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What to do After an Apartment Fire

Renters Insurance Basics

Apartment fires are one of the leading causes of renters insurance claims. Oversights by careless neighbors or poor electrical wiring can quickly set an entire apartment building ablaze. Surviving an apartment fire is traumatic enough without getting bogged down in insurance red tape after the event. To make the claims process as simple and painless as possible, we’ve compiled the following step-by-step guide on what to do after an apartment fire.

  1. Record the facts. As soon as the fire is safely put out and you and your family are safe, record the date and time of the loss. If applicable, obtain a copy of the police report for further information. Also immediately begin making a list of the items that were lost. If you have a home inventory, use it to determine what items are missing. Write down the name and brief description of every lost or damaged item.
  2. Call your insurer’s 24-hour claims number. The sooner you set the wheels in motion with the claim, the sooner you will get reimbursed. If your insurer offers it, call the 24-hour claims number that should be listed on your policy. If your insurer has no such number, contact your agent or insurer representative immediately. Make sure you request that any relevant paperwork be sent to you.
  3. Review your policy. You should take another look at your policy during the claims process to refresh your memory on the coverage you have. For example, if you have actual cash value coverage, you will only be reimbursed for the present cash value of the items you lost in the fire. Actual cash value accounts for depreciation. By contrast, if you have replacement value coverage, your insurer will reimburse you for what it would cost to buy the lost items new today.
  4. Ask your insurer about temporary housing. Most apartment insurance policies include coverage that reimburses the renter for alternate living accommodations while the dwelling is being repaired or rebuilt. Find out what the maximum living allowance is on your policy.
  5. Find out what your landlord’s policy will cover. Landlord insurance policies typically only cover the actual structure of the building, not its contents. However, if the landlord’s negligence somehow played a role in the fire, his/her insurance may cover some or all of the ensuing damages.
  6. Don’t overlook liability. If you may have been at fault for the fire, make sure that you address this with your insurance company right away. Your apartment insurance policy should include liability coverage that will protect you from lawsuits.