Renters and Wildfires

Tens of thousands of renters have been affected by wildfires in the past few years in California. Most of those folks don’t have renter’s insurance, and even if they do, the insurance companies usually don’t cover a completely devastated apartment. Nonetheless, there is recourse for renters who experience losses from wildfires.

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The Unnatural Natural Disaster

If a volcano erupts next to your house, it’s an “Act of God.” There is nothing that anyone could have done to prevent it. California wildfires, however, are a completely different story.

“Power Lines Are Burning the West”

“Human technology is responsible for more loss from fire than any other cause. But reducing fire’s impact will require changes to how people live, not just to the infrastructure that lets them do so.”

This headline, from The Atlantic, May 25, 2018, tells the story. Most of California’s recent wildfires have been caused by downed power lines, high-tension power lines that make contact with each other and spark, or power transformers that explode due to age and neglect.

While the fire itself is natural and has happened since the beginning of time, the spark that lights the flame much of the time is not natural.

Of course, every fire needs to be thoroughly investigated, but several major California fires have already been blamed, both in court and in investigator’s reports, on utility companies not maintaining their lines correctly or not putting on some simple, yet effective, safety devices.

You Don’t Need to Own to Lose

Landlords, homeowners, business owners, and farmers are always mentioned in the reports of losses, but renters rarely get attention. Given that 46.36% of people in California rent, that’s a huge population to neglect.

Of course, when a wildfire sweeps through a town or city, it doesn’t spare the apartment buildings. Renters can experience the same level of loss as everyone else in the community.

What Can You Do?

If you’re a renter, you can join the class-action lawsuits that have been filed against the utility companies in relation to several recent California fires. These suits allege that the companies were negligent in not maintaining their equipment properly leading to fires that cost billions in losses of land, buildings, and possessions. Worse, hundreds of people have died and many hundreds more are still missing and will never be found.

The first thing to do is make sure that your family is safe and that you have a place to live.

Document everything thoroughly, taking photos, making lists of possessions, and salvaging what you can. Keep receipts for your hotel, food, etc. All of those are expenses you wouldn’t have if you were in your apartment.

Contact an attorney that handles this type of case. Specialists, like  Singleton Schreiber, understand how to get you what you deserve. A wildfire is not your fault and wind and dry conditions can make them worse, but that doesn’t mean that no one is to blame for starting the fire.

If a power company neglects a line or equipment and it sparks a fire, it’s the same as someone tossing a cigarette out a car window or letting a campfire get away from them. It’s neglect and you deserve to be reimbursed for your losses.

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