Damages for electrical fire and return of rental unit in small claims?

If a tenant suffered from an electrical fire due to faulty wires in the walls and landlord is found negligent because smoke alarms never sounded, can the tenant sue in small claims for the damages from the fire, as well as for return of posession of the rental unit after the unit is repaired from the fire damage?

El Monte, CA -

Attorney Answers (3)

Catherine Elizabeth Bennett

Catherine Elizabeth Bennett

Litigation Lawyer - Bakersfield, CA

You certainly may sue for up to $10,000 in damages as Attorney Chen has indicated.

If you had a lease, and the lease is not up yet, your damages may include a place to live while displaced and return to the unit for the rest of your lease. But if you had a month to month tenancy, you may no have a right to occupancy after 30 days have expired that you have been out of the unit.

You should contact a landlord-tenant attorney in your area for a consult. The attorney cannot represent you in small claims court, but can look at all of your documents and advise you how to proceed and to what damages you may be entitled.

I am licensed only in California and this response is provided as general information only. It is not intended to... more
Alfred M. Freitas

Alfred M. Freitas

Landlord / Tenant Lawyer - Los Angeles, CA

Both attorneys have given excellent advice, however, most landlords carry some form of insurance to cover the kind of events you describe. Ask your landlord for the name of his insurance company and the policy number. Present the company with a list of and values for all the possessions you lost. If you still have receipts, copy them and include the copies with your claim. In any case you will need that list for small claims court.

Mr. Freitas is an attorney licensed in the State of California. The answer provided here is general information... more
Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Litigation Lawyer - San Marino, CA

Yes, as the tenant, you can sue for up to $10,000 in the small claims court in California for any monetary damages you suffered as a result of the landlord's negligence or fault.

There are insufficient facts regarding the second part of your question. I am not sure what you mean by return of possession of the rental unit. The small claims court is authorized to grant injunctive relief, but it is unlikely if the rental unit needs extensive repairs.


Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is... more

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