Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage – Smitha Sundaresan’s home was destroyed by the Marshall Fire in Boulder County on Dec. 30, 2021. She described losing family heirlooms she cherished like her grandmother’s brass pots and pans.

Boulder County residents who lost everything in the Marshall Fire are now dealing with complications after putting their lives back together, which includes filing insurance claims, and sometimes collecting detailed inventories of things that have been destroyed.

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

“We could use a disaster doula,” said Jenny Zirul, who lost her home in Louisville. “Everyone’s insurance is different, everyone’s process is different.”

Homeowners In Marshall Fire Worry They’re Underinsured

Along the way, Zirul has encountered several insurance problems, especially since his family is not insured for everything from debris removal to rebuilding.

“But the other scary thing is, you know, insurance wants pictures and videos of your house and every list of everything you own,” Zirul said. “If you could put ‘I have a Black & Decker toaster that I bought from Macy’s with, you know, a light that glows in the dark.’ Then depending on the insurance company and where you are, can start to debate some of these items and the depreciation and how much they are worth now.

State law requires insurance companies to pay at least 30% of the policy’s contents coverage. Some, like Zirul, offer higher rates up front, but getting compensation beyond the original payment often requires an inventory of written items.

Smitha Sundaresan, who also lost her home in Louisville, has received a 30% settlement from the insurance company.

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“But having lived at home for 17 years and trying to account for every single thing in the house is kind of impossible,” she said.

Smitha Sundaresan and her family were visiting Garden of the Gods when the Marshall Fire destroyed their home in Louisville.

Made of brass. They are very special to him and he passed them on to us and I hope to pass them on to my children,” said Sundaresan. “So things like that, what’s the price? It’s like 100 years of potential.

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

This experience is common to Marshall Fire survivors. The Colorado Division of Insurance has fielded nearly 500 calls and emails related to the disaster. Representatives have met with hundreds of others at the Disaster Relief Center. According to the spokesman, the top office hears about underinsurance, smoke and soot claims, additional living expenses and inventory requirements.

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“The insurance guy tried to calm me down and said, ‘You can take one day at a time, you can take one room at a time.’ However, after experiencing this great trauma, I have doubts about my memory and if I can remember everything that I want,” said Sundaresan. “So, I think it is one of the biggest challenges of insurance today.”

“It raises a red flag for us that people are dealing with the frustrations of inventory requirements that some insurance companies put people through,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Mike Conway.

His office has asked insurance companies to simplify “sometimes unnecessary” reporting requirements, a conversation that has taken place after previous fires.

“I think that when there’s a disaster of this magnitude, you learn from that disaster. And to some degree, it reinforces a problem that we probably know about,” Conway said. “Things like inventory struggles that people have, things like paying for content coverage … Some of these issues are easier to find solutions for than others.”

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A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a bill last month to address the inventory issue. Among other provisions, it will increase the minimum reimbursement up front from 30% to 80%.

“The reason we’re bringing the bill is because of the East Troublesome Fire,” said Boulder Rep. Judy Amabile, one of the sponsors. “It’s a motivator.”

View of East Troublesome Fire from Hot Sulfur Springs around 19:30. on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

The fire devastated Grand County in October 2020; legislation has been in the works since late summer. During a town hall in Grand County after the East Troublesome fire, Amabile remembers hearing stories from survivors about saving a pair of socks. They’ve been having the same conversation since the Marshall Fire.

Marshall Fire Survivors Fear Their Homes Were Underinsured And They Can’t Afford To Rebuild

“Your home is fundamental to your sense of security and well-being,” says Amabile. “And it’s also the biggest investment you have and if it’s not insured or if you have to do an epic battle to get your debt, it’s very traumatic on top of trauma.”

Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association, has been talking with bill sponsors about how to speed up the inventory process and extend the time homeowners can receive additional living expenses.

“There is concern that HB-1111 in its current form will extend the claims settlement requirements in other states,” Walker wrote in an email. “This includes a provision for 80% up front content payment without documentation for all homeowners in declared fire disasters.”

Many survivors of the Marshall Fire dealing with the issue are now urging homeowners to pay attention to their insurance policies before the disaster.

Homeowners In Boulder’s Mountain Communities Struggle To Find Insurance After Devastating Wildfires

“Come on, this is nothing we want to talk about or waste time on,” Zirul said.

Zirul has received an initial insurance check for his items as well as small grants from the Boulder Community Fund and American Furniture Warehouse. They work with adjusters, people who help with the insurance process with expenses.

“For ordinary consumers: make a list of your inventory. Take some pictures, some photos, some videos of your belongings and inside and outside the house and store them in the cloud everywhere” said Zirul. “Then meet every year with your insurance agent. I think you should be aware”

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

For those with insurance questions: Colorado Division of Insurance Consumer Service Team: 303-894-7490 / 800-930-3745 /

No One Hurt In City House Fire But Home Was Uninsured

As a Senior Editor and Reporter, my job is to find out what matters to the people of northern Colorado and why. I seek to create a sense of urgency and a deeper understanding of these issues through character-driven daily reports and series work.Dave Berberick lost his wife of 52 years in a tragic house fire and was unable to rebuild his home because it was grossly underinsured.

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. – A Maple Grove man lost not only his home, but his wife of 52 years in a fire in May. Dave was unable to rebuild the home he shared with his wife of more than four decades, so he is now sharing his story to help others.

Dave remembers being at home on the tragic evening of May 4th when his wife Mary Jo called him after he couldn’t get out of his power reclining chair.

“Molten plastic dripping fire down to the floor out of the back of the seat so I said we have to get you out of there. I burned trying to get him and I went out the back door to the garage, put the door. up, staggered out and they want to go and tried to get him but the fire has become fierce.”

Guide To Home And Mortgage Insurance

“I was just sitting on the curb with my head in my hands and the firetrucks came and the ambulance came,” said Dave.

Dave’s oldest daughter, Jessi Lindgren, said her father spent 32 days in HCMC’s burn unit with severe burns and smoke inhalation.

“When we got to the hospital, he was in the trauma bay and we met the police and the clergy and it looked bad when we came in,” Jessi said. “He was unconscious at the time.”

Dealing With Underinsured Homes After A Fire: Lessons In Coverage

As Dave recovers, his family experiences great grief as they continue the process of rebuilding the family home.

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“They lived there for 46 years … I was 6 years old when we moved in,” Jessi said. “All my childhood memories are there and my mother always said, ‘I’m going to die in this house … they’re going to bury me there.’ and it’s true.”

“They always wanted to rebuild, they just didn’t get the money from the insurance,” Jessi said. “There’s a cap that gives you. They give you a structural amount and they give you a personal property amount and nobody considers what the housing market is right now.”

Kathleen Poehles, an insurance agent with American Family Insurance, says most policies she’s seen this year have increased by 10-20%.

“This year especially, it’s really important for people to talk to these agents,” Poehles said. “You leave yourself open to a big loss and a financial hit. Talk to your insurance provider on an annual basis. Take advantage of the reviews they offer you. Ask questions.”

A Year After The Marshall Fire, Homeowners Are Still Slowly Piecing Together Money To Rebuild

“Make sure you

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