Recourse for landlords whose tenants burn down the house

Keri asks:
(updated on Tuesday, December 05th 2006)

My house burnt down and is now bulldozed to the ground. I doubt whether insurance will make me whole again with the house costs as they are today. Do I have any recourse on the tenant who wasn't even there, but had house sitters (who lost all their valuables too so obviously weren't just housesitters), or the property managers who knew of the situation but didn't include these people on the lease and their stupidity caused the fire? I lost a house lot of furniture that was stored on the premises and wasn't insured and these people are all getting help and are going to be in a better position than when they started. The mother-in-law of the tenant was trying to get the house over-stayers out apparently, so that also indicates they were not just looking after the house. The official report isn't out yet but they have indicated what caused it and it was carelessness. Please advise on where I stand.

Our Experts Answer:

We recommend that you discuss your situation in detail with your insurer and also with a lawyer, as it raises a number of complex legal issues. Your insurer and/or your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best course of action for you to take to recoup your losses. In the event that you or your insurer decides to formally pursue your tenants for the damage caused to your property and possessions, it may be that the best option for redress is through the District Court, which has the ability to award compensation up to $200,000. The Tenancy Tribunal has the power to award compensation up to $12,000 only.

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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