A house fire is a devastating experience. It isn’t easy to get your life back on track while you cope with the emotional pressures of the loss, worrying about where your family is going to stay, and wondering how you are going to start rebuilding.
You may need a helping hand so that you can accomplish everything. This checklist should provide a little bit of direction when it comes time to start putting the pieces back together after a fire.
#1 Find a Place to Stay
Finding a safe place to stay while you begin the process can help you manage stress levels. While you may be tempted to stay with family for the additional support and assistance, staying in a short-term rental like a hotel can help you from feeling overcrowded and give you the mental space you need to begin sorting out your needs. The Insurance claim process is demanding, and having a clear space to work through everything can be incredibly helpful.
If you are worried about the immediate costs, consider requesting a cash advance from your insurance company. This is money given up front to cover costs which you will have to substantiate later, so keep receipts. Expenses such as short-term rentals should be covered in the Additional Living Expenses / Loss of Use portion of your insurance.
#2 File Your Insurance Claim
After calling your insurance company to initiate an insurance claim, send notice of the loss in writing as well. Once you have notified the insurance company, you will begin dealing with an insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster is hired by the insurance company to assess damages and make a recommendation as to the size of your claim. Because they are employed by the insurance company, the insurance adjuster may try to minimize your claim.
#3 Photograph the Damages
Once the authorities have verified that the site is safe to re-enter, photograph the damage to your home and to your belongings. Generally speaking, you should not remove any of your belongings even if they have been completely destroyed. You may want to remove salvageable items before soot infiltrates materials such as fabric. Document every item you remove or salvage, as the insurance company should still be covering restoration costs or replacement costs if restoration is unsuccessful.
#4 Detail Your Lost Belongings
You will be responsible for creating a Schedule of Loss, a list of belongings lost and damaged in the fire. Our homes become a place where years of belongings accumulate, and it can be difficult to remember everything. Start by going room by room rather than trying to remember everything at once. You can also send the insurance company a provisional Schedule of Loss before signing off on a final account of belongings.
#5 Ask Friends & Family for Help
As you go through the process of inspecting your home and filing your insurance claim, it’s okay to rely on friends and family for support, whether it’s in the form of double checking your memory, childcare, or just a sympathetic ear. When it comes to your insurance claim, you can also ask for their help with your Schedule of Loss. Ask them to look for photos of your home or some of your more expensive belongings, often we take photos at parties and gatherings where a home or expensive jewellery may be visible.
Follow these steps and you will know what to do after a house fire in order to recover and rebuild. The period after a house fire will be stressful and can feel unreal at times. Take the process step-by-step and keep yourself grounded.