Learning about insurance can be a lot.
It can feel overwhelming and confusing. Here you will learn several tips for how best to proceed if your home has been affected by fire damage.
A couple weeks ago, I spoke on the phone with Greenspan for several hours and joined the webinar resources that were available to get a comprehensive overview. I sent my policy and they went over the entire thing with me for ZERO cost. I am now informed and ready to share the details with you! Here are the nuts and bolts I have gathered in my research…
- Take notes on everything.
- Email and get a certified copy of your policy from your adjuster, then read it!
- Create a notebook or folder to store all of the information you collect- you will have multiple adjusters.
- Track your mileage (I recommend the Mile-IQ app) because insurance will pay for mileage that is out of the ordinary.
- Help the adjuster to see the damages so that he can document appropriately.
- Walk the property with the adjuster (to get a “joint scope” walk through) and take notes. Make a list of all the things you discuss that needs to be fixed or worked on.
- After you walk the property, send an email back to the adjuster confirming what was discussed and agreed on for fixing.
- By California law, adjusters have 15 days to get in touch with you in response to a request or email.
- Write notes and email them to the adjuster after every phone conversation. Do not text.
- If your fridge has water attached to it then it gets claimed as part of the dwelling coverage. Otherwise, it is part of personal property and replacement comes out of that money.
- Most places that try to clean your soft goods will use chemicals. Be sure to ask about the process. I don’t recommend a chemically involved process because it leads to wear and tear which will cut the life of your goods.
- If you have sensitive skin and lungs (like me) and/or live with elderly individuals who may be at risk to excessive chemicals, I would recommend emailing the adjuster ahead of time to inform them that this is a special case and that zero chemicals can be used in the clean up process. This heads up will let them know the kind of claim they are dealing with. It may be possible to have them simply replace all soft goods, carpet, etc as a result. Start the narrative via email because this will mostly likely not be your adjuster for the entire process.
Other Things to Remember:
- The insurance company doesn’t want to make you better or worse than where you were before this event took place. You have a right to get to your “Pre-Loss condition”. DO NOT settle for anything less.
- There is a ton of gray area in the policy so make sure you say “show me in the policy where it excludes this.” If it doesn’t exclude -then it includes!
- For example: They will pay for your additional living expenses (ALE) until your property has been able to be restored to pre-loss condition.
- Every policy gives you at least 5% of the dwelling coverage for bushes, shrubs, and trees. For all of us in the woods that is not a hard thing to determine. This means if your policy is a $1 million policy for just your dwelling you will have $50,000 toward damaged trees, bushes, or shrubs, and no more than $500 per tree/brush/shrub. Get the $50k you need to find 100 trees on the property that are damaged. DO this with an arborist or yourself, but having someone write it up a professional and say we walked the property and found x number of trees to be dead and will not grow back-they will then include that amount into the payment back to you. Make sure you mark your trees if you do this so adjuster sees work was done.
- Some plans have a ‘boost’ section. Determine how this gets activated because it is very helpful. A boost section means something that was 5% becomes 10% etc.
- Understand the definition of terms. I have rentals on my property and in my house people rent rooms. In my policy it says I will have loss of wages for rent on the premises. So looking carefully at the definition of terms of ‘residence premises’ it doesn’t exclude rentals in trailers, for example. Therefore, it is covered. Remember: if the agent questions this, ask him to show you where in the policy it excludes this.
- If you decide to litigate and hire an attorney, the claim now gets pushed up to legal which also means it will take longer.
- All damaged structures need to be addressed (including illegal ones).
- You can receive claims for lost rental income, provided you have proof (like a lease agreement).
- Many people are talking about $500 max for contents in the fridge or freezer. This is in the event the power goes out. In the event of a wildfire ALL OF IT should be covered (it may be part of personal property). The $500 is a sub-limit and will not apply here because of fire.
- If you find something with the industrial hygienist and you didn’t get pre-approved for the hygienist by the adjuster, you will be able to get reimbursed because it showed a result that was helpful to your claim determining taxic levels etc. Whether it is covered or not, it is a good idea to do this because you want to make sure you are safe and your home is a healthy environment to be in.
- If you have any medical issues as a result of smoke you need to get it documented, go to a doctor and explain your symptoms (Santa Cruz Core has a physician who will happily make note of all symptoms.)
- Your water may not look like there is damage, even after a water sample. However, the most important time to check is after the first rain of the season.
- Someone wrote a post about how soot and water = lye which is toxic. Talk to the adjuster and the cleaning crew they approve of and ask how they will clean up the soot and ash around the house in order for it not to be toxic to the animals and humans in the area
- Make sure they power wash the house AND roof!
- When someone is doing assessments make sure they are going into the crawl space and attic. If you really want to test well, make sure they cut into the dry way and check the insulation as well.
- You may want to be there during the clean up process. Make sure they work within the hours you are able to be there. Also, do your due diligence and make sure you hire the right company, ask them what they use to do the clean up and what their process is.
- For your ALE, they will ask you how much you spend per week on average. Anything above this average in groceries is what they will pay for.
- Washing the carpet may not fix the pad underneath that soaked up the smell as well and the ash.
- When the adjuster plugs in all the concerns into their calculator -expect it to be 40-50% LESS than it should be. Now the job is to get the bids for the work that needs to be done. This will be the replacement cost so that they will adjust their price UP.
- FEMA TRICK: when you file for FEMA state you do not have insurance. This will get you past round one. Once you talk to someone (someone will call you), you share that you actually have insurance and they will tell you, “no problem your insurance will not cover everything”. Then they will help you finish the application which will get you SOME money (then you can appeal for more).
Final Quick Tips:
- Insurance has 15 days to respond to a question you ask.
- It is illegal in the state of CA to cap the price on clean up.
- Remember these people may know your policy but they do not necessarily know CA law. Make sure you take this into account when discussing what is habitable (especially if you hit a stalemate with the adjuster where both parties cannot decide on the claim-it will go to appraisal which is like mediation and a 3rd party will then decide which way to go after hearing both sides of the concern).
- Being informed allows you to hold your ground when working with an adjustor. They may be surprised at how much you know!
As always, I am available for consultations if you need help working through this information. Please contact me with questions or to schedule a consultation.