Smoke damage after a fire, and mold after a flood, poses serious health risks to you and your family. In the case of partial fires or flooding in your home, smoke damage and dampness are often responsible for much of the damage done to your personal belongings. Smoke particles, in particular, can spread long after the fire, while mold thrives on building materials, furniture, and clothing affected by flooding. It becomes harder to repair smoke damage over time, and your insurance company should act quickly to successfully restore the contents in your home.
As part of your home insurance policy, the cost of replacing Personal Property / Contents lost to a fire or flood falls to the insurance company. They may be able to save a significant amount of money on your claim if they can successfully restore contents damaged by smoke or dampness. The insurer does have the right to attempt to restore your belongings to their pre-loss state, but there are a few things you should know about the restoration of contents.
#1 You Can Ask for a Quote
Even if the insurance company handles the process, you (indirectly) pay for the restoration of contents. The cost of restoration is deducted from the Personal Property / Contents line of your home insurance coverage. This section is used to restore and replace items like clothing, furniture, electronics, art, jewelry, and other valuables and personal possessions damaged in your home.
The restoration process can be expensive and time-consuming. The most common form of restoration is dry cleaning. The high cleaning costs can mean that you lose out on money that you could have used to replace lost property. If your insurance coverage limit for the Personal Contents portion of your claim is less than that the replacement value of the contents you lost, paying for restoration means:
- You have even less money with which to replace the rest of your belongings.
- You have less choice about what you will be able to replace.
You can negotiate to cash out the restoration portion of the claim. For example, if you receive a dry-cleaning quote for $15,000, you can negotiate to receive that money as part of your settlement instead, meaning you’ll have to pay for any dry cleaning you do want to be done yourself. Opting to cash out the restoration gives you the option of choosing what to replace and how you spend that money.
Just keep in mind that if you’re cashing out on restoration which includes a quote to restore antique furniture, for example, you cannot then claim replacement values of that same furniture in the remainder of your claim.
#2 Health Risks of Smoke Damage
Even if a fire does not directly damage furniture or clothing, there are considerable health risks associated with smoke particles that can get into building materials and fabrics. Even a small house fire such as one restricted to your kitchen can result in extensive damage to the personal property throughout your home.
Smoke particles that linger in furniture, clothes, or your HVAC system, can lead to irritation in your lungs or scarring in the alveoli – air sacs in your lungs that are vital to your respiratory health.
Living with smoke damage can be harmful to your health. Inhaling soot can cause sinus issues, lung problems, and other respiratory issues down the road. Soot residue can also cause skin issues, irritating and potentially damaging skin. Smoke damaged clothes and linens can cause irritation and drying even after washing. Eye irritation is another concern, as smoke particles can result in red and watery eyes.
Even if the smoke damage is not visible, it can become a health risk. If your insurance company insists on restoration and dry cleaning, ensure that your belongings are adequately restored.
#3 Do Not Pay for Failed Restoration
Restoration may not be successful, and your items can come back damaged. If your insurer moved forward with the attempted cleaning, and the items are returned damaged or still contaminated, you might not have to pay for restoration. Given the health risks listed above, it is not safe to continue to use fabrics that smell like smoke or still contain soot.
If your claim will be up against your policy limits, the cost of the failed restoration should not be applied. This would mean you have even less funds available for replacement, and more items to replace, since they weren’t properly cleaned. If the insurer made the decision and their decision failed, it should be a cost they incur, and not one that is held against you. You purchased the policy so that you would have adequate compensation to replace personal belongings damaged by smoke, dampness, and mold.
Have Your Say When Your Coverage Funds Are Spent
When you’re dealing with insurance adjusters regarding personal contents and property, make sure you have all the information you need. Ask for quotes before any work is completed, and critically evaluate the items that are returned to you. You should know how your coverage funds are being spent and have your say to ensure that you get the full value of the policy you contracted for.
Virani Law advocates for you with your insurance company and the insurance adjuster. We keep our clients informed about their rights and entitlements in dealing with the insurance company, as well as their responsibilities and obligations. Communication is key during the home insurance claim and negotiation process.
More Information About Personal Property Coverage
Personal Property / Contents coverage helps your family put the pieces back together after a fire. The coverage allows your family to replace their clothing, furniture, entertainment, and other valuables without having to pay out of pocket or go into debt. For more information about replacement costs, you can check out our resources centre or give us a call. There, you can find information about Actual Cash Value coverage vs. Guaranteed Replacement Cost coverage, tips for creating a Schedule of Loss and submitting it to the insurance adjuster, and how to resolve disputes with the insurance adjuster about your belongings.
Call Virani Law if you are having a dispute with the insurance company over Personal Property coverage or they are attempting an expensive restoration of contents that you do not want or need. You have rights as the policyholder, and you may be entitled to take a cash settlement rather than pay the cost of restoration. Work with a home insurance lawyer if you have questions about the negotiation of your home insurance settlement. Get in touch with us today.