I want to take a moment to offer my support and condolences to anyone who was affected by the Woolsey Fire or any of the other wildfires that spread across California this past weekend. Hopefully you, your family, animals and loved ones all made it out safely. Having to go through a natural disaster is scary but it is nice to see various communities from around Los Angeles and California come together to help each other out.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has started lifting mandatory evacuations on neighborhoods and people are starting to return to their homes to see if their homes are still standing or have been affected by the wildfires. You should still take precautionary measures when returning home as there may still be debris and toxins from the fire and smoke in the air.

This is a guide that will help figure out what you should do if your home was burned down or affected by the Woolsey fire or any other wildfire. Although your home may have not burned down in the fire you may be affected by smoke damage.

1. Contact your Home Insurance company
This is the first thing you should do. Hopefully, you know who your home insurance provider is. Once you are in contact with your home insurance provider file a claim and make sure to write down your claim number.

Make sure to verify that all your information in their system is correct; Your name, email address and physical address. Doing this will allow your insurance claim representative to easily contact you if needed.

Here are a few questions you should ask your home insurance provider:
– What is your deductible?
– How much is your cash advance amount?
– What is your approved alternative housing budget?
– What is your other structure budget? (Other structures are: Barns, pools, gates, fences)

If you are receiving a cash advance from your insurance company they may ask you for your banking information so that they may transfer the amount to you.

If your family members need access to your insurance claim you may give your insurance agent their names. They will require you to later send them a signed letter by the policyholder giving each individual authorization.

2. Save Your Receipts

While being displaced from the evacuation or needing to purchase items that you or your family needs, you should be saving all your receipts as your insurance company should reimburse you for your purchases of necessary items such as clothes, food, and alternative housing.

Pro-tip –
 create some kind of shareable folder between all household members. This can be something like a Google Drive folder or a DropBox folder. You can use these to easily save all expenditure receipts in one central place to be later sent to your home insurance provider.

There are apps you can download on your phone that make scanning documents and receipts simple using your smartphone camera. Make sure to make the folder private giving access only to authorized people.


3. Returning Home Safely
If you return to your home after the evacuation bans have been lifted and your home is still standing but your neighbors or surrounding areas have been affected by the wildfires, your home may be damaged in areas you may not see.

Your insurance company should come out to do what they need to do to assess the damage on your property. They should bring out inspectors to inspect issues that may have arose from the heat of the fires such as septic tanks, foundation or structural issues.

If they do find issues you may find yourself displaced again. You should not return to your home until you have been given full approval that your home is safe to inhabit again.

4. Alternative Housing

Your insurance agent should put you in touch with a 3rd party company that will handle your alternative housing. There are a few companies that do this but a major one is CRS Temporary Housing. They should contact you separately to assist you in finding an alternate home as you are displaced.

Before you start looking for an alternate home you should figure out how long you will be displaced for, it will vary depending on the amount of work that will be needed to repair your home or rebuild it. Once you have a timeline you can look at your alternative housing budget and work backward to figure out how long you will have to stretch that budget until you are able to move back into your home.

For example, if your budget is $100,000 and you will be out of your home for 12 months, your monthly housing budget should be no more than $8,333/month.

If you are receiving alternate housing reimbursement for having to rent a home it will be up to you to put down the security deposit on the rental property. Most security deposits can be two months worth of rent or if it is a furnished rental home you may even be required to put up 3 months worth of security deposit.

As you know many families have been affected by these wildfires so this will create a high demand for rental homes. You may see monthly rents higher than usual.

If you need assistance with finding a temporary home I am available to work with you in finding a place.

If you have a property that you are willing to rent to help the displaced families please let me know so that I can connect you with someone that would appreciate it.

Keep in mind that home insurance companies will be dealing with a lot of claims so expect that the process may take longer than usual.

5. Make a list of all your personal belongings that you lost in the fire
If you were to turn your house upside down and shake it, everything that fell out would be your personal belongings. Make a list of these items so that you know what you have to account for when you are replacing the things you lost.

Pro-Tip If you don’t remember everything that was in your house. Go through photos that may be on your, or family and friends, phones to see if you can find pictures of a recent event or party you had at your house. In those pictures, you’ll most likely find items in the background that you may have forgotten about.

Ashraf Spahi is a Los Angeles Real Estate Agent specializing in residential real estate.
You may contact me at (323) 673-0041 or Ash@VividAgent.com if you would like any additional information or guidance with your real estate property.