Responsibility for paying for fire damage

Question from Heather updated on 9th July 2010:

My tenants had a small fire which has cause smoke damage, a fan heater was destroyed and the walls in the laundry are charred and need replacing and repainting. The fire brigade reported that the wiring was old but the tenants had been running 6 appliances off the double power point. Who is responsible for paying for the damage is it the landlord or the tenants?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

Responsibility for the cost of the damage would depend on the actual cause of the fire. Tenants are liable for damage they or their invited guests cause carelessly or intentionally. If the damage occurred because of a maintenance problem (e.g. due to the wiring being old), then the landlord may be liable for the cost. However, if the damage was caused because the tenant overloaded the power point, then the tenant may be liable.

I suggest you discuss the matter with your tenants to see if an agreement can be reached over who is responsible for the cost of the damage. You should also seek advice from your insurance company.

If you and your tenants can’t agree on who will pay the cost of the damage, you could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to resolve the matter. For information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (, or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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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