We signed a lease in mid-January with a section 8 tenant, we gave them the key upon their lease start date, they told us they would start moving in that night. Last week, the weather here was extremely cold, mostly below freezing for almost a week. We thought the tenant lived in our house and assumed the heating was on, so everything should be fine. But yesterday, they called me telling me that they found the living room's whole ceiling fell down, and water was everywhere, carpet was all wet, dry walls are all wet. And I was very surprised to hear that they had not been even living in my house! I called the gas company, and I was told the tenant did not transfer the gas service on the lease start date, even though they told us they did transfer on the lease start date. They did not have the heating on! and they also did not turn off the water from the main valve outside. So apparently the water pipe bursted in the extremely cold weather.
1. What can I do to recoup the damages?
2. Do I need to notify section 8 office? Can I get compensated from section 8 office due to the tenant's mistake?
3. Should I get the tenant to pay for the damages? and How?
4. What damages could my house have? What are options to fix?
Thanks very much for your time and kind advice. We are very upset about our damages...