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Am I liable?


shorty20
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So, as alot of you know, my roommate started a fire in our kitchen and we've been living out of a hotel for a week now. It was her fault, she put a jar candle on the stove burner, and it caught fire. I thought I had renters insurance, but my agent left the company and never added it like he said he would. I just found out last night that her insurance denied her claim, because they said that in our lease with our apartments that it dosen't say anywhere that we (me and my roommate) are liable for fires. Now the apartments are trying to get their money somehow, so they told me and my roommate that WE owe them $12000 before we can move back into our apartment! My parents are on the lease (both our parents co-signed since it was our first apartment) so if I don't pay, they could sue my parents for the money. So what do I do? I didn't take any part in putting the candle on the stove, or in throwing water on it to make the whole thing explode into a huge fire... my roommate did it all, and now she's like "oh, we're in this together"... so she's basically saying I have to split the cost of the repairs with her. I don't see how just having an apartment with someone makes you liable for $6000 when I didn't even do anything... so, if the insurance company goes through with it and dosen't pay, and the apartments hold us liable, 1) am I legally obligated to pay half of that bill even though I didn't start the fire 2) morally, would it be wrong to leave her (at one time one of my best friends) with a $12000 bill?

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You talk to a lawyer, but first you probably talk to your parents.

 

Also, you might be able to sue the insurance agent or the insurance agency that was supposed to get you renters coverage. I have sued, for a client, a broker for failing to properly place coverage. It's something you might look into, esp. if you have a letter or email saying that it was going to be placed or asking that it be placed. Documents make better evidence than just you saying it.

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I think you had better see a lawyer about this. It could be that you and your parents would have to pay for the damage since they are also on the lease. It may even be that you and your parents would have to pay it all if your roommate and her parents can't pay (the various clauses in the lease that cover property damage and also 'joint and several liability' issues could be at play here).

 

That could mean that you would then have to sue the roommate and her parents to recover either all or at least half of the costs because she was the one who caused the fire.

 

As you can see, there are possibly serious implications and your absolute best bet is to get some legal advice.

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I just don't know how I could do that to my roommate... on one hand, she started the fire, she should be liable... on the other hand, we are in this together. We got the apartment together, we signed the lease together... so I don't know if morally I would be obligated to help her out... If we did end up having to pay half of the bill, my parents would have to take out a loan and I would have to pay them back... which ruins my plans of getting married in April 07 because all the money I've saved would go towards paying my parents back... am I morally wrong for not wanting to help her out? I figure either way our friendship is shot. If she LETS me pay for half of her mistake I'll be pissed... if I don't help her out, she'll be pissed... either way it's not looking good.

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no, I never asked her NOT to do it... she had done this before with other candles, and I'd kind of questioned it and she said it was fine because it was in a glass jar. I never said "please don't do that" or objected because I trusted her judgment.... I guess I should have spoken up though. I also think that in her tiredness, that instead of turning the burner on low like she'd done before just to melt the wax that she may have accidently turned it to HIGH instead, which would be why it started a fire.... but part of me feels since I was there the whole time and didn't speak up or say anything that I am obligated to help her.... I can see it either way, and none of my friends can give me any advice as to what they'd do because they've never been in this situation...

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Usually your renter's insurance is supposed to cover YOUR possessions in the apt, meaning that if you DIDNT have renter's insurance, you wouldnt be able to get YOUR stuff that YOU lost in the fire, replaced. The owner of the apt has HIS own insurance for the bldg that is supposed to cover fire and all that. So, the apt arent supposed to be coming after you for the money, I would think.

 

I dont know.

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her insurance covers HER stuff for up to I think like 10,000 or something like that. It covers property damage (to the apartment) up to 30,000. The apartments should have insurance, which is why I'm confused... I could understand if they would try to stick us with their deductible, and although it still wouldn't be fair, I'd pay half because she's my friend and I'd love to help out... just not for $6000, I can't afford that and neither can my parents. I don't know why they're saying that we owe them the full ammount... maybe they dont want to turn it into their insurance??

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Usually your renter's insurance is supposed to cover YOUR possessions in the apt, meaning that if you DIDNT have renter's insurance, you wouldnt be able to get YOUR stuff that YOU lost in the fire, replaced. The owner of the apt has HIS own insurance for the bldg that is supposed to cover fire and all that. So, the apt arent supposed to be coming after you for the money, I would think.

 

I dont know.

 

 

I am in agreement with Ren. Renters insurance would cover personal items and belongings. The apartment bldg, should have its own insurance. But they may feel its is your roommates negligence that caused the fire, so they may feel that you two are liable as the ones leasing the apt.

 

However, I think consulting a lawyer with all your information would be the next step. There is too much confusion on who is liable for what to decide this among your selves. So get yourself legal counsel.

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My parents own some apt buildings and I know that they have apt insurance to cover if stuff happens to their apartment (like fire, etc). The only time I ever saw that they had to use it was when they evicted one of their tenants for refusal to pay rent and the guy came back and tried to burn down his apartment. He was able to set fire to his apartment but someone called the fire dept and the fire was put out. There was over $10,000 worth of damage to the apartment and my dad's apartment insurance covered it. The guy did get arrested for arson but I was not sure if my parents went after him for the money. What you guys did was accidental, NOT intentional so they SHOULDNT be coming after you for the money.

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I think you would probably be liable for the fire as well since your name is one the lease. Your parents would probably get involved too. I don't think it's fair that your friend is trying to get you to pay for half of the damages because it's her fault for leaving the candle there! I def dun think you should pay for it. I would suggest you get a lawyer and fight it too!

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Insurance is a rather regional thing. Here when I rented, my tenants insurance would cover damage to my property, or to other property (ie my hot water tank broke and ruined suite below me, my insurance would cover the property in theirs).

 

However, the building should have their OWN building insurance that pays for damage to the building itself. After all you are a renter, not an owner of that property. You are "borrowing" it and cannot take it with you after all! And because NOT every renter has insurance (which is really not good thing!) they need their own insurance to well, insure against damage like that.

 

I think however they CAN try and recoup their deductibles/increased insurance costs if they find someone was truly negligent or disobeyed building regulations for example. The insurance company can ALSO decide to do this if they feel they have a case for negligence.

 

I would definitely be contacting a lawyer (actually, your parents should if they signed lease) as this could get ugly.

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Even if the building owner has insurance, and the owner's insurance coverage pays the owner, that does not mean that the owner's insurer cannot sue to recover what the insurer paid the owner. This is and can be done, and it is called a subrogation action. Insurance companies seek to recover in subrogation all the time.

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