Firepit near Neighbor’s Tiki Bar

A reader’s question sparks a discussion about who’s liable if your firepit damages your neighbor’s property. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

Patt has a firepit in the backyard, but Patt’s neighbor built an oversized tiki bar, complete with a palm frond roof near their mutual property line, which sounds like an awesome neighborhood, by the way.  But if a spark gets through the fire pit lid and the ember lights the tiki bar on fire, Patt wants to know who’s liable.

In general, Patt, you could be held liable if a court finds you acted negligently.  So act responsibly—in addition to never leaving the flame unattended, keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case burning embers travel.  And definitely talk to your homeowner’s policy ahead of time about what you should do to insulate yourself from liability. And then invite your neighbor over to your firepit to toast marshmallows.  He might invite you over to his bar to get toasted, because the best way to avoid court is always to act courtly. 

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