Although a house fire is an emotionally devastating experience, it doesn’t have to be financially devastating as well. The Federal Citizen Information Center notes that a standard homeowners insurance policy covers home repair costs following a house fire. Many homeowners insurance policies also cover the cost of replacing personal belongings lost in the fire. Filing an insurance claim after a house fire is the first step in not only rebuilding your home, but rebuilding your life.
Inspect your damaged home for conditions that could exacerbate the problem. If, for example, the burned portions of the house still contain live ash that could ignite and cause additional damage, call the fire department back out to the home. If damaged doors and windows give vandals and thieves easy access to the property, board them up. Your insurance company can refuse to pay your claim if you fail to mitigate further damage after the fire.
Call your insurance company or agent and report the incident as soon as possible. Have your insurance policy number on hand when you call.
Photograph the damage to your home. Take multiple pictures of all areas of the property that were damaged in the fire. Make two copies of each photograph.
Make a list of all damage your home incurred in the fire. Use the photographs you took to ensure that you leave nothing out. If your insurance policy includes personal property damage, include all of the personal items that were lost or damaged in the fire. If you have receipts for damaged items, make copies of these to provide to the insurance company.
Contact your insurance agent and fill out a formal insurance claim. Attach your list of damages to the claim form, give your agent one copy of each of the photographs you took of the damage, and keep the other set of photos for your own reference. Your insurance company will then assign an adjuster to come out and evaluate the damage.
Make an appointment with the insurance adjuster to view the property. The adjuster estimates the extent of the damage and potential repair costs based on nationwide cost averages. Ask for a copy of the adjuster’s report for your records. After the insurance company approves the costs and determines a settlement, it sends you a check for the final amount. Use these funds to cover the costs of your home's repairs.
If your home isn’t habitable, save your hotel or rental receipts so your insurance company can adequately reimburse your living expenses.
Obtaining estimates from several different contractors can help you save money on home repairs following a fire.
You may appeal the amount of the settlement if you have documentation to support a higher settlement amount than the insurer's offer.
If your insurance company is uncooperative, contact your state’s insurance department for assistance.
Ciele Edwards holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been a consumer advocate and credit specialist for more than 10 years. She currently works in the real-estate industry as a consumer credit and debt specialist. Edwards has experience working with collections, liens, judgments, bankruptcies, loans and credit law.