Filing an Insurance Claim for a Home Destroyed or Damaged by Fire

Fire season is beginning again in California, and soon throughout the West. Thousands of people are still trying to recover and rebuild from the years of past fires and related devastation. It is often taking three or more years to rebuild a home because of difficulties obtaining permits, contractors, and materials.

Ideally, your insurance company will work with you in this difficult time in your life. You will need to obtain a copy of your insurance policy and review it carefully. This can be harder than it seems if you have just lost all your possessions in a fire, as you may not even have access to a computer for some time. It is important to understand that the amount the insurance company set to insure your house may be much less than it would cost to rebuild your house. The insurance company will also only pay to rebuild your house as it was before, it will not pay for upgrades.

You will be asked to provide lists of the contents of your home. Then the insurance company will likely only reimburse you for the “actual cash value” of the possessions you lost in the destruction of your home, which removes depreciation from the value of your items. If your policy covers it, once you actually replace the item, you may receive a second payment covering that depreciation. But if you do not replace the item, you never will.

If you lose your home in a wildfire, it is subject to special disaster rules set forth by the Department of Insurance. For fires in 2018 and beyond, you will have up to three years to make a claim and rebuild.  If you lost your home prior to January 2018, you have at most two years. And if you did not lose your home in a wildfire, but your home had a fire for a different reason, you may have only one year to complete the rebuilding process. However, if your insurance company does not clearly explain this to you, the company may have waived its ability to rely on the time limit.

Your insurance company is also likely responsible for finding you housing in your area, and paying for it, while you rebuild or repair your home. Because of this added expense, insurers may be tempted to pressure their customers to rebuild quickly, despite the fact that there are delays in all areas of the rebuild process. Getting permits alone could take a year if the permit office is overwhelmed with people rebuilding.

You may encounter difficulty in getting your personal property reimbursed up to your policy limit. The insurance company may refuse to pay the amount it costs to rebuild your home. If you are unable to rebuild in the time frame provided, some insurance companies refuse to pay for the construction costs once you finally are ready to build your new home. The insurance company may create issues with your living expenses while you wait to rebuild. Your insurer may suggest that your claim is fraudulent.

In all of these situations, Kantor & Kantor is there for you.  We have protected the rights of homeowners since the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when we successfully argued to the California Supreme Court that insurance companies must pay for damage discovered after the time limit in the contract. We will fight just as tenaciously for you.

Please contact Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation about your case at 888-569-6013 or use our online contact formWe understand, and we can help.


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