Apartment Fire Damage: What You Need to Know

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 22, 2021

It starts with smoke filling the hallway. Suddenly, you spot flames, and they’re spreading quickly. Alarms are going off and sprinklers are coming on.

There’s a fire in your apartment building. Do you know what to do?

All renters need to be prepared. Over the years, we’ve helped tenants and landlords recover from fires in multi-unit properties all across Chicago.

Based on that experience, we’ve put together this guide outlining important information you need to know about apartment complex fires.

Let’s get started.

What Should You Do If Your Apartment Is on Fire?

taking stairs during fire

Every second counts. You want to stay calm, follow safety protocols and help others if possible.

Be ready with these 10 steps covering what to do if there is a fire in your apartment building.

  1. Immediately Call 911 – Don’t assume someone else in the complex will make the call.
  2. Get Out of the Apartment – Tell everyone to stay together and follow the family evacuation plan.
  3. Grab the Keys – You may need to get back in the apartment if escape routes are blocked.
  4. Touch the Door – If it’s hot, evacuate through a window or down a fire escape.
  5. Stay Down Low – As you move through the building, avoid smoke inhalation by staying low.
  6. Take the Stairs – Don’t risk getting stuck between floors inside a malfunctioning elevator.
  7. Close Doors – Slow down the spread of the fire by closing doors behind you.
  8. Listen for Directions – Be aware that firefighters may call out instructions as you evacuate the building.
  9. Signal for Help – If you can’t leave your unit, stuff wet towels under doors, and signal firefighters for help.
  10. Stay Outside – Once outside, don’t go back inside until you get the all-clear from first responders.

What to Do After an Apartment Fire

apartment fire damage aftermath

Most renters aren’t sure what to expect after an apartment complex fire. However, the following tips can make it easier to deal with the aftermath of a fire in the building.

  • Contact the Landlord – Confirm your landlord’s responsibility after the fire concerning damage cleanup and repairs.
  • Document the Damages – Take pictures of fire-damaged personal property and apartment interiors.
  • Arrange Temporary Housing – In most cities, the Red Cross is an excellent resource for tenants displaced by fire.
  • Check Your Renters Insurance – Contact your insurance agent about fire-damaged personal property replacement.
  • Call Restoration Professionals – Restoration technicians can often salvage fire- and smoke-damaged items.
  • Be Proactive With Fire Safety – Make sure the apartment’s smoke alarms and sprinkler system are working properly.

Who Is Responsible for Fire Damage in an Apartment?

Your landlord’s responsibility after the fire is usually limited to building and unit structural damage. He or she is required to keep the property livable. Most cities clearly define tenants rights after an apartment fire.

For example, Chicago renters are protected by landlord-tenant laws at the state level. Landlords are expected to cover damages to the building through property insurance and to take care of repairs in a reasonable time frame.

You’re responsible for your personal belongings. You might be responsible for fire and smoke damage if the apartment fire was caused by your negligence. For instance, this could be the case if you overloaded the unit’s electrical outlets.

An Accidental Fire Was Caused by My Tenant – What Now?

oven fire caused by tenant

If a fire in the apartment building was accidentally caused by a tenant, you still have clear responsibilities as the landlord. First, make sure your renters are safe and have a place to stay.

Ask if anyone has information about what happened. Check with the fire officer on the scene, and stay in contact with him or her. The officer can share details about how the fire started.

Explain the situation to your insurance agent. Ask if additional information is needed to process your claim. It’s important to document that the fire was an accident and not due to a tenant’s negligence.

Finally, call a fire and smoke damage restoration contractor like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. You want certified technicians on the scene as quickly as possible. Often, the restoration company can assist you with the fire damage claims process.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Apartment Fire Damage?

Dealing with the aftermath of an apartment fire with no renters insurance can be very costly. This type of insurance covers the replacement cost of your clothes, furniture and other personal belongings. It may also protect you against being sued for negligent actions that caused the fire.

Renters insurance typically covers out-of-pocket expenses for temporary housing. Ask your agent if your policy includes this loss-of-use provision before you need it. Also, check your coverage for secondary problems such as water and smoke damage to personal items.

How to Get Rid of Fire Smoke Smell in an Apartment

It’s difficult to get smoke odors out of furniture and personal belongings. If your renters insurance covers smoke damage, leave the job to a professional restoration company.

If you decide to tackle smoke damage and smells by yourself, make sure you wear PPE. You’ll need to buy specialized smoke odor removal products. TSP, chemical sponges and degreasers are all very effective. However, it’s not a quick process. Be prepared to be patient.

Has Your Apartment Caught on Fire in Chicago IL or Suburbs? We Can Help!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed after an apartment fire. Smoke, water and fire damage can make it seem impossible to return to your home. Even a small fire leaves behind soot and unpleasant odors. We can help.

ServiceMaster by Zaba provides expert fire damage services to Chicago renters and landlords.

You don’t have to face it alone. We’re standing by 24/7, ready for your call: 773-647-1985