|REPORT YOUR FIRE: After all members of your household are safe and the firefighters have gone, telephone both your insurance agent and company and report your loss.
GET YOUR FAMILY SETTLED: If you cannot stay in your home, try to arrange staying with family or friends (keep in mind that it may be from several weeks to several months). The Red Cross may be able to help you on an immediate, short-term basis. Your insurance company will review your policy with you if long-term housing applies.
PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY: You will be expected to take "reasonable care" to protect the remainder of your property. If the utilities were shut off (gas, water, electricity) then you should have professional service personnel check it before it is turned back on. Otherwise further damage can occur. Broken windows should be boarded up.
MAKE A DAMAGE INVENTORY: You should itemize all items damaged by the fire, list it room by room, list even the most insignificant items. Try to remember when you bought the item and how much you spent, save any receipts you may have. Do not throw anything away until you have agreed on a settlement! The insurance company will send a contractor out to estimate the damage. It would be advisable to have some damage idea before you accept any settlement offers.
YOU MIGHT DISAGREE WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANY’S OFFER: Discuss the matter in detail with the insurance adjuster and your agent. If you still disagree, turn the offer down and submit it to "appraisal." The cost will be borne by both you and the company. There are also "public adjusters" that will assist you in preparing a damage inventory to the insurance company. Public adjusters charge a percentage of your settlement for their service.
MORTGAGE PAYMENTS: Make sure to keep up your mortgage payments even after the fire unless the lender agrees (in writing) to some other arrangement. If you are renting or leasing, check on your lease agreement for a specific arrangement. You should also check with your tax preparer for any tax credit you may be entitled to.