Most homeowners insurance covers smoke damage but problems could still arise. As we’ve seen, smoke can get anywhere and everywhere and cover your things with soot, a sticky black residue. As far as your insurance claim goes, the first issue lies in whether or not the insurance company wants to pay for a replacement or to have the affected items and areas cleaned. Most of the time, they’re more likely to pay for cleaning items with smoke damage than replacing them. Differences of opinion can arise as to what should be replaced and what can be cleaned. For example, if your curtains have been damaged by smoke, the insurance company might feel that reimbursing you for a trip to the dry cleaner is sufficient. You might feel that they should be replaced. Conflicts like this can easily arise when it comes to smoke damage. That’s why the steps you take when filing an insurance claim for fire and smoke damage are so important.
Before beginning any clean-up, contact your insurance company and assess the damages. As soon as you’re allowed to begin clean-up, make sure you have the proper protective equipment. You’ll need a face mask, respirator, gloves, and eye protection. Open all the windows and allow the smoky air to dissipate so you can really see the damage. Turn off your heater or air conditioner so the smoke and ash aren’t circulated throughout your house. You’ll also need industrial fans to help blow the contaminated air out of you house as well as a shop vacuum cleaner to clean up any messy surfaces. If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can hire professionals to come in and do it for you. It can actually get pretty complicated and there are a lot of safety issues involved. If you’re also dealing with water damage from the fire being extinguished, professionals will be prepared to take care of that as well.
As soon as you can, start going through everything so you can properly assess the damage. Some items will be so far gone that you’ll immediately throw them in the trash. Take pictures of everything you can, especially the things that you decided to toss. Don’t forget to clean off light bulbs, rewash clothes, and throw away any open food that may have had exposure to smoke, soot and ash.
Document everything. We can’t emphasize that enough. Do it as you go because it’s not likely that you will be able to remember everything if you wait. Good documentation should include the date of the event, where the items were located, and if any injuries occurred or other people were involved. Note the condition of the home as a whole, along with an itemized list and description of everything with damage. If you had someone come in to clean out duct work, clean the carpets, or do any other repairs or cleaning, make sure you get a receipt and any report they have written up about your case. Obtain an official report from the fire and police departments as well.
Filing claims for smoke damage is going to be an ongoing process so be patient and be prepared to defend or explain all of the damages you’re claiming. Make sure you get in touch with your insurance company right away. You’ll be spending a lot of time communicating with them and documentation is your first line of defense.
TIPS FOR FILING SMOKE DAMAGE INSURANCE CLAIMS
A house fire is one of the most devastating things a person can experience. If the fire is not extinguished quickly, it’s possible that you could suffer a total loss. On the other hand, even if it can be contained to one area or one room, the resulting soot and smoke damage can permeate the rest of your home, potentially ruining everything from your furniture to your clothing.
Regardless of how extensive the damage, dealing with the aftermath of a fire is stressful enough. You’re emotional, anxious, and trying to figure out how to put things back together. On top of all that, you’re going to have to deal with your insurance company to try to recoup the damages. Often, this is something that needs to happen before you can move forward. Here’s a quick summary of how to make this process as painless as possible.
1. Document everything. As we’ve discussed, this is of the utmost importance.
2. Get in touch with your insurance company right away.
3. Get receipts, records, and reports from any service that comes into your home to-do work. This can include fire, smoke, and water restoration services and cleaning or contractors repairing any damaged walls, tile, cabinetry, etc.