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Can renters make insurance claims after wildfire damage?

Wildfires, like many forces of nature, are completely indiscriminate as they approach property. They have the potential to destroy hundreds of homes, farms, and more. They don’t discriminate between those who own their own property and those who rent.

Plenty of people rent their primary residence in California. Even ranchers and farmers often rent the land where they work from someone else. If you lost your home, your personal possessions or your livestock or crops in a wildfire, do you have grounds to make an insurance claim as a renter? 

Yes, your renter’s insurance should apply to wildfires

While homeowner’s insurance is often mandatory, particularly if someone financed a purchase, renter’s insurance is usually optional unless a landlord requires it in a lease.

If you don’t have renter’s insurance, then you may not have any coverage for your personal property lost in the fire even if your landlord insures the land. However, if you do have a renter’s policy, reviewing the terms of your coverage will help you determine what kind of claim you can file.

You will generally need to have reported assets and property to the insurance company when obtaining a policy if you expect the policy to cover those assets after their loss. However, it’s possible that your renter’s insurance could cover everything from your lost furniture and vehicles to your livestock.

Navigating wildfire claims often takes patience and help

Any large insurance claim will be subject to scrutiny. You can expect that the insurance company will look carefully at each claim and possibly try to settle for less than the claimant really needs.

Wildfire claims can be particularly difficult to manage because it can be hard to conclusively prove what you lost and what the fire did not destroy. You will need to gather documentation about your property lost in the wildfire, as well as the other financial consequences of the fire. You may be able to claim compensation for buying new property and for temporary shelter, depending on the coverage you have.

Understanding your rights and your coverage will be crucial first steps toward making a successful wildfire claim after losing property as a renter.