Fires have always been a problem for home owners. Whether the fire is caused by natural events, or through an accident within the home, it’s important to know how to file a claim when or if it happens to you.

As is the most obvious step, it’s to get in touch with your insurance provider. Usually contacting the agent who sold you the home owners insurance is the best route to go. The insurance company will then assign an adjuster to your claim to assess the damage and submit a budget estimate for review by the insurance provider.

Depending on what specific type of insurance you have purchased from the insurance provider will determine the amount you will be paid. Normally, “replacement cost” coverage will cover the cost of repairing or replacing your damaged home and any damaged or lost items. “Actual cash value” coverage will pay out the value of your home and the damaged items inside, minus the depreciation value.

The first priority is to determine what essential items you have lost due to having to quickly evacuate the premises. This could include toiletries, clothing, or pertinent electronics. Once the basics have been covered, it’s a good idea to ask for an advanced against your ultimate fire insurance claim. Call your insurance company and ask them to send someone with a check to wherever you’re staying. This way, you will be able to make purchases for the necessary items without having to wait through the entire process for the ultimate insurance coverage to pay out.

Take care of basic needs only. Being practical when asking for the advance is smart because the insurance company will definitely refuse to reimburse frivolous expenditures. Also, don’t forget this advance will be subtracted from the total ultimate insurance coverage.

After your basic needs are met, you’ll want to focus on making a list of everything you and your family lost in the fire. This can take some time and thought from everyone who lives in your home. Be sure to make this list as soon as possible so that you can remember to include everything you and your family have lost in the fire by the time you file the insurance claim.

During all of this process, communicating with your insurance provider is priority. Insurance policies normally require policy holders to file their claims for fire insurance as soon as possible. Contact your homeowners’ insurance agent ASAP to get the claim filing process started. Usually, the insurance provider will ask you to submit a proof of loss claim, which is where you will use the list you documented before of all of the items you lost, including their value. Prompt action is essential if there were other homeowners in the neighborhood affected by the fire. If you take action too late, you could be at the bottom of the list of residents who have filed fire insurance claims and it could be a while before an adjuster is assigned to reach you.

Keep in mind all of this information is required when submitting your claim:

– Date of Loss
– Type of loss/damage
– A police report
– Description of damaged contents
– Location of damage
– Any emergency temporary repairs made
– Others involved
– Any related injuries
– Condition of home

Handling communication with your insurance provider on any claim is a somewhat complicated process. It will involve many calls, emails, and letters containing documents. Keep track of all of the documents and communication, including any receipts from mailed letters. It’s essential to take notes with dates and times of every phone or face to face conversation with your insurance provider. Going a step further and getting all of this information organized in a binder will make it easier to sort between different types of documentation. Don’t forget to keep original documents and make copies as you hand them out.

Once all of the basic grounds are covered, it’s time to start taking action. This means covering up holes in the walls or roof of your home to protect it from the elements, boarding up your home or building fences to prevent intruders and looters, stomping our and dousing all embers, and moving any property that is at risk of further damage due to the situation.

To continue the documentation and tracking process during this period, it’s smart to keep track of your living expenses. Most insurance policies include a clause called “loss of use”, which means the insurance provider is responsible for your living expenses while you’re living away from your damaged home. This doesn’t mean the insurance company will cover ALL of your living expenses. They will be responsible for covering the difference in added expenses. Sometimes, family will stay with other family members or friends instead of staying at a hotel. The insurance company can be asked to reimburse your host family members for the addition costs of your stay. Take care to be reasonable and not over-extend your budget so that when your host family member itemizes the additional costs it will not be a ridiculous amount. Be kind and polite with your insurance provider when communicating that you are saving them a bit of money in hotel and restaurant fees by staying with your family members.

When it comes time to start getting estimates, keep hold of all receipts and continue to document everything. Filing fire insurance claims enables you to repair or even fully rebuild your fire damaged home. Going back to the type of policy you filed for, “actual cash value” policies will get you the amount it would require to return your home and its contents to its market value before the fire occurred. However, “replacement cost” policies will get you the amount to replace your home and contents without focus on the value of what was lost. It doesn’t actually require you to rebuild your home at the same place. You can choose where you want to rebuild! As long as the value ends up being the same as your old place did. If you move somewhere there is higher property values, you’ll definitely end up paying the difference. If you decide to not rebuild and want to invest the money received into something completely unrelated, the “replacement cost” policy will convert into a “actual cash value” policy, getting you about 15% less.

To determine the amount you will be receiving, the insurance provider will require an estimate for the cost of replacing damaged property. Insurance providers will almost always send out their own adjusters to assess damage, which means they will have the company’s best interests as a priority, not yours. You don’t have to simply accept what the adjuster says, you are completely able to reach out and hire your own independent estimator or contractor. (Maybe Encore RRC??)

Be sure to be highly selective when finding the right contractor, if you visit one of our recent blogs, “10 tips for hiring the right contractor”, you will be able to confidently decide for yourself, the right contractor to work with. Double-check the contractor is experienced in home fire remediation and dealing with insurance providers. It’s imperative you agree with the insurance company on the scope of work before beginning the project.

After all is said and done, a few things to remember are: don’t forget to keep paying your premiums, don’t let the insurance provider close the claim too quickly until you are fully satisfied your life is back together, think about hiring a public adjuster who will negotiate with your insurance provider on your behalf, and finally, don’t worry about your insurance company dropping your coverage. As long as you file legitimate claims after real disasters, you don’t file too many claims, and you don’t commit any fraud, your premium will not increase and your coverage will not be dropped.

When you’re ready to make the decision for the right contractor for the job, or simply have questions regarding the filing process after the loss of your home and valuables to a fire, don’t hesitate to call us at Encore RRC. We are here to help rebuild your life and get you back on track!