This is the second installment in our three-part blog post that provides an overview of important information and issues relevant to fire damage claims. The purpose of this blog is to arm homeowners with information that can help facilitate a more complete recovery with less hassle. Click here to read part I.
Carefully record your living expenses incurred following the fire.
If you review your homeowner’s insurance policy, you should find a provision labeled “loss of use.” This clause describes coverage for expenses incurred during the time you are forced to relocate because of the fire-related damage to your home. Policyholders should be aware that while loss of use coverage provides reimbursement for expenses during a period of temporary displacement, this form of coverage does not necessarily pay the full amount of your living expenses. Loss of use coverage provides compensation for the difference between your typical monthly expenses and living costs during your temporary relocation. The cost of your rent, groceries, utilities, transportation costs, and other basic living expenses, for example, might amount to $5,000 per month. If the comparable cost for hotel bills, dining out at restaurants, and other living expenses when you are living outside your home amounts to $6,500, the insurance company would reimburse the $1,500 difference.
While many people elect to stay with family members during the period between the fire and the return of their home to habitable conditions, this does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible for this form of compensation. If your hosts document the additional expenses they incur because you are a guest in their home, your insurer might reimburse these additional costs. The costs should be reasonable rather than frivolous. The insurance company might attempt to negotiate with you about how much to pay in reimbursement to your hosts, so you should be prepared for such a discussion with receipts. During any negotiations, the insurer should be reminded of the enormous savings associated with you staying with relatives rather than living in a hotel and dining out.
Make sure that your premium payments are made on time and that your policy does not lapse.
Policyholders sometimes commit an error in judgment by discontinuing their premium payments once their fire insurance claim has been filed. This can be an extremely costly mistake. The policy covers many forms of damage. If during the period that the house is being repaired, another part of your home is damaged by a tropical storm or a defective hot water heater that bursts, you can submit a claim for these separate incidents provided your policy remains in full force and effect. Because the value of your home will be less during the time it is being repaired, you might be able to get your insurer to temporarily adjust your premium. If the home and the contents in the home are entirely destroyed, resulting in a total loss, you should talk to your insurance company about transferring the coverage to another property if you buy a replacement home.
Take appropriate steps to mitigate damages.
Every homeowner’s insurance policy has a provision that imposes a duty on an insured to take reasonable steps to “mitigate” damage to the property. This process essentially amounts to taking preventative action that will avoid further damage to the home or the contents of the residence because of damage caused by the fire. If the fire left a gaping hole in the roof above the living room, for example, you may need to cover the roof with tarps, plastic or other barriers to prevent further water damage. Examples of mitigation measures that might be appropriate following a fire include:
- Boarding up windows or putting up a temporary fence to discourage looters
- Relocating home furnishings and other property to another area in the home
- Providing a covering over any areas in the roof or walls that have holes
- Making sure that any smoldering embers are not ignored
If your property damage claim has been denied following a fire in Miami or the surrounding areas of Florida, we might be able to help. My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.