Putting your home back together after a fire is no easy task. You have to find somewhere else to stay while you sort out your insurance claim and the repair work takes place, and life goes on even when you’re not living at home.
The insurance claim process can be a complicated one. If you’re not certain what to do next, these are the 8 steps to take after a house fire to help everything go smoothly with your insurer.
As you go through the insurance claim process, you might consider whether you want to do some things differently as you rebuild. For many families, their top priority will be to put everything back the way it was. But if you have the desire and the means, it could also be an opportunity to renovate or redecorate. It can be a chance to start fresh with your home – but it also means you may have to approach your insurance claim differently than you would otherwise.
What Happens If You Want to Renovate After a Fire?
Were you dreaming of updating your kitchen before it was damaged in a fire? Do you want to implement some renovations that can reduce your premiums, like a new roof or upgrades to your wiring or plumbing? In some cases, updated bylaws may mean that there are additional changes you’re forced to make, whether your insurance covers it or not.
The Structure/Dwelling part of your insurance coverage will only cover the costs of repairing your home as it was before the loss. Though some insurance policies provide bylaw coverage, it is important to determine whether or not yours does. If you want to renovate beyond regular bylaw upgrades rather than restore your home to its pre-loss state, you will be on the hook for those additional expenses.
Many insurers like to work with a preferred contractor and pay out based on their low estimates. You may have to talk to your insurer about accepting a lump sum settlement and finding your own contractor. Be aware that when you take this path, you will have to make up any differences yourself – including any extra Additional Living Expenses that come with extended reconstruction times.
What Do You Do If You Want New Stuff?
In addition to altering the structure of the home, you may also want to redecorate and update your furniture. This can also complicate the insurance process.
Many insurers will want to try to salvage as many items as they can. However, the cost of cleaning up smoke damage is expensive in itself, and not guaranteed to succeed. You especially don’t want your furniture to be unsatisfactorily restored and the costs still deducted from your settlement.
Instead, you may want to ask the insurer for a cashout on an actual cash value basis. This might reduce the lump sum you receive compared to replacing your belongings, but if you have the means, it can be a great way to start fresh.
It is possible to renovate and redecorate as you rebuild from a fire. In order to navigate the insurance claims process and communicate your desires with the insurer, you may want help from an insurance adjuster or lawyer.