As still more wildfires rage through the Bay Area, many people are wondering how to handle the practicalities if they must evacuate — or worse yet, if their home is lost or damaged. Here are answers to common questions about insurance, money and real estate.
Q: I had to evacuate and don’t yet know my home’s status. What should I do?
A: The first thing, said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit that helps consumers navigate the insurance maze, is to get a copy of your complete insurance policy to see what it does and doesn’t cover. You can ask your agent, call the company or log onto the company website to download a copy. She recommends printing one out so you can highlight and take notes on it.
Q: What should I look for in my policy?
A: Find out the maximum benefit available, any limitations that will affect the flow of those funds, how much money you’ll have for repair and rebuilding, when you can access that money, and what you have to do to access it.
Q: My home is lost or damaged. What do I do?
A: After reviewing your policy, notify your agent that you’ve had a loss and are making a claim. If your house is uninhabitable, focus on securing temporary housing ASAP. But Bach cautions that you should avoid making major financial decisions in the first month. “People are not in the best mental state after going through a profound trauma like this,” she said. “They aren’t sleeping well; it’s not a great time to make big decisions.”
The California Department of Insurance offers a helpful list of top 10 tips for wildfire claimants.
Q: Will insurance pay for living expenses while I’m evacuated?
A: Most homeowner policies cover displacement