After suffering a house fire, it might be difficult to determine what to do next. These steps will help you get back on your feet.
- Find a safe place to stay. No matter the amount of damage, you likely can’t stay in your own home. If staying with friends or family isn’t an option, talk to your local disaster relief agency, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. These organizations will help you find a safe place to stay temporarily.
- Contact your insurance agent. You’ll need to start a claim and address your immediate needs. ‘Loss of use’ funds from your insurance policy will cover living and other daily expenses. If you receive these funds or an advance on your claim, save all receipts and keep a detailed record of all purchases. Your insurance agent should also be able to help you secure your property and offer recommendations for cleaning up or restoring salvageable items.
- Address your finances. You’ll still need to make mortgage payments — even if your home is destroyed. Your insurance policy, which should cover your home’s value and mortgage, will make payments to you and your mortgage lender. Remember: Pay the bank first and put leftover funds toward rebuilding or purchasing a new home. You’ll also need to continue any car payments and replace any credit or debit cards that may have been destroyed in the house fire.
- Recover your possessions. Items destroyed in a house fire are usually covered by insurance. Typically, the homeowners policy is a replacement cost policy. When a loss occurs, you will receive the actual cash value of your damaged items at the time of settlement and may recover the replacement cost once the items have been replaced. To help ensure everything is accounted for, keep an inventory of your possessions. This inventory should include the date of purchase, cost at purchase and description of each item, wherever possible.
Before you find yourself dealing with a loss, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your insurance policy and its coverages. You can understand ahead of time what will be taken care of if a loss occurs — and what your responsibilities are.