Hi Pat: Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is provided to assist an insured with the increased living expenses resulting from having to move to another location during the rebuild. The insurance company usually compares the pre-loss living expenses with the post-loss living expenses to measure the increase. These expenses are usually considered until you return back into your home.
Claim preparation expenses such as paying a contractor for an estimate or time spent preparing an inventory or summarizing replacement receipts are usually not covered under ALE.
It is important when presenting an ALE claim to the insurance company to document that the claimed ALE expenses were directly related to an additional expenses related to an increase in living costs. You are correct, that you would not have had these expenses but for the fire, however they must be increased living costs. I think that additional mileage incurred to replace lost items and visits to the rebuild site to visit contractors are an increased living expense and should be characterized as such.
I agree that sending a letter with the supporting documentation and claiming a specific amount for ALE will act as a proof of claim and the insurance company will have to provide you with their position regarding your claim in writing. Good Luck.