Wildfire season is real and is now. It is threatening homes, businesses and property. Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing advises Montanans to be prepared for loss due to wildfire and to take steps now to mitigate risk and protect their property.
Before a wildfire:
•Ensure there is defensible space around your property by trimming or removing trees and bushes and by removing combustible material away from structures.
•Make sure you have an evacuation plan and that your family knows what to do and where to meet in case of fire.
•Make and keep an inventory of your personal property on the cloud or on a personal device such as a cell phone.
“It is crucial for Montanans living in wildfire danger areas to mitigate risk and take inventory of their personal property. A simple way to take a quick inventory is to walk into every room and closet of your home with a camera. Video is a crude, but simple way to keep track. This can speed up the claims process and help document your losses,” Downing said.
After a wildfire:
•Call your insurance agent as soon as possible to file a claim.
•Mitigate further damage but do not rush to repair or throw out damaged items without first speaking with your insurance company or adjuster.
•Document damage. Using your camera or cell phone, take pictures and videos of the damaged property. Include appliance serial numbers and samples of damaged items, such as carpet swatches.
•Keep receipts of all expenses associated with the fire. Hotel rooms, groceries, clothing, and mitigation materials, such as tarps, may be eligible for reimbursement by your insurance company.
•Contact the CSI with questions, concerns, or for help navigating the claims process.
•Never pay a contractor up-front or sign over your insurance settlement payment.
•Always get a written estimate, and only sign a contract after first contacting your agent or adjuster.
•If available, contact the local Homebuilders Association to check if the contractor has complaints against them.
•Ensure your contractor is properly licensed.
•Check references, preferably from in-state customers.
Commissioner Downing also warned that many homes may not be adequately insured.
“Rising inflation and repair costs have left many homes underinsured. A home purchased for $200,000 a decade ago may cost $350,000 or more to repair/replace today. Review your coverage amounts with your agent at least once a year to discuss replacement costs, coverage, policy limitations, and risks.”
Please call CSI if you have questions or complaints at 406-444- 2040 or go to CSIMT.gov.