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FIRE DAMAGE: What can you claim?
Does My Homeowner's Insurance Policy Cover Wildfire Property Damage?
California fire damage is nothing to sneeze at. Wildfires are blazing infernos that can reduce your home and everything around it to rubble. Fortunately, your homeowner's policy will cover the cost of restoration.
How Much Wildfire Property Damage Does My Insurance Cover?
Your homeowner's policy will reimburse you for fire and smoke damage resulting from a wildfire. That includes fire property damage caused by smoke from another house. Your policy may have several coverage types to help you reconstruct your property.
Dwelling coverage replaces, rebuilds or repairs the physical structure and attached physical structures on your property up to the policy limits. Attached structures include garages, decks or anything else that's attached to the dwelling.
Coverage is equal to how much it would cost to completely rebuild your home according to local material and labor costs. Review your homeowner's policy periodically to ensure that your dwelling coverage is keeping pace over time with the cost of labor and materials.
Coverage for Detached Structures
These are structures that are not attached to your home but are on your property. They include decks, fences, stand-alone garages, sheds and the like. Coverage for additional structures is based on a percentage of your total dwelling coverage.
Check your fire property damage coverage to ensure that this percentage is enough to cover the cost of replacing all of your other structures. This is especially important if you've added any new structures for which there may be insufficient coverage.
This coverage reimburses you for personal belongings like appliances, home furnishings, electronics and clothing. Policy limits are typically between 50 and 70 percent of your total dwelling coverage.
Conducting an inventory is the best way to determine whether your personal property coverage is sufficient. Make a list of everything you would need to replace and how much the replacement cost of each item would be. If your coverage is insufficient, add more personal property coverage to your policy.
Personal Liability Coverage
This coverage protects you if someone is injured on your property due to your negligence. It also covers damage you cause to the property of others. In either of those cases, your insurance would cover the costs.
Medical Payments to Others
If someone gets hurt on your property and requires medical treatment, this insurance can cover the costs.
The costs of daily living are covered if you can't live in your home due to wildfire damage. This is called loss of use coverage. You'll be reimbursed for things like lodging, costs of eating out, pet boarding expenses and laundry services.
You can file a loss of use claim if local authorities order an evacuation. You'll be covered even if your home is unharmed. Typical loss of use coverage is about 25 percent of your total dwelling coverage. You can increase the limit at any time.
Lawns, Plants, Trees and Shrubs
Most policies include coverage for greenery on your property. It usually works out to 20 percent of your total dwelling coverage. Nevertheless, be sure to check your policy limits. There can be a wide variation in the amounts covered for greenery from one policy to another.
Does Condo Insurance Cover Wildfire Damage?
Condo insurance covers California fire damage to the interior walls of a condo. Exterior areas like the outside walls and roof are covered under the homeowner association's master policy.
Your coverage is determined by the type of master policy held by the homeowners' association. There are two different policy types: all-in and bare walls.
- All-in policy: An all-in master policy covers things like plumbing, appliances, carpets and electrical wiring.
- Bare walls policy: Nothing inside of your condo unit's walls is covered. A few bare walls master policies may cover plumbing and electrical wiring.
Interior Walls Coverage
Interior walls coverage pays for the repair or replacement of items damaged within the walls of your condo and not covered by the master policy. All-in policies will cover the cost of restoring your condo to sanity. A bare walls policy won't help with much of anything.
Personal Property Condo Coverage
This coverage is similar to the personal property coverage in homeowners' insurance. It covers the cost of replacing furniture, electronics, artwork, jewelry, clothing and so on.
You can choose the amount of coverage you want. A homeowners' association master policy will not cover personal belongings, so be sure you get enough coverage for all your property.
Loss of Use
If your condo is rendered uninhabitable by wildfire damage, your policy will cover the cost of hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, pet boarding and other items including laundry services.
As with a homeowner's policy, you'll be covered for loss of use if an evacuation order is issued in your area. You'll get this coverage whether your condo is damaged or not.
Does Renters' Insurance Cover Wildfire Damage?
A typical renters' insurance policy will give you a set amount for additional living expenses or a percentage of your personal property limits.
Standard renters' insurance covers wildfire damage. Coverage includes loss of personal possessions and additional living expenses for loss of use.
Your landlord's insurance policy will only cover structural damages to the building in which your rental unit is located. It won't cover your possessions or additional living expenses.
For example, a policy with $25,000 in personal property coverage allows you to claim up to 30 percent of your total coverage for additional living expenses. You would get up to $7,500 for costs related to loss of use.
Are There Any Fire Damage Expenses That Homeowners' Insurance Won't Cover?
No. The only exception would be if you or anyone listed on your policy purposely caused the fire with malicious intent. That would be arson.
Do You Live In a Wildfire Risk Area?
This is especially the case in certain parts of California. If you are one of those homeowners, don't despair. It might take a bit of research, but good and affordable coverage is out there if you look for it.
If you live in any of these areas, it might be hard to find a fair deal on a decent homeowners' insurance policy. Many of the larger companies are charging higher premiums, raising deductibles, capping payouts and even refusing to underwrite properties in high risk areas altogether.
Here are the top ten wildfire risk areas ranked from most risky to least risky:
- Los Angeles, CA
- Riverside, CA
- San Diego, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- Austin, TX
- San Francisco, CA
- Denver, CO
- Truckee, CA
- Oxnard, CA
- Colorado Springs, CO
If possible, work with an independent insurance agent in your area who has connections with local insurance companies where you live.
Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan
One option is to get help from your state's Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. In order to qualify, you must first be rejected by a certain number of insurance companies.
Unfortunately, state FAIR plan insurance won't provide the best coverage. Besides being expensive, these plans may have restricted coverage.
With a FAIR plan, you'll have to beef up your homeowner's policy with supplemental insurance from private insurers just to get comprehensive coverage.
FAIR plan insurance may be better than nothing depending on your homeowner policy needs. But it will cost you more and protect you less.
Wildfire Protection for Expensive Homes
If you own a high-priced property in a wildfire risk zone, you may qualify for homeowner's insurance from a select group of private companies:
AIG Private Client Group Wildfire Protection Services
AIG takes a preventive approach to high-risk property protection:
- Onsite consultation to determine vulnerability. An eco-friendly fire retardant may be applied to the perimeter of your property.
- 24/7 Fire monitoring and tracking to identify at-risk properties.
- Mitigation services like removing combustible items and applying a fire retardant to the perimeter of your property.
Chubb Wildfire Defense
Chubb, in cooperation with Wildfire Defense, helps to protect homes in select, high-risk areas:
- Year-round monitoring to assess your home's current risk and to recommend protective measures.
- Wildfire protective services from certified fire professionals deployed to your home if a wildfire approaches your area. Measures include removing combustibles and coating your home with a fire-blocking gel.
- Recovery services following a wildfire such as returning previously removed combustibles and removing fire-blocking gel from your house.
PURE Programs High Wildfire Risk Homeowners Insurance Program
PURE Programs provides coverage for California homes with rebuilding costs of over $1 million:
- A risk management team will inspect your property for vulnerabilities and recommend measures to fortify protection.
- A crew of emergency vehicles will arrive to protect your home in the event that a wildfire approaches your area.
If you need the help of a California property damage attorney, don't hesitate to get counsel. A property damage attorney can help you collect your due. Contact a California property damage attorney or a property damage attorney in your state for a free consultation today.
Contact JT Legal Group Experienced Attorneys for Assistance with Your Insurance Claim
If you are a California homeowner or property owner who has suffered property damage or other losses as a result of any of the state’s historic wildfires in the past several years, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced California property damage attorney as soon as possible to assist you every step in the way in what can be a long, burdensome and time consuming process. We can help you by assisting in gathering the required paperwork, monitoring the status of your claim with your insurer and negotiating with the claims adjuster working on your claim to obtain as favorable a resolution as possible. We understand that you may have many questions regarding damage caused by wildfire, what damage is and is not covered by homeowner’s insurance, and the insurance claim process, so our team provides you with a no cost consultation to go over all your options. We have helped thousands of homeowners with their insurance claims as a result of wildfires. If your property has been damaged in a California wildfire, contact our firm immediately.
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