Blog » Liability before an insurance claim is approved

Liability before an insurance claim is approved

Len Nightingale
In the second article about fire in a rental property, we will look at the issue of liability and who is liable in the immediate aftermath of a fire. 


Who is liable?

Unfortunately you, as the owner of the property, are liable for dealing with any issues such as securing and making the property safe after a fire until the insurance claim has been approved. 


What may be required?

When one of the properties managed by Nightingales was damaged by fire, I was advised that, in addition to needing to secure the property against intruders until an investigation to determine the cause of the fire had been carried out, there was also a strong likelihood of the presence of asbestos which would also have to be addressed right away. 
This could be the situation with almost any property as all buildings built or altered before 1990 are likely to contain some asbestos. In a fire, asbestos that was previously non-friable and therefore stable, is likely to be damaged and become friable, i.e. easily crumbled, and therefore a serious health hazard.  With gale force winds forecast, there was a real possibility of asbestos contamination to the neighborhood. 
So there were two types of security required:
  • against intruders, and 
  • the containment of asbestos.


Accepting liability

I was unable to contact the owner immediately after the fire (he was out of the country), and with a potentially major health and safety issue developing, I had no choice but to accept the responsibility (and the cost) on behalf of the owner of securing the site. If no action to secure the site had been taken and this had resulted in harm occurring to others, the owner’s liability could become far greater than it otherwise was. 

Fortunately, once a claim is accepted, the costs for the security are likely to be covered by insurance. Once again, we recommend that you check to see what your insurance policy covers you for, and to ensure that nothing has changed since the last time you read the small print.