Recovering After a House Fire in Simple Steps
When your home has experienced a serious fire, your bedrock sense of security and comfort can wobble. While shock, anger, depression and hopelessness can be overwhelming emotions, they are only natural and will fade with time. However, when you're recovering from a home-based fire, the best way to get your life back on track is to take decisive action as soon as possible—today, not tomorrow.
This article explains what to expect from your insurance carrier, your homeowners insurance and the rebuilding process.
Does Regular Homeowners Insurance Cover Fire?
Yes, homeowners insurance policies cover structures and belongings when they have been compromised or destroyed by flames. In other words, "fire coverage" is not a stand-alone insurance product that you have to buy separately from your standard homeowners insurance policy.
Will the "fire insurance" part of your homeowners insurance cover fire that's caused intentionally or due to gross negligence? No, it won't. If arson or deliberate carelessness causes a fire, insurance will provide zero coverage for any property damage.
Will Home Insurance Cover Fire from Any Source?
Your homeowners insurance coverage includes all kinds of ignition sources of a fiery eruption:
Electricity, such as faulty wiring
Fire from another building
In fact, the "fire insurance" portion of your basic homeowners insurance coverages will redeem your house and property even if you accidentally cause a fire. In fact, most domicile fires are caused by human agency, whether due to an unwatched candle, an electrical surge or, for example, a cooking mishap. All these events are covered. What's not covered, however, is a fire caused intentionally (arson) or due to gross negligence.
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File a Claim on Your Home Insurance Coverage
Each year, the U.S. has more than 360,000 house fires. While minimal fire damage may take only a couple of days to repair, a total rebuild take can take months. After you've called your loved ones to let them know you are safe and the fire has been completely extinguished, you should immediately contact your insurance agent to file a claim against your insurance policy.
The sooner you file your home insurance claim, the sooner your insurance carrier can honor its obligations. In the end, your carrier will want access to the following details:
Your name, user ID and policy number
Date and time of the event
Description of what happened
Police or fire department report
Fire investigation report
Photos and videos of the conflagration's effects
The names and addresses of anyone else involved
An adjuster will come to your property to photograph and assess the destruction, so don't remove anything and give them access. Insurance companies use this assessment to calculate what an insurance policy coverages will pay out according to a homeowner insurance's coverage limits.
If you have a home inventory or pictures or videos of your home before the outbreak of flames, your adjuster will want to see them.
How Exactly Will Homeowners Insurance Help?
Your standard homeowners insurance policy covers four areas of risk: dwelling, personal property, additional living expenses and liability. If your crib is subject to a devastating fire, every component of your homeowners policy may come into play:
When you insure your abode with dwelling coverage, you're paying for liability protection for the total value of your dwelling, including its structure. In other words, the rebuilding cost estimate provided by your homeowners insurance should meet the requirements for a full rebuild of yours. The reconstruction value is based on an insurance appraisal or calculation. Your residence should be insured to its reconstruction value, not the real estate value or tax value.
Personal Property Coverage
Also called "personal belongings" or "contents" insurance, personal property coverage will reimburse you for any personal belongings that flames have compromised or destroyed.
- Rugs and carpets
- Sports gear
- An upright piano
You get the idea. There are two types of personal property coverage: policies for the replacement cost or the actual cash value. A replacement-cost policy usually pays the dollar amount it will take to purchase the new items up to the price quote at the time of the claim. A policy for actual cash value bakes in the depreciation of yours. personal items.
Personal property insurance typically has certain limits on what it will pay to replace an item or category of items. If you have any questions about your liability coverage, ask your insurer or agent.
Additional Living Expenses
If a conflagration has left your residence uninhabitable, this component of your homeowners policy will pay for your lodging (hotel stays) and even your food until you can move back into your dwelling. You may receive this payout as a lump sum or as a series of installments.
If the fire injures or kills a visitor to your, this insurance "pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents," according to the Insurance Information Institute. "Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage, so if a friend or neighbor is injured in your residence or on your property, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses can be paid without a liability claim being filed against you."
Liability limits generally start at about $100,000 but you can opt for more coverage.
What's in a Fire Report?
A fire report is an official, public record that's recognized by insurers and the court. While your insurance company will require this document, you are responsible for getting it. Most fire reports will contain the following information:
The time and date of the 911 call
The time and date of the fire units' arrival on the scene
The fire units and ID numbers of the individual personnel that responded
Official incident number
Address of the house
Description of procedures followed and other steps taken
Final disposition of the site
You can get a copy of the report in person, by mail or online from your local fire department or the fire marshal. To find the contact information of your state marshal, go to the National Association of State Fire Marshals' website (firemarshals.org).
What's in a Fire Investigation Report?
An initial fire report is not the same as a report that's filed after an official fire investigation. Indeed, an investigation may be required if the fire has resulted in a major injury or death, a high dollar-amount loss, fire-related felony violations of the penal code or the municipality's possible exposure to liability. The fire investigation report will include information that's not found in the initial report:
Estimated losses quote
Type of building
Factors, including possible human agency, for how the fire got started
Presence of any smoke detectors
Of course, your insurance company will want this document, too. If your fire department doesn't have a fire investigation unit, you could appeal to the state, hire a licensed independent investigator or just rely on the initial fire report.
Returning to Your Home After a Fire
To avoid break-ins, alert your local police department that your residence is vacant and vulnerable. For example, in putting out the flames, the firefighters may have broken windows and cut holes into the roof and walls.
Just because your homeowners policy covers your domicile's structure does not mean you can or should enter your structure after a fiery event. In fact, no one should enter their residence unless the fire department says it is safe to do so. Usually, the fire department will make sure your water, electricity and gas are secure and safe before allowing you to enter.
When returning to your crib, there may still be threats that have been unnoticed, overlooked or a non-threat till recently. Here are some danger items to look out for:
Smoke or embers
The smell or hissing of gas
Loose power lines
Cracks in the foundation
Snakes, possum, raccoons, spiders and other animals
Frayed or severed wires
If you see these warning signs, a professional investigation is in order.
Wear eye protection and a mask, avoiding breathing in dust, smoke particles and other harmful chemicals. Disconnect and check all appliances before use.
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How Much Does It Cost To Rebuild a Home?
The way that the fire was extinguished greatly affects your rebuilding costs. Specialists may be required to rebuild your home, including reconstruction specialists as well as post-disaster contractors, engineers and architects.
If water was used to extinguish the fire, you could find yourself with a dangerous and costly mold problem. If there is water damage, a mold specialist may need to be hired to make sure your home is safe. Further, the high pressure of a fire hose can seriously undermine the integrity of your abode's structure, walls and roofs.
The expense to have a restoration company remove debris and any smoke damage and deodorize a 1,500-square-foot single-family home can cost up to $5,000. The destruction from a kitchen fires be more extensive, averaging $10,000 to $30,000. For a custom kitchen, that price tag can soar to $50,000 to $70,000.
Keep every quote, document and receipt to ensure that you are reimbursed accurately.
Consider rebuilding smarter and remember to evaluate your plans with your local zoning board before beginning any rebuilding projects. Investing in fire prevention improvements saves homeowners money in the long run. By rebuilding smarter, you can lower your home's fire-related risk and lower the premium of your homeowners insurance coverage.
The average expense of fire damage without fire sprinklers is $45,000. However, with sprinklers, the average fire damage expense drops down significantly to $2,170. The expense of installing a home fire sprinkler system is about $1.50 per square foot. Sprinklers use less water than conventional fire hoses and provide flame-killing water long before the firefighters arrive. Check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition's website: homefiresprinkler.org.
Some smoke detectors will not only alert you of a fire but also immediately contact emergency responders. Some smoke detectors are especially made for people who cannot rely on their hearing. An average home with three bedrooms and two stories needs at least five smoke alarms. Of course, you may want to install a carbon monoxide detector.
A fire extinguisher can help you fight the fire before the fire department arrives. With a price tag of about $20, a single-use fire extinguisher can greatly limit your loss.
Windows and Skylights
Install insulated, tempered double-pane glass to increase fire resistance, or else your windows may shatter. Add non-flammable shutters to windows as an extra precaution. Acrylic skylights should be avoided because they melt quickly and can leave a hole in your roof.
Steeper roof pitches are more fire-resistant than flatter roofs—for one thing, burning embers are more likely to roll off your home if your roof is angled. When you have your new roof constructed, use standing seam, slate, tile or cementitious composite materials. If you are intent on using wood for your roof, make sure it is coated with a fire-resistant treatment, which is good for about five years.
Avoid untreated wood for your walls. Further, outside your home, employ non-flammable materials, such as fiber-cement, brick, stucco or cultured stone, for your siding. To protect the base of the siding, consider using lining made of crushed stones to deter fire from spreading.
There are no fireproof plants, but high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground are less susceptible to catching fire. Pine and fir trees, however, are excellent tinder. What's more, dead plants may act as a source of fuel for a fire. Avoid having combustible plants within 30 feet of your home. Finally, fencing, gazebos and other decorative features should be as fire resistant and strategically placed as possible.
Fire Insurance for Renters and Business
Yes, there is fire insurance available to renters and business concerns, and these insurance policies are not dissimilar to home insurance coverage. While a business policy will cover fire damage to the structures and inventory of the place of business, it will also cover any personal liability. In the case of the coverages that are available to renters, policies will pay for any damage to personal property as well as provide additional living expenses and liability protection.
Does Home Insurance Cover Vehicles?
Home insurance covers homes, and auto insurance covers autos. If your car is subject to damage from the effects of a fire, your car will be protected by your comprehensive policy. The best way to find cheap comprehensive is to compare several comprehensive policies. Enter your zip code below to begin your free search for the best coverage.
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