California residents living in counties more prone to wildfires should be prepared for a scenario where their home may be potentially damaged by flames.
Wildfires currently burning across the Golden State have prompted mandatory evacuation orders, forcing homeowners to leave their houses unattended.
During an emergency, people worry about their homes and are left to hope for the best until the danger passes. Most homeowners in California purchase homeowners insurance, but not all natural disasters are covered under the insurance.
So, if your house catches on fire would the damage be covered under homeowners insurance policies?
Allstate Insurance Company defines homeowners insurance as a plan that, "typically provides protection for your home and belongings." Homeowners insurance provides protection for a number of situations, including fires.
Dwelling insurance, which is part of the homeowner's insurance policy, helps pay for repairs of the physical structure of your house if damaged by a hazard. Dwelling insurance coverage includes fires, hail, windstorms and a few more, according to Allstate. However, areas repaired must be directly attached to a home's structure. If not, then the damage is classified under what's commonly called "other structures coverage".
An example would be if a fire damages a section of a home, which may include a wooden deck attached to the back of the home, then the insurance would cover the rebuild or repair costs for the deck and home.
Nationwide's standard dwelling insurance policy covers many of the same hazards as the Allstate policy.
Essentially, "fire insurance is homeowners insurance," according to Mark Sektnan, President of the Association of California Insurance Companies.
If your home is covered by homeowner's insurance and your home is damaged or burned down in a fire, the first thing to do is contact your insurance company. Most insurance companies have apps to make it easy to contact them and some even show up in vans to evacuation centers, ready to help during an emergency situation, said Sektnan.
"One of the first things you want to talk to them about is does your policy- and most of them do- cover additional living expenses." Sektnan said. "These are the hotels and the meals and the clothes that you need because you've in many cases left without taking anything."
After handling initial necessities, Sektnan recommends getting started on working with an adjuster, which is an individual who works for the insurance company whose job is to help the policy holder get a damage estimate and make sure a claim gets settled.
If you decide to go with a public adjuster, Sektnan warns to be on the lookout for scams. Homeowners sometimes hire public adjusters, who don't work for the insurance company, to make sure they are receiving the most they can get from a claim. It's important to check references and do some research on a public adjuster before hiring one.
After getting things worked out with an adjuster, policy holders should hire contractors. As with public adjusters, contractors should be researched and homeowners should get at least three written estimates to get a scope of prices. Policy holders should pay as work is completed.
The process of filing a claim and rebuilding your home is a long one but Sektnan urges homeowners to continue to pay their mortgage and not risk losing their home in the process.
Without homeowners insurance, most people have very little or no resources to rebuild in the tragedy of losing a home in a fire. It can make the difference between a total loss, or a temporary loss.
Homeowners with insurance should make sure their policy is up to date and take current video and photos of their home and belongings to have on file.
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