First, residents affected should get in contact with their insurance agent before removing anything or doing any clean-up on their property. Cleaning up before contacting your insurance company could result in a loss of insurance claims. Please work with your insurance agent and claims adjuster to achieve a settlement that you believe is fair and consistent with your coverage. If you have a question about your insurance or a dispute with your insurer, please call the California Department of Insurance (CDI) at 1-800-927-4357.
Residential Property Claims Guide by the California Department of Insurance
- What to do after a loss
- What may be covered by your homeowners policy
- Request for assistance form
- Replacement costs versus actual cash value
- How the payment process works
- What to do if you don't agree with the settlement offer
- Obtain a complete copy of your residential homeowner's insurance policy, including your declarations page. The law requires your insurance company to provide this to you free of charge within 30 days of your request. Ask your agent or insurer representative to explain how much coverage you have (1) to rebuild or repair your home, (2) for your personal belongings, and (3) for living expenses.
- Take note of your Additional Living Expense (ALE) limits and manage your ALE expenses in recognition of a long rebuilding process. Your time to collect ALE after a declared catastrophe is no less than 24 months even if your policy says otherwise.
- Track all of your additional expenses that arise from having to live in another location away from your home.
- Document all of your conversations with your insurer/adjuster about your claim and policy limitations in a dedicated "claim diary." If your adjuster says something is excluded, limited, or subject to certain conditions, ask the adjuster to point out the specific provision in your policy being cited.
- Get at least one licensed contractor's estimate or bid on the cost to rebuild your home just to get a reasonable sense of the actual cost as compared to your coverage limits. While your insurance company may provide its own estimate, it may contain errors or fail to reflect local conditions or demand surge. Demand surge reflects price increases following a major disaster when contractors and materials are in short supply.
- Call the Department of Insurance Hotline for help at (800) 927-4357. You can also file a complaint at: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/101-help/. Consider insights from consumer advocates.
- Understand you can purchase or rebuild at another location, and still receive full replacement cost benefits including Building Code Upgrade and Extended Replacement Cost benefits if those were included on your policy and necessary to rebuild the insured dwelling.
- Assess your situation, do not rush into any decision about contractors, lawyers or public adjusters - consider your mortgage/employment/financial situation, your age, children's schools, your willingness to deal with construction issues (no matter who your contractor is).
Find more wildfire insurance resources on the California Department of Insurance's website: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/.