It pains me to be writing this. Watching the destruction that is happening all around our country is hard enough. Now we have major fires all over California and other parts of the west. The Santa Rosa fire is hitting particularly close to home as we have family who have lost their home. We too lost our home to a wildfire in 2008 and have been doing what we can to help them navigate the overwhelming tasks ahead. As we have begun this process we realized that many of our friends also have family with no idea where to begin. So, we have decided to blog about it.
Hopefully this will help someone in some small way. We will be sharing our experience in dealing with a lot of the big questions; where do I go?, who do I call?, do I still have to pay my mortgage?, where will I live?, how do I pay for both places?.
I’m going to get right to it with a short bullet list of things to think about. But first and foremost, GO REGISTER AT THE EVACUATION CENTER, this will get you registered with Red Cross which should then be shared across the agencies. This is very important because as resources become available you will then have access to and hear about them. Next call your Homeowners or Rental insurance company, if you are in a mandatory evacuation area or if you have confirmation that you have lost your home, call the insurance company and trigger your “Loss of Use” clause. This helps pay for a place to live and should provide funds for incidentals, like underwear and a toothbrush.
I know exactly what you are going through, it hurts, it’s unimaginable, but trust me when I say you will get through it. Turn to your loved ones for help.
We will do our best to offer our experience, but each insurance and case is different and all we can do is share what we thought worked and didn’t work for us. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
Here’s the big List to get started and more will be coming, I will be enabling comments, etc. if you have any questions.
The Big List:
- Register at the shelters, with Red Cross and any other agency there, california FEMA, etc.
- Most of the aid coming in will use these lists as a point of contact and will help to ensure that you don’t get left out of anything.
- This will be especially important should FEMA be activated, which in my opinion is very likely with the amount of devastation experienced.
- Call Homeowners insurance to trigger “Loss of Use”
- This typically will allow you to be in a “Like” property for x number of years and sometimes has a dollar limit attached and sometimes not, this is dependent on your policy.
- This coverage should also give you some immediate access to funds for essentials, clothes, toothbrushes, food, etc.
- This will also get the ball rolling for the insurance claim on your home and rebuilding/personal property Dollars.
- Get a PO Box and forward all mail to the Box.
- Use this PO Box as the mailing address on all forms you begin to fill out.
- Start Searching for a Long term rental
- Coordinate with your insurance company so that payments can be made directly from them using your “Loss of Use” money.
- Plan on renting 1-2 years, but do not necessarily sign a lease for a full two years as circumstances can change.
- Itemized List of belongings – (This is very hard but very necessary for your claim)
- I would organize by room and list everything that was there with a replacement cost. (you will cry a lot doing this and that is ok)
- Replacement Cost should be what it would cost to replace the item when not on sale, it should not be the price you paid for it with that 50% off coupon.
- Make sure you list everything, even if it is above and beyond your policy limit. This is very important because everything above and beyond the policy limit is considered a Loss and can be claimed as such on your taxes – See #9
- Call all of your utilities and either freeze or cancel service.
- Electric, Gas, TV, Land Line phone
- Newspaper delivery, either cancel or update to PO Box.
- Call the rest of your insurance points as needed.
- Car insurance
- Any specialty insurance for unique items
- Permits – An unfortunate necessity.
- Debris Removal – as things wind down it will be necessary to remove the debris, this requires a permit usually. (This should be covered by your insurance, we had to force the issue but ask repeatedly.)
- Erosion Control – If you are on any kind of hill or have sloped property you will need to put some sort of erosion control measures in place, again this will need some sort of permit.
- Temporary Power Pole/Trailer on site Permit – Getting this earlier on can prove helpful in both the rebuilding process.
- If you can try to get a copy of the plans on file for your home.
- You will be able to claim the monetary loss of the value of all your items minus what you receive from your insurance company. I’m unfamiliar with the exact laws, but I believe that we were able to carry our losses back 2-5 years and received most of the money that we had paid in taxes back in a nice large check.
- Property Taxes
- If you have confirmation that your home has been destroyed this is yet another thing that will need to be done, but it will save you money while you rebuild, and it let’s you transfer your tax base after you rebuild or relocate.
- http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Assessor/Real-Property/Tax-Savings/Disaster-Provision/Sanoma County Reassessment Form: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147524453