Guard against losses
On average, more than 500 fires occur annually on 16 million acres of public and private forestland protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Those fires burn about 16,000 total acres.
Of particular concern in Oregon are the approximately 3.5 million acres of “wildland-urban interface” where homes and other structures are within reach of wildfire. As a homeowner, you can guard against major losses with adequate insurance and take steps to reduce your home’s exposure to wildfires.
- Regularly review your homeowner coverage limits. Understand how much your policy will pay for the home and its contents.
- Replacement cost is the cost to repair or replace your property at today's prices without any deduction for depreciation. For example, if your ten year old roof is damaged, replacement cost coverage would pay to repair the damage or replace the roof with new roofing. This coverage also applies to personal property, so you can get a new couch if your five year old couch is damaged. You generally have to replace the property for this coverage to apply, and there are time limits. Your insurance company will pay the actual cash value up front and pay the difference once the property is replaced.
- Actual cash value is replacement cost minus depreciation. In the example above if your roof has 25 year useful life and is 10 years old, the actual cash value is 60% of the replacement cost. If your couch has a 10 year useful life and is 5 years old, the actual cash value is 50% of the replacement cost.
- Make a list of your personal possessions. Take photos and videotape your house and contents. Keep receipts or other proof of the cost of high-value items. Keep these records in a safe place away from your home. Include the name and contact information of your insurance company and insurance agent.
- Make sure your policy covers additional living expenses. This pays the additional cost for temporary housing, such as a motel, if you can’t return home.
- Consider increased cost of construction or building ordinance coverage. This pays for any increased cost to replace or repair the home to meet requirements of current building laws or ordinances.
- Consider special coverage for valuables. This covers jewelry, furs, stamps, coins, guns, computers, antiques, musical instruments, and other high-value possessions that exceed normal policy limits.
Filing a claim
- Immediately contact your insurance company or agent to report your loss. Take reasonable steps to protect against further loss but do not rush into repairs or rebuilding before getting instructions from your adjuster. Your insurance company’s inspection may be necessary before repairs begin. Do not throw away damaged property until your adjuster tells you to do so. Before you hire a contractor, get information from the Construction Contractors Board at 503-378-4621.
After filing a claim
- Prepare a detailed list of destroyed or damaged items. Give a copy of any pictures or videotape of your home to the adjuster. This will help you settle the claim.
- Keep copies and records of all communication between you and the adjuster.
- Gather all receipts of your additional living expenses from the time of your loss. Give a copy to your adjuster.
State of emergency
If the governor declares an emergency, the director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services can protect consumers through orders involving any of the following:
- Reporting requirements for claims
- Grace periods for payment of insurance premiums and performance of other duties
- Temporary postponement of cancellations and nonrenewals
Rural homeowners: Limit your exposure to wildfires. At a minimum, clear a natural firebreak between the home and outbuildings and trees, bushes, and uncut fields. Other measures can include a pump and a nearby water source, as well as the use of fire-resistant roofing and building material.