Tenant Sets Fire To Property- What To Do?

Tenant Sets Fire To Property

I came across an interesting and rather alarming thread on the Property Tribes forum earlier.

A landlord had her property accidently set on fire by her tenant, to the point where it became uninhabitable. Here’s how the landlord explained it:

Yesterday one of my tenants ran out of electric on her meter and rather than topping up the card, has used tealights [approx 40 the fire brigade inform me] in her studio flat to light the way. She had them on carpets, furniture etc and has fallen asleep and has set fire to the flat – it is destroyed and uninhabitable. The rest of the building is smoke damaged and another tenant [flat above] has had to find alternative accommodation last night. Thankfully, everybody is ok.

The tenant has found somewhere to sleep last night – going forwards what are my obligations to the tenant who caused the fire?

Well, fuck me sideways, what a blubbering idiot tenant! If I were the landlord (and thank all that’s good in the world that I’m not) I would have suffered several heart-attacks before completely keeling over!

Surprisingly, the landlord sounded relatively calm.

Never to leave flames unattended is like the cornerstone of general life skills. It’s definitely on every “5 things you should never do” list, which is drilled into our melons from birth:

  • Don’t talk with your mouth full
  • Don’t have unprotected sex in Thailand
  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t do drugs

I’m right, right? Right.

I’m sure it was an accident, but i’m not sure how forgiving I could be. I usually wobble when my tenants stain the carpets or leave gaping holes in the walls, so I’d almost definitely have a complete meltdown in this situation, and forgiveness would be the last sentiment on my mind.

My sympathy goes out to the Landlord. I can’t imagine how stressful going through the ordeal must be.

Sadly, horrific and completely self-inflicted incidents like unattended fires must go down all the time. But I literally can’t think of a more frustrating scenario from a landlord’s perspective.

What is the landlord’s rights in an event of a fire?

Surely it’s the one question that would be on every landlord’s mind in this situation. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS NOW?

Well, this is what Tessa Shpperson (of LandlordLaw.com), had to say:

I would not refund her rent too quickly (or indeed at all). I assume that you have some sort of clause in the tenancy relating to responsible use. Some tenancies specifically prohibit things like candles. In any event even if candles are not specifically forbidden, the tenant cannot be other than liable to you for the damage done to the property. Hopefully most of your losses will be covered by the insurance, but she will be liable to you for anything not covered (e.g. any excess).

As she is the sole cause of the fire and the fact that she has lost her home, my view is that you are unlikely to owe her any duties as regards re-housing.

It must have been a terrible shock for you, and all due to her stupidity. I don’t think you should let her off too lightly. The insurers also may want to bring a claim against her, so speak to them about this and follow their advice.

So, it seems like the law does work in the landlord’s favour in this case, which is something you don’t often hear these days. ‘spose that’s a silver-lining.

Although, I’m not entirely sure if any amount of compensation would aid my wounds, I’d just be so frustrated with the entire situation, not to mention stressed. Unbelievably and uncontrollably stressed.

Anyways, what a shit-for-brains tenant (I’m genuinely glad no one was injured, though)!

19 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Another Landlord 27th October, 2009 @ 10:01

OMG! I'd absolutely flip out at the tenant I'd actually want to kill them (slowly)!

Guest Avatar
sycorax 27th October, 2009 @ 21:51

Ooh yes, hanging would be too good for the SPACTARD. I mean, the clause about fire safety is in assured shorthold tenancy agreements isn't it?
I have spent today at my tenant's flat getting the gas safety checks done. I haven't seen the flat for 5 months - went in after giving he rthe due notice etc, and - FUCK. Imagine a smallish one bed's lounge piled floor to ceiling with 'saved' placcie bags, newspaper, egg cartons...stinks! What are my rights - as far as I know the tenancy agreement did not have a clause stipulating that the tenant was not to be a mad cat lady hoarding bag lady NUT. Her rent is paid on time, she is nice, but clearly has A Problem. No guarantee the next tenant will be any better. Any suggestions from you experienced landlords out there? She has 2 months left to run on the contract but have I missed the time left to offer notice?

Guest Avatar
Twattybollocks 28th October, 2009 @ 08:41

Is it not the defininition of mixed feelings - watching your house burn with your scummy tenant inside? On one hand sadness whilst on the other joy unbounded!


Guest Avatar
sycorax 28th October, 2009 @ 11:36

Yep, oxymoron. Emphasis on the moron! That poor landlord. I am so freaked by this timely article I am gonna put a new clause in my 'additional contractual obligations' sheet - I slap it on tenants as they sign the ssured shorthold,coz I'm paranoid. It shall read:
'Leaving any candle or tea light unattended is strongly discouraged, and any candle or tea light left burning unattended and/or not in a lantern is prohibited. By signing this additional contract you are agreeing to pay for ANY damages and legal actions incurred by the results of such actions, icluding civil law suits.'
D'you think that covers it?!

Guest Avatar
Rick 5th November, 2009 @ 09:46

ha ha ha

Guest Avatar
Sam 5th November, 2009 @ 10:24

Just came across your post - and as the actual landlord involved felt I should update you -

1. Yes I'm calm - [it not being my fault helps!]
2. Shit happens [you're dealing with people!]
3. I don't feel the need to strangle the tenant - she has lost all her belongings, had no insurance, has lost her home, and I have heard lately lost her job! [Crikey!]
4. I feel so lucky to have insurance & a nice loss adjustor
5. I still have a bed and a house to sleep in :)

Better to count rainbows than rain clouds :)


Guest Avatar
sycorax 5th November, 2009 @ 19:07

What a nice man! What a fantastically mellow mantra, 'better to count rainbows than rain clouds'- am sure you;re right, and clearly a far more centered dude than I. Has she got family she can stay with? It's like the telly, this isxx

Guest Avatar
Hez 10th February, 2010 @ 18:35

you are an psycho. this whole blog site is disgusting. whoever you are, you are an egotistical prick and this site needs taking down. you regularly make references to killing your tenants.....if i were your tenant i would find that slightly worrying. what a creepy landlord.....sits and blogs all day about sick things that he would like to do to his tenants..... you accept their money and let them live in your properties......yet you bad mouth them, call them scum etc. your attitude is disgusting, and its also the attitude that i would expect from a landlord. every single one that i have had the 'pleasure' of meeting has been the same. were you born with a silver spoon in your mouth? are the properties yours or did your rich daddy buy them for you? the landlord sam who has commented here has a lovely attitude. normal, balanced and calm. whoever writes this blog/articles on this site is the epitome of shite, uncaring landlords. do you know what it means to be human? you must have HUMANITY, compassion for other living things. that is what separates animals from humans. you are not a human.

Guest Avatar
Twattybollocks 10th February, 2010 @ 19:53

Hey Hez,

read your other posts and I understand that you are a war widow. I am sorry for your loss.

Hez - you really have to get a grip. You seem to have missed the point that this is a fairly tongue in cheek website. OK we do take the piss out of each other - tenants as well as landlords but I think that we all know that the stuff about killing tenants is not real. I really don't think the owner of the site has such psychotic tendancies!

It's a place where you obviously get stuff off your chest - but if it offends you then you can take the initiative and not visit again!

You think all landlords are, from one of your other diatribes, cunts - however we on the otherside see likewise. It's called freedom of expression.


Guest Avatar
Sam 10th February, 2010 @ 20:22

TB when I read the above I couldn't believe the same person just a few post earlier had written
"watching your house burn with your scummy tenant inside? On one hand sadness whilst on the other joy unbounded!"


I AM only joking :)

Guest Avatar
Sam 10th February, 2010 @ 20:23

Tongue firmly in cheek and sneaking out towards my ear...

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 10th February, 2010 @ 20:47

But....I only write like 2 blog posts a week...some times less than that :(

Guest Avatar
Debbie 25th October, 2011 @ 10:59

Just come across this email as was looking for guidence due to the fact that my tenant also set fire to my studio flat and it is totally uninhabitable. The fire started in the bathroom due to the tenant leaving a lighted paper in the bath!!!! Seems like she has moved on and left me with all the shit to sort!!! Still trying to sort out insurance etc.

Guest Avatar
Sam 11th November, 2014 @ 22:24

Help, my tennant has tried to plumb in a washing machine and has flooded the place as well as the people downstairs, went to find my insurance policy and I have not renewed it for this year so no insurance!!! He had been trying to turn off the water but ended up something burst and firebrigade sent for, dont know what to do??

Guest Avatar
Amber 11th August, 2018 @ 08:01

Just wanted to say that I truly do admire the compassion of the Landlord who originally posted this. As ridiculous as the cause of this fire is, it is incredible your level of empathy rather than rage. I am certain that this lady has had to learn a truly terrible lesson from this as well. It is no picnic to suffer a total loss (of just about everything by the sounds of it). And the sheer level of stupid that she probably feels would be rather astronomical.

Like yourself, I am grateful that the loss didn't include any fatality. That is the blessing here and the fact that you are able to state that speaks volumes about your character. You sound like the type of Landlord that would be a dream to have in general. Kind, compassionate, and understanding of the bottom line which is: humans make stupid mistakes sometimes. Unfortunately, it only takes one error in judgement to totally destroy your life. I really do hope that she is doing ok, and that you were able to obtain complete coverage in order to compensate for the loss of your property.

As for the follow up.....bro, you are not someone who should work with people under any circumstances. Yes, it is fair to be angry, especially in consideration of how logically ridiculous that this fire actually was. But. To make such horrific, threatening, and degrading statements about anyone tells me that you need to retire. I assume immediately that you are likely A) a total slumlord and B) a literal shit show to have to tolerate to get through that 1 year lease. If you are damn near in a straight jacket when someone spills juice on the rug? You are in the wrong line of work.

When you opt to be a Landlord, you should already have a clear idea of the RISK that you are taking on. No matter how many background checks, reference checks, and overall pleasantries that are displayed by anyone, you are always taking a risk by renting to someone else. You cannot control someone else's actions. Only your own. And I can guarantee that you also have made a few idiot moves at some point in your life. Maybe not to such a devastating extent, but we are all guilty of poor judgment.

You need to go ahead and humble yourself some. You are NOT better than anyone just because you are the owner and they are the renter. People rent for a wide variety of reasons, not just because they are scumbags.

I feel truly terrible for your tenants. I bet that they cringe every time that they have to deal with you in any way for any reason. Anyone who can spout off like that about anyone else has some serious issues.

This is the line of work that you chose, and courtesy of tenants, you enjoy a steady (and probably pretty decent) income. You need to be appreciative of that. There will always be bad or stupid tenants. The same can also be said of Landlords.

Show some respect. She is likely paying very dearly for this now. It must be nice to not be in her shoes huh?

Hez is absolutely right. You are truly disgusting. Couldn't agree more.

Guest Avatar
Landlord Robin 16th December, 2019 @ 08:11

I was in a similar position but the insurance had paid out nothing. The damage came to £30,000. The entire house ruined. All they did was build a case against me and wrote back stating My policy stated I had a surveyors but it turned out it didn't (my argument was that I never said it did to the broker) turned out the broker was incompetent for believing it did and then only sent out the certificate and rubbish welcome letter to me via email.

Guest Avatar
Drake 28th January, 2020 @ 11:55

You would expect sexual favors from your tenant? Stupid as she might seem for burning the place down, but maybe she did future tenants (single landies) a favour. You sound like a scumbag landlord if anything it's a good thing she took you out the business for a while hopefully for good.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 28th January, 2020 @ 12:04


You would expect sexual favors from your tenant?

Yes, I was 100% serious *rolls eyes*

Guest Avatar
Lori 17th July, 2020 @ 19:22

As a Landlord I can sympathize with the incident and need to vent. My building just burned down, fire also caused by the Tenant. I think this site is a place where we can vent and I totally took the post as just that. I think that those who are so "horribly offended" should have recognized the site for blog that it is - place for Landlords to be able to have a bitch session together. My Tenant does not have two pennies to scratch together and has lost everything and I am expecting his plan is just to walk away and leave me with all the burned contents to clean out myself. So ya I can sympathize when a Landlord needs to vent about a shitty situation. My next tenancy agreement I am going to add the tenant must show proof of contents insurance or they will be evicted within the first month. Tenant has left me with a nightmare to deal with!

















Your personal information will *never* be sold or shared to a 3rd party. By submitting your details, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

I want more info on...