What to do After a House Fire

  • Working With Your Landlord

    After a house fire, notify your landlord and work with them to get access to your contents, your security deposit, and pro-rated rent returned. Provide them with an address as to where to send your security deposit and pro-rated rent. Keep in mind that most landlords can terminate your lease once they return your security deposit, so just be aware in case you were planning to move back in. If your landlord won’t return the security deposit, they have to justify why.

  • Tenant Rights

    Your landlord must keep the space “habitable”. Request a copy of your lease and read it to understand your rights. If you think your landlord has violated your lease, get legal help.

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  • Recoverable Depreciation

    When you have to deal with the process of replacing your personal property or rebuilding your house, you will likely have to deal with the concept of Recoverable Depreciation. Recoverable Depreciation is the amount of money the insurance company deducts from your insurance payout and only gives it to you once you provide a receipt to prove you have actually purchased the item.

    In insurance language, “Recoverable” is the difference between the “Replacement Value” and the “Cash Value”. For example, if you lost your bed in a house fire and the “Replacement Value,” or the amount it would cost to replace today, is $1,000, the insurance company will then calculate the depreciation of the item based on its age and determine the “Cash Value”, or the value it is today or essentially the amount you would get if you sold it at a garage sale, is $600. You will then get a check from the insurance company for the cash value of $600. After you buy a new bed for $1000 and give the insurance company the receipt proving you purchased it, they will give you the remaining $400 in “Recoverable Depreciation”. However, some things lose value quickly over time (a computer) while others maintain their value longer (an antique piece of furniture), so depreciation is subjective and can be negotiated if you don’t agree.

  • Information on Asbestos

    Although not harmful until it is disturbed, asbestos is a common issue for house fires in homes that were built before 1980 as they are more likely to contain asbestos in the building materials. We recommend an asbestos test after a house fire regardless of the year it was built.

    A house fire and water from fire hoses can release the asbestos fibers into the air causing a “release”. This means that everything affected by that release can be contaminated.  If the house tests positive for asbestos, your personal property, and building materials may be contaminated. Hard surfaces can be cleaned to a safe level, but soft surfaces such as fabric, mattresses, and clothes, will be easier and less expensive to dispose of and replace with new items.

What to ask your insurance adjuster about Renter’s insurance