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Renter loses everything in fire

POSTED: Friday, December 3, 2010 - 5:05pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 12:52pm

PLAQUEMINE, La (NBC33) -- Kiresha Riley picks through what's left of the place she had come to call home. Riley's rented house caught fire Sunday night. She was able to save her children from the flames, but nothing else. "When I lost this, I lost everything," Riley says. 

Her furniture, clothing, social security cards, and birth certificates were lost to the fire. "The things that burned here I can't replace."

Now, Riley and her children are living with relatives, hoping for a fresh start. Riley wants her landlord to help. "I hope he reimburses me the money I gave him. If not all of it, just some of it."

Riley paid for the month of December before the fire. When she asked her landlord for her money back, he refused. He is protected by a liability clause. The clause states that the renter will hold the landlord "harmless from and against any and all claims, actions, damages, liability, and expense, including attorney's fees...in connection to damage to property."

"I never read the lease," Riley says. "I just signed it because it was a place to live, a place for me to be a mother to my four children."

The Louisiana Civil Code suggests that the renter can end the lease or demand damages if the house was destroyed, but only if the fire wasn't her fault. That's what has Riley stuck in limbo. So far, the Fire Marshal hasn't been able to determine the cause of the fire. Until she's been cleared, Riley's landlord says he's holding on the the check.

"Four hundred dollars could basically get me another home," Riley points out. "That's $400 that I don't have now."

Now, Riley will have a second chance at renting right. "I'll read everything before I sign the paper." It's a lesson learned the hard way.

Riley had also chosen not to get renter's insurance. Experts suggest every renter have a small amount of insurance on their possessions when renting to protect them during situations like Riley's. The average cost of renter's insurance is about $12 a month.

If you want to help Riley and her family, you can donate to the Disaster Fund for Kiresha Riley at the Iberville Federal Credit Union.

Check out Civic Code 2715 at http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=109779

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