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Knowing Tenant Rights in the Wake of the Marlborough Fire

There is a Massachusetts state law that protects tenants displaced by fire.

More than in Marlborough on Monday, and other neighboring buildings had to be evacuated due to smoke damage. All told, more than 60 condos were empty Monday evening due to the damage. 

The Red Cross has set up at the to help those that have been displaced, but all renters should be aware of their rights after such a devastating event. 

Those who owned their units inside the Lake Williams Condominiums should be protected by their homeowners insurance, but what happens if you were a renter?

"Every policy which insures multi-unit residential property against loss or damage by fire shall provide additional benefits, by endorsement attached to the policy, up to a limit of seven hundred and fifty dollars, without deductible for each rental unit to cover the the actual costs of relocation of any tenant or lawful occupant displace by fire or by damage resulting from fire," says Chapter 175, Section 99, Clause 15 of the General Laws of Massachusetts. 

The law goes on to say that the "costs of relocation" shall include, but are not limited to: "a hotel room rental, a security deposit and first month's rent for a new rental unit if the security deposit or last month's rent is not already due and owing from the landlord to the tenant, clothing replacement, furniture replacement and other reasonable costs and living expenses as a result of being displaced or damaged by fire."

The law notes that it is unlawful for a landlord to create a waiver of this provision, and such a waiver is void and unenforceable.

Displaced residents should speak with the Red Cross, or representatives of another aid organization, to help them understand the benefits they are entitled to receive in the event of a catastrophic fire. 

For more information on this fire, visit the Marlborough Patch landing page. 

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JM April 24, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Did I read this right? $750.00 won't cover anything. It should be $7500 per unit.
Josh Gray April 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I believe that is in addition to the other items I've listed, but, yes, the law does say $750. I'm not an expert, but I wanted to post this just as a reminder to people to make sure they get what is due.
Heather Gould April 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM
AND that's why I have renter's insurance. It's CHEAP considering what it would cost to replace everything!!
Josh Gray April 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Also, should tenants have their own rental insurance, the coverage would be much different. I believe this law covers just the very basics and relates to what a landlord must give his tenants.
anthony April 24, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I live in one of the condo's behind this building and suffered heavy smoke damage. The place is unliveable at the moment but my insurance is covering my hotel stay and hopefully new carpets, new furniture, bed and maybe clothes? I am glad I got seperate insurance this March.
Catherine Downey Potenza April 24, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Thank you Josh for this topic. This is a tremendous loss for the City of Marlborough. I hope everyone was properly insured and is getting the help they need.
Kevin G June 16, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I recently had a fire and was displaced in Spencer, Ma., along with four other families. I cannot believe the disparity that exists monetarily between tenants who are given the minimum $750 "relocation" insurance covered by Landlord's policy as opposed to those who were smart enough to carry "renter's insurance", which pays $30k, $40k, $50k depending on policy, & many other benefits costing thousands $$. At approx $150-$200/yr(($15-$20/mo) everyone should have this insurance and i'm amazed that it isn't widely known it is easy to get through your auto insurance co. I, unfortunately was not aware of this insurance and ease of access to it. My advice: Get renter's insurance ASAP. Sincerely~ a concerned tenant who now has only $750. Ps. Please get rental insurance everyone

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