Our House is On Fire Continued – Road to Recovery
Reality sets in… NO we were not dreaming! Our rental property…daughter’s home was a total lost from the fire. Only the shell of the house remained!
We knew the next several days were going to be very trying… Several friends and neighbors helped to get the dog house situated in our back yard for our older grandson’s beetle dog. Our grandson was in college during this time. However he was called by his friends in Sidell telling him his house was on fire. How traumatic!! They were even sending him pictures via their phones of the fire and the firefighters . It’s hard to put yourself in his shoes… knowing your home is on fire and not being able to be there to help.
Miraculously help stated arriving even though the fire was still raging i.e. one neighbor brought over a coat for Austin to wear because he had lost his in the fire. My daughter had arrived from work and was distraught… her house … her and the kids home was burning. Suddenly there was hope… My daughter was told to make an appointment with one of the churches which had clothes for just this type of situation. The next day C.J. did go, and was given a coat and a few other items she could wear. She still had only the clothes on her back and these were work clothes!! Thanks God for Goodwill, because I went the next day and was able to get a few items for her …especially sleeping clothes. You see, she had to wear her dad’s T-shirt to bed because all she had left from the fire, was the uniform she was wearing from work and one hair clip.
Our MetLife insurance adjustor, Kevin Kemper, was on the spot the next day just as he had promised. The first thing Kevin did was to ask what was our immediate needs. He then began to explain all our options. We were given several options as to what we wanted to do with our insurance money i.e. 1) Do nothing and keep the money 2) Buy another house elsewhere 3) Build a home on the same lot or 4) Buy a modular or manufactured home and place it on the same lot. After looking at several homes for sale in our areas, we decided to buy a modular or manufactured home. We found a manufactured home we liked in a town close to us. It was 56′ x 60′ . We asked ourselves …Was this to be the new rental property/C.J.’s home? But, if the Sidell’s zoning codes required more than 5′ from building to property line, then we knew we were going to have a problem.
For the next three days, we were bombarded by the local fire marshal and the state fire marshal because the total loss was far above $25,000! Even MetLife had their own fire marshal come out to the site with Kevin, our insurance adjustor! Each time we had to sign papers which gave each fire marshal our permission to enter the property and to remove anything which might lead them to discover the cause of the fire. Since the fire had started in the area of the microwave and had spread to the garbage container, the fire was ruled accidental.
Questions were asked about our real estate taxes and mortgage. We were asked if these were up to date and current. We were even asked if we still owed a balance on the mortgage! Why were we asked these questions you might ask? It’s because these balances are taken first from the claim check! If the home’s mortgage is paid off, then… they must have an OFFICIAL copy which must state the mortgage is paid off! We could provide OUR copies of the paid real-estate taxes, but they had to be verified by the county clerk and notarized in order to become an OFFICIAL copy! Since we live in a small town, this meant a one-way 40 minute drive to our county court house. Kevin Kemper, our MetLife adjuster, told us jokingly… the drive to the court house will take longer then getting the taxes verified. He was right! Once at the court house it took less than 5 minutes for them to look up our taxes and notarize our paper work.
While we were there at the county court house, we also went to the recorder of deeds department… to get a legal record of our lot’s size. From this record we learned our lot was 66’ x 132’ and THIS gave us another problem! Learning the requirement for Sidell zoning was 10′ on each side of the house to the property line, we knew, this size lot would not allow us to put the home we had looked at originally!!
Sooooo, back to the drawing board! You see our small town has these things called city ordinances in which…they tell you the distances between homes and boundaries… our new home could not be put on our lot and be in compliance with the town’s ordinances. We visited several other Modular home sales around the area. In looking around at what could be put on our lot, we discovered the MOST fantastic home builders… Riley’s Homes Inc. in Urbana, Il… just North and off of interstate 74. From the get go to the stop whoa… God sent us another guardian angel…A.K.A… Tobias, nickname Toby! This guy actually listened to our unique situation, made notes and then asked us questions about our wants and needs for a replacement home. He then took us on a tour of their homes on their huge demo lot… in each home he explained what could be changed to fit our lot!
We went back 5 or 6 times, and each time he was friendly and very helpful. We finely decided to put money down on a home that we could redesign for the lot size. When we told Toby, MetLife had already cut us a check… Toby could hardly believe it… because so little time had passed since the fire… It had been only 2 weeks ago that our fire ordeal began! Toby told us to have received this money this fast was exceptional… We told Toby… no that was the MetLife way !!! Toby wanted to know how we were put onto MetLife! We explained. We had hear horror stories about insurance claims…but we are living proof…not all those stories are bad or at least we had chosen the best one thanks to a friend who was selling insurance. Since we needed rental insurance, he suggested we go with MetLife. It was the best decision we ever made.
Every phone call, every time one of the adjustors or inspectors came, they were honest, professional, supportive, and caring. Kevin, our insurance adjustor explained the process each time and the “whys” we need to do certain things. He kept us informed of our MANY options, and time frames. It just so happens, we were also scheduled to have our taxes done the day after the fire so this gave us an opportunity to also see what our options were and to verify what we were being told by MetLife. Our CPA agent told us of what options were available to us. The options were the same as what METLIFE was telling us. No Surprises!!!
Valuable Lessons learned:
- Insurance is a MUST… it will not take away the pain and emotion of seeing everything go up in smoke i.e pictures, important papers, military papers, tax papers, clothes, dishes, furniture, computer,….. but it’s a little reassuring that there will be some help. We have had insurance for years not realizing the day would come when we would need it.
- If you do have insurance but not sure if it is the correct choice of insurance…check out METLIFE and compare your coverage with theirs. Not only have we been VERY PLEASED with the way they are handling our claim BUT we intend to STAY WITH METLIFE. We have been with them for several years. From the secretary, to insurance adjustors, and their own fire Marshall, we were treated as if we were their only customer and they held our hands throughout the process. They could have just come and wrote a check on the spot…but no they have been very thorough to include any new additions we may have made in the last 5 years to the property. (We had just put in a new boiler for the furnace (base water heat) just 3 years ago. UGH!
- Be sure important papers are in a safe or safety deposit box in your bank.
- Take pictures of your valuables (Collections, collectibles of all kinds) and put them in a safe place to verify what you had owned.
- Have phone number quickly available for emergencies.
- Have insurance papers were you can get to them quickly
We were lucky and the Good Lord blessed us. Our daughter and grandson were safe. Our two people, two dogs, home is now a four person, four dog family. We are still trying to get into routines to support each other and not be in each others way. MetLife sent us the first check within 3 days for lost rent due to the fire. Within two weeks, we had received four more checks which were broken down for 1) Excavation 2) Replacement of home 3) landscaping and 4) Personal items we had supplied for the rental home. Again, we cannot express our gratitude for the way MetLife worked with us. If ever there was a top insurance company …our choice would be MetLife when it comes to your home and business.
Next Blog – Part IV – Excavation and clean up