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

El Monte, CA |

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?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

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 be legal advice. Legal advice must be based on the exact facts of the particular situation, and by necessity this forum is not appropriate for discussion of specific, exact facts. Contact a lawyer for more specific advice. My answer to your question on AVVO does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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 general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.



Has the amount a person can seek in small claims increased from $7500 to $10,000?

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen


Yes. However, with the passage of Senate Bill 221, the small claims court maximum demand was increased from $7,500 to $10,000. Senate Bill 221 amends California Code of Civil Procedures § 116.221 & 116.224. The new law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on July 8, 2011, became effective January 1, 2012 and remain in effect until January 1, 2015. There are two exceptions to this jurisdictional increase: -- First, the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court inCalifornia will remain $7,500 for claims of bodily injury resulting from a car accident if the defendant in the action is insured and the insured’s policy includes a duty to defend. -- Secondly, the small claims jurisdictional limit in California will remain $5,000 for lawsuits brought by entities such as corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs) and partnerships.


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 and not intended to be specific legal advice. There is not attorney client relationship created by Mr. Freitas' answering any question on this website.

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