Neighbor almost burned my house down. Go through my insurance or theirs directly? With Pics

Pics not that great due to taken @ night when I first got to house… new ones in morning.

photos in daylight: Microsoft OneDrive - Access files anywhere. Create docs with free Office Online.

What happened: My backyard doubled in size.
Neighbor had barbecue pit right next to wooden fence. Apparently used it unattended today and burned down part of the fence plus the gate to the fence on my side. Pic shows the side posts of the “gate” plus the invisible fence you can see the barbecue through. Apparently she was inside the house and a house 2 doors down (!) first noticed the fire and called it in… Guess I got lucky.

Precursor Damage Assessment: 1 pane missing from each of 2 windows (2nd pane still there, so there’s not a hole in the wall). Window screens burned up. Charring on brick. Hopefully no house damage other than the windows? Fence section on property line is now transparent. ~40+ sq ft of grass burned. Gate is completely gone. I can’t figure out the fire department must have taken some of the wood… could it possibly have all turned to ash?? The gas meter is not that far away and the grass looked burned up there, but I think the meter looked fine, will examine in morning. The house is Brick on one side and Cement siding on the other side of that corner of the house.

Other information: Both city and county Fire Code appears to be 10 feet minimum from any combustible surface for any barbecue pit or grill. Gonna make sure the HOA sends out a notice about this and that they also don’t put it right next to the fence again after repairs.

What’s next?: Get my own inspections/appraisals and go to neighbor’s insurance co directly? Go through my homeowner’s insurance company and have them deal with other insurance company? Will this result in CLUE entries and potentially raise my rates even though it’s all clearly other party’s liability? My HO Insurer is Amica and I would guess the damage may be less than the deductible (deductible is either $2.5k or $5k)… although I don’t know for sure. Do I even have an option of not going through my insurer, or would I have to sue to do so?

Service Bulletin: Make sure your neighbors don’t have any barbecues near the fences or houses (and check your fire code if they do and don’t want to move them). Avoid your house burning down.


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Further update I was stupid and should have had a voice recorder when the neighbor came over about it. From searching it looks like negligence for property damage is generally hard to prove. But neighbor said she was in the house when it happened. Also it’s clearly against fire code so, I would hope that would be enough on its own… Hopefully doesn’t end up costing me $$$$.

Disclaimer: Not an insurance expert. Did the neighbor admit fault and/or offer to pay for damages? Did the fire department issue them a citation? Seems fairly obvious they were negligent. The neighbor may want to pay out of pocket if the damage is less than their deductible. If they are dicks about it, I would get my insurance company involved as it is much easier than trying to squeeze money from the neighbor’s insurance directly. Whether it goes on your CLUE report and affects your premium just depends on the insurance company and your state.

IANAL, but wouldn’t this count as a liability claim over on the neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance, and therefore no deductible would be involved?

I would get estimated for repairing the damage to your house. Once you have the estimate, ask the neighbor if they would like to pay for it out of pocket, or if they would like to handle it through their insurance.


I’m with nasheed. Get an estimate, then go to the neighbor with it first. If they don’t offer to cut you a check within a day of receiving an estimate, call your insurance company and propose a hypothetical (so they don’t create a claim automatically). See what they say about going to neighbor’s insurance directly or if you have to go through your own insurance first.


Yes that’s my plan, looking for an estimate. Looks like windows, one strip of wood (The wood trim turned to charcoal, good thing the rear siding is cement!), repainting, gate, maybe a few squares of grass.

Neighbor seems cooperative.

daylight photos:

Who in their right mind would put a giant barbecue less than 2 inches from a fence? (and 5’ from another house)

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Wow, lucky the other neighbor caught it and it wasn’t worse. I bet the neighbor with the barbecue feels pretty stupid in hind sight. They seem cooperative now, but you haven’t given them an estimate yet.

Agree as stated earlier. Give neighbor the estimate and ask if they want to cut you a check or go through their insurance. I wouldn’t call your insurance.

Wow! You are very fortunate that’s all the damage that happened. Your thread title is accurate! Good job by the fire department and the other neighbor for catching it.

Also, thanks for posting pictures. I nominate this for thread of the week.

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I say if you go over with the estimate and the neighbor doesn’t play fair put the new fence two feet into their yard, for fun and profit

I would think that negligence would be more related to the location of the grill and if they willingly knew they were violating fire code.

Nothing in the fire code states you must be near a grill when it’s operating, so while it’s dumb, I’m not sure how you’d prove negligence vs stupidity.

But if they were told “no grill … shall be used or kindled… within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure” per NFPA 1 (or whatever the local ordinance is), such as in a letter from the HOA, and they did it anyway, they would be negligent.
Is there anything in the HOA covenants about grills? If so, and if the neighbors signed an agreement for the HOA, or those rules are part of the purchase, then proving negligence would be pretty easy.

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Get an estimate from a contractor you trust. Any good neighbor in their right mind would settle. The damage is luckily minimal.

Why not let your insurance deal with it? Or are you avoiding making a claim?

  1. Deductible
  2. Avoiding an unnecessary claim
  3. It was someone else’s fault who will probably pay the bill

Not saying the neighbor was negligent, but I think you’re confusing negligence with intentional wrongs. The duty element of negligence isn’t that far off from “stupidity.” I don’t understand all of the legal posturing though - the neighbor said he/she would pay.

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Legally and economically speaking – absolutely do not go through your insurance company and go after your neighbor directly. You are in the right legally and will be better off economically.

From the perspective of not pissing off your neighbor – absolutely DO go through your insurance company. Let them subrogate the claim to your neighbors insurance company.

Tell your neighbor, “I am so sorry, I know this was just an accident, but I can’t control what my insurance company does.”

Personally, I would not want to live in a house where my neighbors hate me.


That’s going to be a tough sell - most people know you are the one initiating the claim, and anyone who is going to take offense is going to take offense regardless of how you try to frame it. You’d have as much luck pursuing it yourself and telling the neighbor you cant control what your lawyer insists is necessary.

I haven’t gotten estimates yet… gonna try to line up several for Monday.

Just looked at your daylight pictures.

Thankfully, it could of been a lot worse. I’m curious to see what the estimate will come back at - here are my guesses:

  • Fence and gate: $1000
  • Two new windows and siding - $1200?
  • Grass/Landscaping: $400

Take a good look and see if any neighbors have cameras who many have recorded what happened. You wouldn’t need audio of admission of guilt, just the video of grill location and perhaps idiotic grilling practices (throwing WAAAAY too much L. fluid on the charcoals to watch it go “whoosh”?? Who knows, negligent could turn into blatant disregard to safety and really give you leverage.

I was told by an insurance guy that even calling for a “what if” goes on some report that you likely have a claim, but aren’t filing b/c “it isn’t enough”. So, giving a “what if” scenario is likely still to be logged. Just can’t prove it causes a policy price increase more than it should have…

-2 cents