Legal Question in Insurance Law in California

Do I have recourse to fight this insurance company claim when the cause was "indeterminate" and the repair exceeds the damages?

A small unexplained house fire caused minor damage to two cabinets, a wall, and a stove, in my rented home. The insurance investigation declared the cause to be indeterminate. The home-owner decided to take the opportunity to renovate the kitchen, since the repair guys were their anyway. He replaced the old stove for a fancy new (expensive) one, replaced all the cabinets (not just the two that were damaged) and a ton of other things completely unrelated to the damages. Now, the insurance is attempting to charge us for all of it, including all the renovations that were unrelated to the damage, and for the labor on those renovations. It totals to fourteen thousand dollars! We had no choice in this but WE are expected to pay! Aren't we only liable for replacements of the damage we caused, and only to the cost of those specific things that were damaged? That's like saying, if you broke a doorknob and I decided to renovate your entire porch, you should be charged for the entire porch you didn't ask for, and not just the doorknob. What are our legal options here?

Asked on 6/03/19, 11:33 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Yes depending on the terms of the lease. Because the cause was "indeterminate," there apparently is no evidence it was your negligence that caused the loss and so you do not have an obligation unless the lease provides otherwise. There are really two issues here: First, your liability at all. Second, is what is known as "betterment." Betterment means that there were costs to improve the damaged area that were not caused by the fire. Even the insurer was not liable for betterment. Do you have Renter's insurance? Ideally, you can negotiate this with the insurance subrogation team.

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Answered on 6/03/19, 12:37 pm

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