable in the kitchen. The apartment and it’s content were a total lose and the complex sent my sister-in-law a bill for the for their insurance deductible. They took her security deposit and have failed to refund her her unused rent? Is this legal? And are they liable for her lost belongings?

Asked on September 21, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Your sister-in-law needs to seek legal counsel in her area as soon as possible.  She needs to bring her lease agreement and ask an attorney what the landlord's obligation under the law as to smoke detectors in the apartment is and if thatobligation can be "assigned" to a tenant under a lease for liability purposes.  I am going to guess that it can not be but she needs to double check to be sure.  She may in fact have SOME liability if she was found to have caused the fire through some act of negligence on her part, but the extreme circumstances here could have been foreseeable and avoidable if the smoke detector was in place.  Good luck.  

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