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Maximizing Homeowner Insurance Coverage Benefits After a Fire

9/18/2015 Articles

Before worrying about an insurance claim, first ensure that you and your family, including pets and extended family, have their immediate needs met.  When you are ready to begin the recovery process, we have outlined three steps for you to take in working with your insurers to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits available under any applicable policies.

Step 1 – Locate Insurance Policies

It is very important that you understand the coverages provided by your insurance policies, so it is critical to have complete copies of your policies.

  • If your policies are lost/destroyed, contact your agent/broker or insurer.
  • If you can’t remember who the agent or insurer is, look at bank/payment records.  Your mortgage company may also have records.

Step II – Contact Your Insurer

You should contact your broker or agent and let them know the details of your specific situation.  They are there to help you.  If you don’t have a broker or agent, contact your insurer directly.

  • Ask your insurer for an advance to cover living expenses, to replace necessities – clothes, food, medical supplies, etc., and for the cost to board up/fence your property to prevent vandalism.  Your insurance agent may be able to make this request for you.
  • You’re entitled to alternative living expenses if your house (or part of your house) is uninhabitable and for costs to secure your property.  The cost of debris removal should also be covered.

Step III – Documenting Your Loss

Make notes and lists as you remember the contents and possessions that you’ve lost.  The United Policyholders website has a very comprehensive list of typical home contents (link below). 

  • Don’t sign anything that indicates it’s the full amount of your claim.  It will be weeks or months before you remember everything that you had.
  • Don’t worry about trying to value items at this stage.  Final valuations will be worked out later.
  • Keep receipts for everything you buy and what you spend on living and emergency repair expenses. 
  • Keep track of how much the insurance company gives you and what it’s for. 

Important Information About Insurance

If you have a complicated claim for some reason (e.g., unusual possessions, high values), get professional help sooner rather than later.

If you are a renter and have renter’s insurance, you are entitled to coverage for the contents you own, and most likely your additional living expenses if your rented property is uninhabitable.  You should ask your insurer for an advance to cover essentials and alternate living expenses.

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