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After a Fire: Leases and Tenants

I have been writing about a major fire I recently had at one of my properties. I wrote about the initial shock and finding out the day after that my property was a complete loss and in need of a complete rehab. Most thoughts that next day were focused on getting the property rebuilt and up and running again. But there were tenants that had to be dealt with, and the fire had raised some interesting legal issues.

We had of course signed leases with our tenants. These leases ran for one year. One of the units in the burned tri-plex had just moved out at the end of her lease. There other two were however somewhere in the middle of their leases. They technically still had possession of their units. What where their rights? What where mine? Surly they would move, but what if they did not? Would I have to go through the eviction process to get them out?

Fortunately, the Tennessee Landlord Tenant Act contains a provision for just such an event. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-28-517 states in part:

66-28-517.  Termination by landlord for violence or threats to health, safety, or welfare of persons or property.

  (a) A landlord may terminate a rental agreement within three (3) days from the date written notice is received by the tenant if the tenant or any other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent:

   (1) Willfully or intentionally commits a violent act;

   (2) Behaves in a manner which constitutes or threatens to be a real and present danger to the health, safety or welfare of the life or property of other tenants or persons on the premises; or

   (3) Creates a hazardous or unsanitary condition on the property that affects the health, safety or welfare or the life or property of other tenants or persons on the premises.

Since one of my tenants, by throwing a lit cigarette in the trash, had created a “hazardous or unsanitary condition” on the property, I could terminate the leases by posting a written notice, which I did immediately.

That does not mean I went in and started throwing things out. Some tact was required here, after all, some of the tenants were a bit shell shocked and needed to go through and see what they could save. But I was also firm. The place was literally a wreck, dangerous and getting more dangerous every day. They had to move quickly to get what they wanted. Anything they did not want they were free to leave.

Hopefully you will never have to go through such a situation, but if you do be sure you understand your rights and your tenant’s rights. I would bet most state laws have similar provisions to cover similar situations. Check them out and get to know them.

2 Responses to “After a Fire: Leases and Tenants”
  1. I hope your readers take the time to follow your advice to learn their state’s laws beforehand. This is not the kind of disaster that only happens to the other guy.

  2. Jeremy Reynolds says:

    Hey Kevin,
    Thanks a lot for sharing everything you went through with this fire. While I’m sure it was a headache to go through, I’m sure you learned a lot and by you sharing, your readers have a good idea of what to do should it happen to them. I enjoy reading all your blog posts and have learned a lot from you. I look forward to reading more about your experience dealing with the fire. I’ll be staying tuned.

    Thanks again for sharing all your knowledge and wisdom!


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