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Fire in apartment caused by faulty water heater!

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state? NJ

I rent an apartment in 2 story multifamily dwelling building, apartment complex. Last week there was a fire in my apartment when I was at work and it caused lot of damages to my personal property. The fire was caused by short circuit in a water heater that was placed in coat closet by aprtment building. Everything in the apartment is damaged either by fire or smoke. I could managed to get few clothes and some important papaers which was secured in other closet. Rest of the things in apartment are unsalvageable.
I did not had renters insurance. If fire is caused by faulty water heater placed by aparment management, aren't they liable for my damages? They even denied when I asked for alternate place to stay as the apartment is declared not safe by fire department. Temporarily I have been living with my friend.
My lease document is also burnt into apartment and they are not providing me copy of lease when I requested. When I requested for unused portion of rent and security deposit, they said it will take 30 days after my request. I have fire department report that says the fire was caused by short circuit in water heater. Can I take any legal action against management company? I'm totally devastated with this helpless situation. Seeking for legal advice.


Since you have no renter's insurance your choices are:
1. Accept this as an expensive lesson, Or, 2. File a complaint against the apartment complex for their failure to affect a safe and proper installation of the water heater.

In case #2; you have a rather weak case unless one or more of the following are accurate:
a. The relatively new water heater was a improperly installed.
b. The landlord had notice of the dangerous circumstances.
c. The landlord should have reasonably known of the dangerous circumstances.
d. The fire was the proximate cause of the landlord's negligence.
e. The waterheater was defective.
There are others but you get the point.

If you make a claim against the landlord, their insurer may defend. If there was a defect in workmanship or the product, you can be sure that the landlord's insurer will subrogate against one, or both, installer and product manufacturer. If that is the case, the landlord's insurer may consider a settlement in exchange for your right of recovery.

Bottom line: Hit them with the strongest most accurate language that also passes the laugh test. Hope they recognize your tenacity and settle. Otherwise, settle in for a long haul. In my state a subrogation claim on a large loss such as this would take several years just to get to trial.

On the proration of your rent; it sounds like they intend to pay you. Get your rent and deposit. They should also give you a copy of your lease. Demand it.

There are a great number of "ifs" here.

How much money is involved on your property?



Senior Member
blu do your self a favor go call your local fire dept and ask them if they or the city issued a condemnation order for your apt stating that NO one can live in it . if so get a copy of it from them,THEN see if your state laws spell out what happens to rents that are paid but a unit is found condemned . Some places have literally spelled out the number of days that LLs have to return prorated rents and full deposits wich could be shorter time frames than normal circumstances due to condemn orders . If you learn that deposits and prorated rent amount returns are accelerated by your states laws then if the LL breaks the law plan on asking in small claims court what ever the penalty is in your state .

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