Apartment building fire

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I had an apartment building fire with extensive smoke damage affecting many apartments with smoke damage only. I have been told by many contractors that when it is near 90f outside and humid the smoke smell will re occur if it is not removed now. It can get to 100f, 85% humidity here, and there is no central air so I have prime weather for re activating the dormant smoke smell. I have been told the high heat periods are when the tenants will complain and move.
My question is does smoke that travels through the walls come back into the next apartments through the openings, and outlets , walls? Do any of you have direct fire , smoke damage experiance, and have any ideas on to how far a rebuild has to go? Are there any Fire Pro guys out there? . The job keeps looking worse!
I dont want the insurance co to cut me short!! Does anyone have actual fire- apartment- smoke - experiance here, With the building open now, it will be July 2012 before I know if this years work was enough to combat the smoke damage.
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I had some personal experience, but that was over 50 years ago. Yes, the smell can come back. Cleaning technology has improved though, and they should be able to make it undetectable.
You also need a good insurance adjuster. They get 5% of your total claim, but can get you a lot more money that you can negotiate yourself. I know of two examples where the insurance company offered little, but the adjuster got lots for detail work, such as the cleaning you will need. Restaurant fire: offer $24,000 adjuster settlement $120,000 Industrial fire: Ins Co offer $1.2 million adjuster settlement $3 million+
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Helped gut a friends fire damaged home. Its really impossible to scrub out the smell of smoke, tobacco smoke or urine it aalways comes back in moist weather.
All you can do is seal it in!
In the fire damaged areas gut and clean seal EVERYTHING with bin or kilz primer sealer. Studs, framing the works. New insulation.
Then do the drywall work etc. Prime walls with that same bin or kilz.
Sand and refinish floors use OUTDOOR POLYURETHANE, seal odors in, cant scrub out odors.
You basicaly do the kilz bin thing thru entire building.
Insurance should pay for bring fire damaged areas up to code, GFCIs, insulation etc, you can make out on these.
The fire restoration companies are a rip off, they charge unreal prices for nothing.
Toss all clothe covered furnishings they arent worth the effort! The smell will never leave, unless you get them totally reupholstered. For most modern sofas etc its cheaper to buy new
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As ransley is the LANDLORD he and his insurance coverage is only concerned with rebuilding and restoring the structure to its legally required condition to be used as rental property...
Tenants are responsible for insuring the contents of their units (their furniture, clothing, small appliances, etc.) which are not provided by the landlord...
The tenant's claims to their insurers for any damages to their property is totally separate from ransley's loss and damage claims for the building itself...
~~ Evan
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On Thu, 31 Mar 2011 00:21:07 -0700 (PDT), Evan

It depends on whose fault the fire was. I doubt it was the fault of all the tenants or a group of them. More likely one of them, or lightning, or much to the disgrace of this newsgroup, possibly Mr. ransley.

If they have insurance but the insurance company may well go after whoever is at fault, especially if it is the owner of the building.

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...
Nope... Landlord is NEVER responsible for damages to tenant's contents unless some sort of intentional action took place -- i.e. arson, vandalism, etc. AND the tenant has absolute proof that the landlord or landlord's agent is responsible... Just having a suspicion or "feeling" that the landlord is at fault is not enough... Learn how civil liability works... Most nuisance claims are low balled and closed with $10k-$20k for "personal injury" along with a gag order for accepting the money to make things go away and keep businesses from having their reputations damaged by having records of many lawsuits being filed against them...
As far as finding someone for the various insurance companies to blame and attempt to reclaim their collective losses from (all of the tenants will not be covered by the same insurer unless it is _THAT_ small of a town), well they can try, but that sort of thing happens in a glacial scale of time, maybe in three to five years will a civil case like that see the inside of a court room...
At any rate, the FIRE insurance coverage that a commercial property owner carries is for the structure ONLY... Tenant's furnishings are their own responsibility to insure... If some sort of negligence is suspected there is general liability coverage that any prudent business owner/operator would carry to cover those types of losses... Common coverage numbers I heard tossed out there for a property the size of the one being discussed in this topic would be around $2 million of coverage...
As far as "going after the owner of the building" and your sentiments of "especially if it is this [their] fault" ROFL... A landlord can not be omniscient, as long as malfeasence or gross negligence can not be proven, good luck at pinning it on any one person... Things fall apart and fail suddenly, accidents happen, the world is random -- something installed 30 years ago before ransley every owned the building might have been at fault, so should be be held accountable for not stripping everything down and rebuilding when he bought the place ? NO... That is why insurance exists...
~~ Evan
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On Sat, 2 Apr 2011 01:09:58 -0700 (PDT), Evan

For a full answer by me, readers should also see my answer to Evan's other post,

On what basis do you say this? Common law, statutory law, contract?

Absolute proof is never required in a civil matter. Lawsuits for damages are civil matters.

Now you're arguing against something no one has said.
There is an ocean between "absolute proof" and a suspicion or "feeling". One big landmark in between is "a preponderance of the evidence". Civil claims need to be proved only by a preponderance of the evidence, slightly more than half, more likely than not. 51% is enough.

None of this paragraph is about civil liability. It's mostly about actual out-of-court practices. The paragraph doesn't help to show who is liable to whom.
And it's not a "gag order". It might be called a "gag promise". Sometimes part of the release a plaintiff signs in return for the money is a promise not to tell others how much he got. This is the result of out of court negotiations. In a big case, a court may review and oversee the final settlement, including approval of the gag promise, but judges don't initiate such things.

So what does it matter to an insurance company if it takes 5 years? They are not depending on getting the money right away. It's individuals who often can't afford to replace the things they own and don't want to wait for a lawsuit to complete. That's one of several reasons people have property and auto insurance, to get paid right away, and let the insurance company do the suing later.

We're not talking about commercial property. We're talking about an apartment building, where people live. Residential property. That the landlord rents it in order to make money does not make it commercial.

Maybe, maybe not. Certain business and industries carry with them a chance of fire that is greater than normal and beyond the control of the landlord. That is why landlords want to know in advance what the property will be used for, and why it's a violation of the lease usually to use it for something different and more dangerous. Even then, it's always possible the landlord can start the fire, and he should have insurance to reimburse the tenant, or maybe he can just bear the risk himself. When one has enough assets, acting as a self-insurer saves one the nuisance and cost of buying insurance, making payments which include profit and overhead for the insurance company. Overhead includes everyone's salaries at the insurance company. Every state requires a business to have some quite large net amount of assets to be a self-insurer. (I think I've heard of this only for car insurance. Not sure about property insurance. States might not allow property insurance to be self-insurance, because the insurance's company's safety inspections increase safety for all concerned. The need for insurance is more powerful than government regulation in removing safety hazards on commercial property.)

What is your basis for claiming this? Common law, statutory law, contract? Which US states? Any other countries?

Doesn't this contradict what you just said? You said the LL gets FIRE insurance for the structure ONLY. Now you say he has general liability coverage for negligence.
If he has two insurance policies instead of one, that's okay with me.

That's backwards from what I said. I said they will go after whosever fault it was, especially if it's the owner.
They don't go after the owner if it's not his fault!
And they may not go after a tenant even if it IS HIS fault, because he might not have any money. (OTOH, as I said, some tenants have savings and some are even rich.)

Now you are bringing up, for you, a third landmark, in between "absolute proof" and a suspicion or "feeling". Yes, there exists a notion of gross negligence, but gross negligence need not be proven against a landlord anymore than anyone else in this situation. It's enough to prove simple negligence, and just above you pretty much assumed it was proven.

Not everything bad that happens in an apartment building is the result of negligence. I never said otherwise. If something breaks, something that has been inspected and maintained according the standard in the industry, but it breaks early and without warning and is the cause of the fire, that's probably not negligence, on anyone's part, and no one will recover anything in a lawsuit that is properly decided.
But usually plaintiffs try to show that there was negligence either in the inspection, maintenance, and repair for something which causes a fire, or in the behaviour of the landlord or his agent.
In the Japanese reactors, it turns out they hadn't had all the inspections (and iiac all the maintenance) that they should have. That's negligence. Whether this had anything to do with the trouble there is another story. Obviously to me, it was the earthquake and the sunami which caused most of the damage. In an American court, and maybe a Japanese one, it would be necessary to show that the negligent maintenance of the reactors in fact meant that there was more damage to the reactors and that increased the radiation, etc.
Sometimes when negligence is found but it has no relationship to damages, it's called "negligence in the air". It blows away and means nothing to the lawsuit.

In ransley's case, I have the strong impression it was criminals, vandals, who were at fault.
But if it is something in the building that causes the fire, it doesn't matter if it was there before the current owner bought the building. He bought it warts and all.
In some other case if something installed 30 years ago was the cause of the fire, the LL better have records that he had the item (the furnace?) regularly inspected by a competent company and that he did the repairs, or replacement, that was recommended. He should keep these records somewhere not in the building, so they are not burnt up if the whole building burns up.
In most or all places in the US, a Fire Marshall, who works for the Fire Department, will inspect a fire scene after it cools down, and he'll write a report. These reports are used in court the same way police reports are used in court. If the report says that an activity of the LL or his agent was the cause, or if it blames the furnace, for example, that's enough for a prima facie case against the LL. Then it's up to the LL to present a defense, to show that the furnace was within its serviceable life and that the LL did all the maintenance recommended, thought necessary. Or to discredit the fire report, or the fire marshall himself and the report, but I think these last two are rare.

It depends. If the building is unsafe to live in, it's up to a landlord to make it safe, to whatever standard is the law where he lives. This is probably true by statute even if the owner is the only one living there, but it's true by statute and morality if he has tenants, even his own children. Sometimes a building inspector will show up and tell the LL to do this, but I'm sure sometimes not. (No one is inspecting my single family house and I could be renting a room. In some big old houses, rooms are rented to several people**)
When there is a fire or an explosion, or an elevator accident, or a corner of the building collapses, then everyone wakes up, and any negligence committed by the landlord becomes the subject of their attention, even if it was ignored before.
IOW, he has a duty to make the building safe whether anyone is standing over his shoulder and forcing him to or not.

You seem to make a common mistake about insurance. Having or not having insurance has no effect on who is liable. It pays for losses, very quickly it is hoped, regardless in most cases of who is liable. And if the insured party is not liable or not the only one liable, when he signs his receipt for the money, he also subrogates, as someone else mentioned, his legal claim and transfers it to the insurance company. So the insurance company can sue for the money it paid out, as if it were the original injured party.
Insurance is a benefit to the insured, because it pays more quickly than having to wait for the negligent party to pay, which can take years; because the insurance company has enough money to pay, and often the negligent party doesn't; and because it pays even when no one was negligent, and in most cases, even when the insured party is the negligent one. (And apartment insurance will pay the neighbor if the insured party lets the bathtub run and does damage to the apartments or common areas below, and it will defend the insured in court when there are claims for such things.)
But insurance has no effect on who was liable and who will ultimately pay if the insurance company takes the matter to court and the respondents were the cause and have money with which to pay.

**Whether they need or have legal permission to rent out rooms is not related to whether they were negligent and whether their negligence was a substantial cause of the fire and damages.
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On the basis that it is in every standard form lease that I have ever laid eyes on -- at least in my region of the country...
So once the lease is signed (and it even has to be initialed next to that particular clause) the tenant has acknowledged that requirement and signed away their rights to sue and recover for any damages unless and except intentional criminal conduct on the part of the landlord is PROVEN, to that higher standard "beyond a reasonable doubt" as a civil contract can not be used as a means to shelter liability for any crimes a party to it might commit...

Yes it is... In any situation where a party to a contract has yielded their rights to a particular claim by terms within the agreement one must prove criminal conduct occurred in order to override the terms contained in the agreement and allow a lawsuit on that basis...

And what "evidence" is anyone going to have from the fire scene, the insurance companies don't send out Crime Scene teams like the police to gather physical evidence from a fire scene, all that remains of it by the time it gets into a court room are a few pictures taken by the various parties: the arson investigator, the insurance adjuster, the property owner which will all be focused on different things and priorities -- and a few reams of documentation from the fire and building inspectors and various consulting expert engineers... It then becomes a game of whose expert witness presents a better interpretation of the various reports as in a civil case you will rarely if ever be seeing the original authors of those documents in court...

Promise ? Umm, no, its an order, a term of accepting the money which has nothing to do with a judge and is often offered and accepted before the lawsuit is ever filed... Violate this "order" which is a term of the contractual agreement you sign in order to get your check from whomever you are preparing to sue and you permanently waive your rights to make future claims on the tort on behalf of you and your heirs, you agree to keep the terms of the settlement secret and agree to never discuss the issue again... Under the penalty of having to refund your settlement and pay damages to the other party for "breach of contract" if you ever violate any of those terms...

Yes, you are... "Residential Property" becomes considered commercial under the uniform building code when it includes more than three units, it requires someone supervising its construction with an unrestricted builder's license and must meet increased life safety standards... Also, while the primary occupancy of the building in question is residential, its purpose is commercial -- to rent space to the occupants under a contract... Single family homes used exclusively as rental properties may also have many of the same life safety standards apply to them in some parts of the country... Any residential property with more than three apartment or lodging units is considered commercial as far as the building requirements it must satisfy...

ROFL... Where do you get that information from, and self-insurers in my state must establish proof with the Division of Banks and Insurance that they have a certain amount of free cash assets on deposit in an escrow account to be considered "self-insured" and must maintain an appropriate balance in those escrow accounts for each asset which is "self-insured"...

It is the way things are done in my region of the US... Several of the larger property management companies in fact require that a leasee keep an up to date renter's insurance policy as a part of their continued occupancy -- no certificate of insurance provided for the new year, and you get a "notice to quit" rather than an offer to renew your lease...

No it doesn't contradict anything I stated... Fire insurance covers fire damages only -- irregardless of the cause of the damage itself...
Then there are all types of other insurances property owners carry, like: flood insurance, earthquake insurance, hurricane insurance, landlord insurance, general liability coverage, errors and omissions insurance, worker's compensation...
A property manager will have multiple types of insurance coverages for each particular property and then usually a blanket policy for general liability, errors and omissions and worker's compensation which have coverages into the many millions of dollars which cover their entire business operation regardless of which location an incident took place at... It is also a good idea for a property manager to obtain fidelity bonds when doing any major projects in case of fraud on the part of any of the contractors during the course of the work...

Yes, in some circumstances where terms of the lease agreement establish a legal understanding of the rights between the parties, and some restrictions on what is actionable between the two parties is specified grossly negligent and/or criminal conduct must be proven (usually by a criminal conviction prior to the civil lawsuit getting its turn at trial) in order to establish grounds for bringing the suit...

It is the standard of the AHJ which is more important than any "industry" standards amongst property managers... And whether or not a boiler system requires an annual inspection or not is dependent on the size and capacity of the unit in question... Some small boilers in apartment buildings much larger than the one owned by ransley being discussed here only require an initial inspection and certification and are only "informally" examined by various service technicians thereafter as repairs are made...
Quite unlike commercial high pressure boilers which must be opened up and re-certified annually by Department of Public Safety inspectors in order to be allowed to remain in use in larger facilities (this is one of the reasons why there is often more than one boiler in a building -- redundancy so one can be off-line for service or maintenance without shutting the building services down)...

Right... The landlord's insurance carrier would have that documentation to lay upon any potential litigants if he has the right coverages... Copies of the latest inspection certificates indicating a clean bill of health on all life safety systems were always forwarded to our insurer at my former employer, a property management company, because the offices were located within one of the buildings it managed in case of a huge disaster which leveled the place...

Right, criminal damages and arson are covered under the Fire insurance and general liability insurance coverages...

Umm, no, it doesn't... It means that the responsible party for the building who took the action remains responsible -- evidence must be presented to establish that the new owner either had that issue specifically disclosed to him/her or that a normal average person who was taking actions with prudence and due diligence would have reasonably discovered the defect... All liability would remain with the person who made the mistake, (installation error, selection of the wrong type of unit/part/etc...) responsibility for the liability does not transfer to the new owner... You as the plaintiff must establish a valid and believable nexus between the bad actor who created the liability and every party you are attempting to claim damages from which is supported by evidence and can then be further complicated when multiple actors and apportionment of the damage awards is factored into a complex situation...

Why ? There is no requirement to have many aspects of buildings inspected annually... A lot of fires happen in apartment buildings because of electrical issues which no one would have been able to see unless they shut down the power and wiggled on the main connections in the meter socket cans and main breaker lugs...
Does this mean that all electrical panels should be inspected annually ? To what standard ? Should they be thermographically analyzed like in large commercial structures ? Taken apart by licensed electricians and reassembled ? The panels passed the initial inspection and that is all that matters... Should the landlord have the responsibility to check up that his/her tenants are not overloading the facilities and causing hidden damage that usually isn't discovered until after the incident happens ?

Correct, but in a civil case unlike a criminal one, the original author of the report is not required to testify to certify its contents are accurate and truthful... A lot of those reports are filled with mistakes and misinterpretations... The exoneration of many formerly convicted arsonists by means of having their convictions overturned in many states bears that out... So it all boils down to whose expert witnesses are more believable and what each side's budget is on scientific testing and experimentation...
As far as your diatribe about what a fictitious report about a bioler says, even if it was damning to the landlord, just presenting the report alone is not establishing a "preponderance of the evidence" even if the report is beneficial prima facie evidence (at first sight) and allows the case to be brought forward into court for a trial of the facts of the case that the report might not in fact rise to the level of res ipsa loquitur ("the thing speaks for itself") and be so damning when it can be picked apart and examined as evidence during the trial... The burden never shifts to the defendant, as the plaintiff must prove each element of the claim, or causes of action, in order to recover any damages, and then must establish a nexus to those parties they have brought into court making the claims against...

Umm, no, when you rent rooms to people and collect money for doing so, you either need to be licensed as a rooming house or boarding house which requires permits and inspections MANY and life safety devices to be installed and operative in the house at all times... Just because something was built as a single family home doesn't mean it remains as one if you change the way it is used...

Ah, but that negligence which was ignored before becomes important in determining who was at fault and how much fault they should bear in the incident... Someone who had prior knowledge about something which wasn't being properly attended too by a landlord but then continues to use or occupy it undermines their own claim for damages as they were aware of the risks and found those terms acceptable by their continued use of the neglected property... The landlord might be found responsible but the plaintiff/claimant might have their award apportioned because they had knowledge of the defects which posed risks to them but kept using/occupying the property so they may only get 50% of the damages they seek...

Yes, I understand this concept... However, it is often much less expensive to lump it on the loss for claims that don't rise to the level of multi-millions of dollars in a fire loss case... Scientific analysis and expert witness interpretation of the evidence gets rather expensive rather quickly... No insurer is going to spend $1 million on a trial to hold a part responsible for a $500,000 payout on a settled claim...

The funny thing about that situation you describe, if someone left their bathtub running their insurance might only cover the damage they caused to other people's property and assets but not the insureds if the actions were determined to be intentional on the part of the insured party...

Umm, yes, it is... In fact that would rise to the level of being both prima facie as well as res ipsa loquitur if someone rented a room without the proper legal permits (permission) since they were taking illegitimate actions without the proper legally established right to do so which was further complicated by additional negligence... Committing a criminal offense or taking actions which you are not otherwise legally authorized to engage in makes any further action or oversight on your part which causes injury or damage to other parties to be all that much more bad... As far as being a substantial cause ? Umm, if someone who did not have the required permits and permissions to rent rooms to others and abides by those rules NOT renting such rooms without the required permissions would not have exposed others to risk at the hands of their own neglience... That sorta speaks for itself in a Perry Mason sort of grand reveal dramatic winning the case type of way...
~~ Evan
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Legally anyone can sue anyone for anything.
Frequentky suing someone even if the suit has no merit will get you a offer to settle. Because lawyers can be very expensive.
With some iots worth paying just to be rid of it........
Now take a building with electrical problems the building is old and the K&T is overloaded detoriating and the landlord ignores the issue. Say he was informed of bad wiring by a electrician.
Theres a fire:( apartments are damaged, tenants possesions destroyed.
I wouldnt blame the tenant for suing and hope they win.
Since the landlord was neglient, and probably put lives at risk.
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Ive talked to many many contractors, the only ones that I find that know what they are doing 100% are the fire restoration companies, I think it depends on the type of fire and how much it affected to determine what you need.
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Everybody got out ok. True smoke damage isnt like a flood, smoke goes everywhere up and around and just continues. The biggest mistake is getting someone that doesnt do a complete job besause they dont understand fires, and next year I would have many units un rentable from lingering smoke, when the job is closed, I cant go back to the insurance co if that happens.
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And they're sneaky MFs. I wrecked my bike. Took it in for estimates, which were around $600. Adjuster sent me a check for $180. I wrote VOID on it, and sent it back. They ended up paying the $600. Once you endorse that check, it's case closed. Period.
Steve
Heart surgery pending? www.cabgbypasssurgery.com
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That is not the case on damages to real estate...
In fact your insurance company may take quite a while to pay off the full claim in several increments...
The first check you get is often barely "getting started money" and is not a final acceptance of the claim payoff...
~~ Evan
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..
How could you know how every insurance company will] handle damage claims to all real estate. They certainly could just offer a single check as settlement for the whole thing, especially for damage that is well defined and limited to one area.

Yes, they may, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a vaild point in being careful before you cash any check or sign anything and understand what it means.

Often does not equal always.
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Install wood stoves.
"Of course it smells like smoke"
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wrote:

m...
Umm... Because, with damages to a building quite a lot of damage can be concealed within walls where it is not immediately visible to inspectors -- the settlement offer on a car or vehicle is take it or leave it -- you can keep your vehicle with a salvage title but that is determined by the insurance company...
Buildings are worth much more and unless it is was a total loss incident you wouldn't have one final settlement amount offered in the beginning...
In order to engage contractors to begin repairs to the building they need a down payment for retainer -- unlike with auto damage repair which is payable on delivery of the repaired vehicle...
So you would get an initial payment to get you started with the repair work with a real estate property damage claim... That is an insurance industry standard practice... What, did you think they would send out a check for $500,000 a few weeks after the fire to cover your claim in full ?
~~ Evan
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wrote:

m...
They are in business to make money and save. What they are offering isnt what it will cost to do the job and it will be payments and they are late. its not going to be easy for me. Small claims are different but a fire is something new to me and most.
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..
100% true.
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On Wed, 30 Mar 2011 21:06:58 -0700, "Steve B"

You can write "Under Protest" above your endorsement.
They may have written "in full payment". I forget who wins if you write your thing AND they write their thing.

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Thats kinda of what I am seeing also
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