Losing a home to a fire is a heartbreak that no one should ever have to experience. Tragically, the past few years have seen Sonoma County struck hard by wildfire destruction. At Annadel Builders Inc., we believe that building for a better, more sustainable future starts at home. We are passionate about helping members of our community who have been affected by wildfire loss. Our Santa Rosa home builders are here for you every step of the journey, including your insurance questions. If you’ve recently experienced the loss or damage of your home due to wildfire and are looking to take the next step forward, here are some tips on how to navigate your homeowner’s insurance claim.

  1. Mitigate your damages – The first step is to ensure no additional damage occurs following the initial incident. This is especially important as many policies include a neglect exclusion, meaning that damage occurring because of failure to use reasonable means to save and preserve property from further damage will not be covered. Before you begin making repairs, however, it’s important to check with your utility companies that the property is free from electrical or fire hazards. Furthermore, you’ll need to be extremely cautious about plugging any electrical appliances if the interior of your home has suffered water damage. Take stock of what needs to be done and consider hiring a contractor to make temporary emergency repairs such covering holes in the wall or roof, boarding up or a building a fence to prevent looting, and moving anything of value that’s in danger of being further damaged.
  2. File your claim ASAP– Get your insurance claim filed as soon as you can.  First, you’ll need to put together a detailed list of everything you’ve lost and submit it as a “proof of loss claim.” Do so while it’s fresh in your mind, and make sure to not throw anything away as your insurance company’s claims adjuster may need to examine the evidence of damage before it can be cleared.  Filing early is especially important if there are many other policyholders affected by the fire since claims are often served on a “first come first serve” basis.  You’ll need to include the following information on your claim:
    1. Date of loss
    2. Type of loss/damage
    3. Location of damage
    4. Any related injuries  
    5. Condition of the home
    6. Description of damaged property
    7. Any necessary temporary repairs
    8. Any other individuals involved
    9. A police report
  3. Keep detailed spending records – It’s very important that you have thorough records of everything you spend, when you spent it, and why. This includes living expenses as many insurance policies include a “loss of use” clause, meaning that you can be reimbursed for living expenses while your home is uninhabitable. However, you should plan on only being reimbursed for the difference between your current living expenses and what your expenses were at home. Keep your spending carefully categorized and easily accessible on spreadsheets.
  4. Don’t miss hidden damage – Fire damage can cause smoke and soot to permeate your home, leaving a dark residue and acrid smell. While soiled carpeting, flooring, and walls are obvious, smoke and smoot can also cause significant damage to vents, ducts, interior walls, and crawl spaces, or even settle in electrical appliances. Overlooking this damage can create a big headache down the road. Consider having an environmental professional inspect your home before closing your insurance claim.
  5. Don’t settle too soon – It’s always in the insurance company’s interest to close a claim quickly, particularly in mass disaster scenarios. Remember, however, that it’s not over until you’re satisfied, even if you’re being pressured to close by the insurance company. In the stressful aftermath of a fire, it’s particularly important that you give yourself enough time to make sure nothing is overlooked. Take several months to have all damage assessed and repaired to your satisfaction before you consent to closing your claim.