Tips for Disaster Survivors

CARe received grant money through the San Diego Foundation: Disaster Preparedness fund to write a manual on Insurance after a Disaster (also funded by generous donors to CARe). I am writing a small section on Condo's and HOA's after a disaster. Here is where I need your help.

Is there anything you wish you knew, specifically with regards to insurance and your Condo association or HOA. For example, were there things that weren't covered? Was there a special portion of your policy that you had to pay attention to, etc.

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Thank you!

When creating a personal property inventory either for litigation or an insurance claim, it is necessary to document everything that you lost.

If you're having a hard time remembering things in your house, try this technique. Draw a diagram of the room you want to focus on. This does not have to be an accurate drawing and it’s not something you even have to share with anyone. It is simply a mental exercise to help you remember what was in the room.

  1. Divide a piece of paper into four squares (or one for each wall).
  2. Draw in approximately where doors and windows were.
  3. Start drawing what was on each wall.

    For example, there might’ve a chair with a side table near the wall. On the table was a lamp. The lamp had a light bulb and an extension cord. The extension cord was plugged into a 3 way splitter at the outlet. The chair had a throw blanket, a pillow and a pouch where the remote control was stored. The remote control had two AA batteries. The wall behind the chair had a picture and a sconce. The sconce had a candle and was sitting on a little shelf that was hung with two screws and two molly bolts and the picture had a custom frame and was hanging by a picture hanger.

Write all of these things down on your inventory. You'll be amazed how all of those batteries, light bulbs, picture hangers and molly bolts add up!

Also when creating an inventory, we do NOT recommend lumping items together unless the items have the same value.

For example, if you have 100 CD's and they were all about the same quality then you can group them together. If, on the other hand, one of the CD's was rare and had value above and beyond the others, than it should be broken out and listed separately.

Things that should NOT be grouped together simply because they were in the same location like "sewing box full of sewing implements" or "tool box " or even "food pantry". Although when making your initial inventory, you can mark that down as a place holder, you should go back and fill in that blank. You will have a tendency to undervalue that "tool box" and when you go back and itemize you'll get closer to the real value of the things you lost.

If there is anything on your property that is partially damaged, the Line of Sight rule will come into play during the insurance claim process. “Line of sight” or “clear line of sight” is a standard applicable to most property losses. The standard is used in conjunction with “a reasonably uniform surface”.

California insurance code Section 2695.9(a)(2) states:
When a loss requires replacement of items and the replaced items do
not match in quality, color or size, the insurer shall replace all items in
the damaged area so as to conform to a reasonably uniform appearance

Following an insured loss, the insurer is required to repair an item so the completed result will be a reasonably identical appearance or surface. If the end result is not uniform or deviates from the original appearance, the insurer is required to replace the item.

An easy example is damage to one wall in a room. The insurance adjuster, in our experience, always paints all four walls under the clear line of sight principle—if only one wall is painted, it will deviate in color from the other three walls.

Even if an adjuster could convince the homeowner that today’s computer color matching can be matched perfectly, the completed wall will most likely wear differently than the other three walls. Over time, the freshly painted wall will match less and less to the other walls. One does not need to settle for a “momentary” uniform surface.

Repairs typically associated with the clear line of sight rule are:

  • Carpet
  • Paint
  • Wood floors
  • Tile
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Trim, molding
  • Roofing

Another example is broken tile. Some homeowners maintain extra tiles in case of loss and offer the tile to maintain a reasonably uniform surface. Be careful. Sometimes the grout between tiles cannot be duplicated and the tile repair sticks out like a sore thumb. Beware, too, a small tile repair can compromise the water barrier behind the tile. (This example invokes the “pre-loss condition” rule.)