If you are a victim of a house fire then you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed and distressed. The fire damage may have destroyed some of your belongings and left your house inhabitable.
It is upsetting, and there will be a lot of tasks you have to complete to get your life back on track.
After a house fire, you might be wondering what to do next. How long do you have to wait before you can move back in? Who do you need to notify?
If you aren’t sure what to do then don’t worry. We have put together this helpful guide to tell you what you need to do after a house fire. Keep reading to find out more.
What Should You Do After A House Fire?
Once the fire has been extinguished and anyone involved has sought the necessary medical attention, you might be in shock and struggling to decide what you should do.
If your home has fire damage then it is unlikely that you will be able to stay there until repairs and rehabilitation work have been completed.
The first thing you need to do is notify your home insurance company. A lot of providers will offer coverage for ALE - additional living expenses.
They might even be able to organize temporary housing for you. This will usually be in a hotel. You might prefer to stay with family or friends if this is an option for you.
ALE coverage could reimburse you for expenses such as clothes, food, accommodation, medicine, toiletries and even pet boarding.
Once the insurance company has been notified of the fire they can begin the process of setting up your claim.
They will need to ask you for details about the fire - how it started, the extent of the damage etc. - so make sure you have this information close by.
You might find it upsetting to talk about and this is normal. Insurance claims handlers are trained to help you through these difficult conversations, but you may want a friend or a family member with you for support.
Your insurance company will need to verify that the circumstances of the fire do not breach the terms and conditions of the policy.
They will likely make contact with the fire department or request the incident report. They may even send their own fire investigator to the scene.
It is usually stipulated in the terms and conditions of your contract that you are obliged to cooperate with any investigations the insurance company needs to make.
Once your immediate needs have been dealt with and you have a safe place to stay, you will likely begin to think about your home - what state is it in? How much damage is there?
Which items are damaged? Is the property secure? It is important that you wait for the fire department to tell you that it is safe before you return to your property?
Some fires can take a while to put out, and there could be significant structural damage to the property.
In some cases, you will be able to return to the property to collect personal items and try to make it secure. In other cases, it may not be safe or possible to do this.
The fire department should be able to make the property as secure as possible by taping up open doors and windows and erecting ‘do not enter’ signs.
The bill for this work is usually sent straight to your insurance company, so make sure that the fire department has all of the contact information they need for your insurance providers and a claim reference if possible.
Some insurance companies offer a service where a contractor will salvage your personal items from the property and take them to a storage unit until it is safe for you to return.
There are also companies that specialize in this service which you can hire privately. You might be able to claim this cost back from your home insurer or you may have to cover it yourself.
Before you can move back into your home, rehabilitation work needs to be carried out to ensure that the house is safe.
Your home insurance provider will usually arrange for these repairs, depending on the type of coverage that you have.
They will have a network of fire damage specialists that they work with.
The structural damage will be dealt with before any of the cosmetic repairs are carried out.
Once the house is structurally sound, you may be able to move back in while the cosmetic repairs are completed.
This will depend on the extent of the damage and the conditions of your insurance coverage. Some companies have a limit to how much ALE they will pay for.
The length of time you have to wait before you can move back into your home will depend on the level of damage and how long the repairs take.
It might be that you can move back in once a few of the rooms have been repaired, but there will be some disruption while the rest of the work is done.
If the house fire was quite small then all of the repairs and cosmetic repairs could be completed in just a few weeks.
Moderate house fires with damage in several rooms but no roof damage will likely take a few months for repairs to be completed.
For the larger house fires with considerable roof damage, internal damage and structural damage, the repairs could take many months.
House fires are destructive, disruptive and emotionally distressing. It can be difficult not knowing how long it will be before you can return home.
The sooner you contact your insurance company, the sooner they can start the process and instruct the repairs to begin.