The National Fire Protection Agency reports that on average 358,000 homes undergo a structure fire annually. Sometimes, the cost to repair the home is higher than the actual value of the property. When a total loss is the outcome, homeowners have options.
About House Fires
House fires are responsible for $12 billion in property damages every year. But not all property damage can be repaired in a cost-effective manner. A home valued at $250,000 may require repairs that total $350,000. In such instances, the home is considered a total loss.
In the United States, a house fire happens every 87 seconds. In 2018 alone, firefighters responded to home fires every 24 seconds. House fires are not uncommon, and the devastating toll can be an outcome of a small, everyday mishap.
Cooking, electrical malfunctioning, and heating equipment are the top three causes of home fires. Cooking fires account for 50 percent of fires; heating equipment causes 12.5 percent of fires; and electrical malfunctions are responsible for 6.3 percent of all home fires.
It takes just 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a powerful, overwhelming blaze. The destruction from a home fire can be immense. Heat from a house fire can spike to over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit in just under five minutes.
What can a homeowner expect during the claims process?
After a fire engulfs a home, the insurance company will investigate the claim. If the claim falls under insurance coverage, an estimator (such as a general contractor, home insurance adjustor or an engineer) will be sent to assess the damage and determine the cost of repair.
During the claims process, the insurance company will weigh the cost of repairing the fire-damaged home versus the cost of rebuilding it. In the event the insurer determines the cost to repair is higher than to rebuild, the insurance company will replace the home.
Keep in mind that in the majority of cases, a fire-damaged home is more expensive to fix in comparison to the cost to rebuild. This is the case even when a large part of the home remains undamaged from the fire.
How long will the claims process take?
Homeowners can expect the total loss insurance claim process to complete within a few days to a few weeks. Complicated claims that require back-and-forth negotiations can take months to settle. The insurance company will, however, attempt to close the case sooner rather than later.
Insurance claims processes are lengthy due to the fact that several days are needed to allow the insurance company adjuster to assess the damage and determine the cost to fix the property. A total loss may be declared upon the adjustor consulting with a supervisor.
Upon the insurance company arriving at a final decision, the homeowner will be notified. The homeowner can then expect compensation to cover the cost of repairs; or, if the home is declared a total loss, the homeowner will receive a check for the total loss.
How does a homeowner file a total loss claim?
When a home has been ravaged by fire, a homeowner should contact the insurance company as soon as it is safe to do so. The insurer will inform the homeowner how long he or she has to file a claim and if the fire damage is covered under the policy.
Making temporary repairs will be a homeowner’s next step. If the fire damaged the roof, place tarp over the hole to prevent further ruin from weather and pests. A homeowner may attempt temporary repairs while waiting for the insurance company to send an emergency restoration company.
Do not discard damaged belongings until the insurance adjuster arrives. Homeowners are advised to photograph or videotape the fire damage as evidence to back up claims. Note the serial number and model number of electronics, so that the adjuster can check the value of the goods.
Can a homeowner rebuild after a total loss?
When an insurance company has declared a total loss, a homeowner should start to rebuild. However, a homeowner is not obligated to rebuild in the same spot. He or she may choose a new location, opting even to relocate to a new neighborhood.
The dollar amount that an insurance company pays out upon declaring a total loss depends on the type of coverage listed in the policy. The policy may list the home at replacement cost (which is determined by the replacement cost estimation) or actual cash value.
The actual cost value is arrived at by calculating the replacement cost minus depreciation. After a fire destroys the home, the insurance company will factor in the age and condition of the home. Using this information, the insurer determines the payout once a claim is submitted.
Professional Fire Damage Restoration
When your home has been damaged by fire and you intend to perform repairs, turn to a reputable fire damage restoration company, like ServiceMaster. We are a team of experienced fire damage cleanup experts who can return your home to its pre-loss condition fast.
Fires produce soot, smoke and oily residue that eat away at materials. The result is etching and discoloration on anything these corrosive byproducts touch. Prevent the rapid spread of destruction by consulting a fire restoration pro immediately after fire officials extinguish the blaze.
ServiceMaster technicians will arrive promptly after your call and stabilize the property to prevent possible collapse. Upon assessing the extent of damage, we begin the restoration process. We quickly clean, repair and restore all affected materials and belongings.
Our fire damage cleanup services are swift and comprehensive. We also provide water damage restoration services in the event water damage results from the fire hoses during the extinguishment. The recovery of your fire damaged property and goods depends on the speed of your response.
Choose ServiceMaster for your fire damage cleanup needs. Home and business owners are urged to contact us immediately after the fire is controlled to ensure the best outcome. We offer emergency fire damage restoration services to homes and businesses in Southeastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa.