Neighbor burning during a burn ban

atwood73September 28, 2006

I really need some input on what to do here. In August, my new neighbor (which actually doesn't own the property) was burning during a burn ban. He left for lunch and before I knew it my entire back yard was ablaze. It burned some lumber that was stored behind our shop, metal, piping (my husband owns a construction company, lawnmower, and the fire department came in and bulldozed down several 25-foot cedar trees. We ended up with a little over $5,000 worth of damage to our property. He was fined by the forestry commission for unlawful burning and fined by the fire department for them to come out (he wasn't a member of the fire dept. here). Well, I sent him a bill (he agreed verbally to pay for the damages). A month went by with no contact from him. I sent him another letter giving him fourteen days to respond or I would take legal action against him. Well, he has moved without anyone knowing. I just found out someone else is living in the house now. I have no idea where to find this person, and I am in the process of trying to get a copy of the ticket he was issued. My question HE at fault or should I go after the property owner? I am really frustrated with this whole mess. If it weren't for the fire department's quick response, my entire house would have burned to the ground. I want to put a lien against the property or take them to small claims court, but I am confused on whom to sue, the faulty neighbor or the owner of the home. I would appreciate any input from anyone!! Thanks, Brandie

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He was at fault.
You need to find him to collect, or have your homeowners insurance find him.
By waiting the insurance may be able to blow you off making the entire thing your problem.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 9:49PM
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Why on EARTH would you think the owner of the property is responsible????

Of course it's the tenant, who did the burning. As Brickeyee said, you should probably talk to your insurance co, if you haven't already blown it.

Have you had official dealings with the police? Made a police report? You need to do this if you haven't.

If you do have to make a civil claim a lawyer has resources to track people down, and (not sure how it works where you are)

But leave the property owner alone - how is it his or her fault?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 1:39AM
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thanks guys for your input. I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 12:59PM
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Obviously, the tennant is at fault because of his actions, and he certainly should be the one to pay. My first inclination would be to try to track him down, gather up the evidence you need (the citation, anything else applicable--maybe fire inspector's report, etc), and take him to small claims court.

However, around here, most municipalities have a law on the books that holds landlords responsible for their tennants' actions. This is exactly the type of thing that law is supposed to be used for--property or other damage caused by renters. If that's the case in your town, then you might, as a case of last resort, go after the landlord--if you aren't able to track down the actual culprit. Might not seem too fair, but it might be the only way you get any action. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 12:55PM
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Landlord is responsible here too as they are supposed to more or less police their Tennant's use of the property. Most will have liability insurance. If you have insurance they take care of whoms insurance pocket takes the hit for the loss. What's not covered then you can file claim for but have a responsibility to ?mitigate? damages.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 11:07AM
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FWIW, there was a similar case like yours on "The Peoples Court" (one homeowner vs. neighbor's tenant). The tenant (not his landlord) was found responsible for damage to victim's property. The victim was suing the tenant's landlord, and the case got thrown out. Sounds to me like Brickeye and pjb are correct.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 12:07PM
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Wow, I really appreciate everyone's input. I have gathered up the evidence needed (pictures, copy of the WARNING he received for unlawful burning, and witnesses). I filed a claim against the wife in small claims court yesterday, she should be served with papers within the next two days. I have talked extensively with my insurance agent and yes, if nothing else I can go for the homeowner, but I have spoken with her and assured her that would not be necessary. My husband and I have decided to buy the property beside us from the homeowner. But I have run into a snag yet again. I cannot find an address for the person who started the fire (the husband), but I know where his wife works. My deal NOW is can I legally sue the wife? The court clerk said she was not sure if that would work. I went ahead with the claim against the wife since the husband is unreachable. They are married so wouldn't liability fall with both? I am really frustated with this whole mess. I found a phone number for the couple (thanks to the landlord) and called them. I left a very nice message telling them I would like to try to settle this without going to court, but they will not return my call. So, as a last resort, today a friend and I are playing P.I. Since I know where his wife works, but not where they live, we are going to find out where she goes after work. Yes, it does sound like stalking, but I am at my whit's end here. I am just about to the point of giving the whole thing up and eating the $3800. I just want him to think before starting a fire under a burn ban and ruining other people's lives by burning their house down. When I spoke to his landlord, she told me that he called her soon after this happend and told her "it was not a big deal." That has really gotten me in an uproar. I told her I had pictures and it was a big deal. If not for a bystander, her whole house would have been burned and he would have burned his own dog alive (it was chained up in their back yard with fire all around it, my house, my shop, my camper would have all gone up in smoke. I want him to know that this WAS a big deal, and he cannot think that he can just move and get away with this. Would you want him as your neighbor? I am glad he moved, now I have a deputy sherrif living there. At least he will not be burning under a burn ban. Thanks again, for all of your input, it has helped tremendously!!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 9:29AM
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