Phil Querin Q&A: Home Burns Down in Community - What next?

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June 4, 2015
Phil Querin
MHCO Legal Attorney
Querin Law

Question: A home burned down over the weekend in my community.  What are my rights and responsibilities?  How does the scenario change depending if the resident has or does NOT have insurance?

Answer:   This is a good question, and all too frequently ignored by owners and managers. The first question is whether the issue is addressed anywhere in the community documents, i.e. the statement of policy, rules, or rental agreement. Likely not. It really isn’t addressed in the Oregon Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, with the exception of ORS 90.222, which covers renter’s liability insurance, and is excluded from the manufactured housing section of the law. 

Strictly speaking, the fact that the home was destroyed and is likely uninhabitable does not make it any less of a resident responsibility than before the fire. In other words, it is the resident’s primary responsibility to either promptly repair, replace, or remove the home.  The space is still under lease or rental to the resident, so all of the same rules apply, i.e. to keep it in good condition and safe. If the home is nothing more than a shell, the resident should likely remove it as soon as possible.

If the resident does not have fire insurance to repair or replace the home, I suspect he or she will abandon it, thus making it your problem - or the problem of the lienholder if there is one.  Incidentally, if there is a lienholder, the loan documents likely require fire insurance, and that it be a named insured on the policy.  If that is the case, then hopefully, between the resident and their insurance company, there may be available proceeds to repair or replace.[1]

If the resident abandons the home, you should immediately send out a 45-day abandonment letter, thus triggering your right (and duty) to take control of the personal property.  It is likely an attractive nuisance for children, which could result in injury to them, and liability to you.  In such case, you should consider having it either cordoned off with “No Trespassing” signs, or removed.  Make sure that you independently confirm that it is a total loss, and with no salvage value.  If there is salvage value, it belongs to the resident.

 

 


[1] Note that the MHCO Rental and Lease Agreements do have a provision for the resident to maintain fire insurance, but it is optional, and applies only if the box is checked.  This situation should be a cautionary tale for owners and managers requiring such insurance, with proof that it is being maintained.

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