After a condominium fire, residents and condo associations may face complications. Getting compensation for the damage may involve multiple insurance policies, and it can be tricky to determine responsibility. A lot depends on where the fire started, what your insurance policy covers, and what the condo association’s terms outline. Our insurance claim attorneys in Houston at Haun Mena can help you with your condo fire insurance claim.
What Can Lead to a Condo Fire Insurance Claim?
Some common causes of condominium fires include:
Cooking mishaps are the leading cause of fires in the United States. Fire departments responded to about 170,000 residential cooking fires in 2021.
Home heating equipment is the second-highest cause of home fires. Reasons include poorly maintained equipment and combustible items near space heaters.
Electrical distribution systems are the third most common cause of home fires, causing about $1.3 billion in property damage annually. Electrical hazards include old or outdated systems and improper use of extension cords.
Laundry rooms house combustible materials, such as lint and clothing. Clogged dryer vents, full lint screens, and collected dust and lint behind washers and dryers add to the problem.
Fireplaces and candles
Candles and wood-burning fireplaces often start fires when no one is around to respond quickly to a problem.
What Should You Do After a Condo Fire?
It’s helpful to know ahead of time how to handle a fire’s aftermath.
Call your insurance company
Notify your insurance company about your condo fire insurance claim as soon as possible. Give your insurer the necessary information, including:
- Where the fire started
- How it happened
- The extent of damage to your unit
- Impact on adjoining units
Schedule an adjuster’s visit as soon as you can.
Document the situation
If it is safe to enter the condo, take photos of everything. Make a list of damaged appliances, furniture, clothing, and other items. Estimate the value of your items and collect receipts if you can.
Mitigate the damage
Cover broken windows and holes in the roof to prevent further damage. Only make permanent repairs once the adjuster has documented the situation. While you may feel tempted to start fixing things immediately, sometimes making repairs can mask the damage and interfere with your insurance claim.
How Do Condominium and Home Fire Claims Differ?
The difference between homeowners insurance and condo insurance lies in what you own.
When you own a home, you own the structure — walls, floors, ceilings, etc. — and everything inside it. You also own the land the house is on and other structures, including decks, porches, pools, and detached garages.
Home insurance policies generally include coverage that incorporates the above items.
Condominium insurance is different. Condo owners usually have responsibility for the space within the walls. The structure and other features on the property, such as pools and fences, fall under the obligation of the condo or homeowner’s association.
All condo complexes should have insurance that covers common areas. The policy may extend to your condo’s interior, but you’ll need to check.
Some policies also cover the interior as it was initially built. If you previously made improvements, your policy may cover a condo fire insurance claim for the amount you added to your condo’s value.
Who Is Liable for Condo Fires?
Condo fire compensation is usually split between insurance companies, including your condo insurance and your association’s master policy. However, it depends on what property and structures the fire affected. It can also depend on where and how the fire started.
You may face many gray areas when it comes to determining liability. The condo association’s coverage and yours may overlap in some instances, which can lead to a dispute between companies.
Review the condo association’s paperwork
The best way to understand who is liable for condo fires is to review the condo association’s documents. They include items such as:
- Insurance policy
- Association bylaws
- Master deed
Hopefully, you’ll never need to worry about what’s in the fine print of your association’s documents. However, you can make it easier on yourself in an emergency by reviewing and understanding them.
How Can Attorneys Help With a Condo Fire Insurance Claim?
You will probably have a lot of decisions to make after a condo fire. Haun Mena can help.
Our attorneys understand the complexities of a condo fire insurance claim. While each claim is unique, we’ve helped others in similar situations. We realize you may have questions, such as:
Which insurance policy is responsible for covering losses?
Are the companies covering everything they should?
Did your condo association take the necessary steps to prevent a fire?
Assisting with the claims process
Some of the ways we can assist you through the claims process include:
Interpreting the insurance policies
Examining the condo association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions
Determining the next steps if insurers delay your claim
Interacting with the insurance companies
Gathering evidence to prove your property values
You may also have questions regarding which company pays for certain damages. We can help when coverage is unclear or when insurers dispute responsibility.