Few things are more emotionally taxing than suffering a house fire. Unfortunately, many homeowners then proceed to go on and make an already stressful situation even more stressful by making several common mistakes.
Here are 9 of the most common mistakes homeowners make after a house fire.
Mistake #1: Not contacting the insurance company in a timely manner
If you are the victim of a house fire, you need to contact your insurance company right away. First call the fire department, then maybe your loved ones to let them know you are alright. Then it’s time to contact your insurance company.
A big requirement of insurance policies is that the policyholder must promptly notify the company in the event of a fire so that its representatives can inspect all damaged property. So as soon as possible after the fire, contact your insurance agent.
Mistake #2: Not securing the house after a fire
Not securing the fire damaged home is another frequent mistake that can have lasting implications for the owner. While it’s understandable after going through the trauma of a house fire that you may want to take some time to recuperate. Realistically, there isn’t time for that right away. One thing that needs to be done quickly after a fire is to secure the property.
The last thing you want is for someone to wander onto the site and get hurt. You also don’t want scavengers stealing property that you may not be able to be reimbursed for due to you not securing the property in a timely manner. You should hire a board-up/mitigation company to pump out water, board-up openings and otherwise ensure that your property does not suffer additional damage. You also may be able to do the work yourself.
One more thing, don’t forget to notify local police that your home will be vacant to help prevent looting and break-ins.
Mistake #3: Failing to read and understand the insurance policy
Another common mistake homeowners make following a house fire is not knowing what your insurance covers. After a house fire, it’s essential that you know what is covered and what is not under your homeowners insurance policy.
So you need to read the policy closely. If your policy was destroyed in the fire, notify your agent and have them provide you with another copy. Be sure to read the declarations page, which is a summary identifying the property being insured and the policy period. It also lists the amount of the insurance, deductibles, endorsements and the home owner(s) name. Other sections to read and study closely include: damaged items, which details items covered by the policy, and exclusions, which reveals what property loss is not covered under the policy.
Mistake #4: Failing to submit a Proof of Loss when required
One common condition under most home insurance policies is that a Proof of Loss must be submitted. However, not all adjusters require a proof of loss. When submitting a Proof of Loss be sure to include all claim documentation that is also required.
Also, be sure that you understand the time limit for Proof of Loss submission as set forth in your insurance policy. Missing the deadline could have catastrophic effects, including an outright loss of coverage. That’s why this can be a big house fire mistake.
Mistake #5: Failing to understand what is covered under insurance
The thing to keep in mind here is that there are three main areas covered by a home insurance policy:
- Dwelling – this section covers damage to the home and structures attached to the home.
- Other Structures – this coverage is for structures located on the property but set apart from the house, like a detached garage or a storage shed.
- Personal Property – this coverage is limited to 50 to 75 percent of the dwelling coverage (it can be increased through an endorsement) and it is for property owned by the homeowner and stored in the dwelling, such as cash, securities, silverware, jewelry, antiques, cameras, furniture, furs, stamps and coin collections and more.
Things typically not covered by a homeowners insurance policy include:
- Damage over time
- Intentional loss
- Earth movement
- Power failure
- Losses due to the insured not properly protecting property after a loss, like a fire
- Nuclear hazard
- Defective planning, design, and maintenance issues
- Weather conditions
- Water damage from external sources (floods, sewers, underground water)
Mistake #6: Not keeping track during the claims process
The insurance claims process following a house fire is not quick or easy. That makes it even more important for you to keep track of things as you go along. You should record or keep copies of all receipts, bills and contracts. You should also document all living expenses and any matters that come up regarding your house fire or the claims process.
One more tip: be sure to keep all this information in one easy-to-access place. Don’t trust your insurance agent to take care of things for you or to keep track of all the paperwork. You need to do it!
Mistake #7: Giving an inaccurate statement to the insurance company
Due to the stress that can accompany a house fire, many homeowners often make mistakes when it comes to giving their statement. This can cause the claim to be denied. It’s important to note that you can’t refuse to give a statement. It is required under your policy. If you refuse, it could trigger a declination of coverage or a mutual refusal to cooperate.
Just try to be as relaxed and as accurate as possible when giving the statement. One thing you can do is prepare yourself beforehand. Do some research online. Practice answers to common questions. Get some tips from an insurance agent you trust.
Mistake #8: Accepting the insurance company’s first offer
Don’t let a lengthy claims process or a persuasive insurance agent cause you to rapidly accept a first settlement offer – this can be another big house fire mistake.
Do your research and figure out how much you really deserve. Some things to consider:
- Homes damaged by fire can have additional damage that is not readily apparent right after the fire but they may be discovered during the repair process.
- A claim adjuster’s opinion on damages is just that – an opinion. You can offer a contractor’s opinion in rebuttal.
Mistake #9: Letting past memories influence your decision to repair or sell
The simple truth is many homeowners decide to repair their fire damaged house because of all the memories they previously created in the home. What they don’t consider is the cost and length of time associated with the repairs.
You may be able to sell the fire damaged house for a great price. Some homeowners combine the settlement money and sale price to purchase an even nicer house with a fresh start (and no smoke damage).
We Buy Fire Damaged Houses buys houses that have been damaged in a fire. They’ll pay you cash for your home, regardless of the condition. To see if your home qualifies for a free quote, fill out the form below.