Here are a few steps to get you started if you are ever in this situation:
- File your claim right away. Call your agent. If your agent is not available, call your insurance company to get your claim started. This will get things moving.
- Request Emergency Funds. Request your insurance company for an “advance” to your claim. This will cover your necessities: clothing, toiletries, even boarding for your pets if you cannot bring them to where you are staying. Be sure to keep receipts. **this would be a great time to be sure you have replacement cost on your personal property, this would not be the time to find out you have actual cash value on your contents.
- Protect Your Property. This overlaps with Emergency Funds, as you are required to take measures to prevent further damage to your home (ie: covering a leaking roof, boarding up windows to avoid trespassers/additional theft, etc.) Much of this will be done by a remediation company.
- Stop the smoldering. This will likely be done by the fire department but be sure to keep an eye on it to avoid a new fire from starting back up.
- Board up your home. To avoid theft or vandalism. Have a contractor board up your home. The insurance company may also request fencing around your damaged home to avoid any curious people from getting hurt.
- Watch your home. Keep an eye on your home. This is to be sure nobody is wandering around your property or if any new problems arise from fire.
- Track, track, track. Keep all records and receipts of your living expenses. This includes rental/hotel, restaurant receipts (if you typically eat at home and are not able to cook meals due to being in a hotel, they will pay the additional cost), boarding, clothing, etc. As you replace your belongings, keep your receipts. Be sure you have a home inventory to be sure no items are forgotten.
- Hire a general contractor to rebuild. Find a reputable general contractor to build your home back to where it was before the fire. **this is also not a great time to find out you have ACV (actual cash value) on your home. Be sure you have at least Replacement Cost, many policies cover 125-150% of the replacement cost (which gives you a little more “wiggle room” if the cost of materials have increased), not often, but some have “Guaranteed Replacement Cost” (this guarantees, no matter the cost of material or labor, your home will be built to what it was before the loss. Be sure that you and the insurance company agree on the scope of work to be done if you’re replacing or repairing BEFORE the work has begun.
- Continue to pay your insurance premium. It may seem ridiculous to continue paying homeowners’ insurance premiums to protect property that’s severely damaged or gone, but stopping your payments can be a big mistake. Remember, your homeowners’ policy includes liability protection for you and your household, including your pets. This may come in handy if, for example, your stressed-out dog chews up an expensive Oriental rug while you’re camped out at your brother-in-law’s house. If you’ll be staying somewhere for a while, call your agent and ask for that address to be added as a second location for purposes of liability coverage. If your home has been destroyed, ask your insurance company to cut back on the part of the policy that covers the structure, and ask for a corresponding reduction in premiums.
- Do not close the claim until you’re satisfied. Your home and your contents should all be replaced and equivalent to what you had prior to the loss. If you are not satisfied, contact your agent. Your agent is available to be your advocate.
Having a fire, no matter how small, can be devastating to any homeowner (or renter). Let Infinity Insurance Agency help you with everything from coverage, to your home inventory, and through any claim you may have. As much as we do not want anybody to have to go through this, our goal is to make the process as smooth as we possibly can.