MARCH 2023 UPDATE: Home repair grants are available to eligible homeowners. Please see Government Bulletins and Announcements section below for details.
FEBRUARY 2023 UPDATE: The May 15 tax deadline has been extended to Oct. 16, 2023 for disaster area taxpayers in California. For more information, visit the IRS disaster relief page.
Through our Roadmap to Recovery® program, you can access free, trustworthy help navigating the process of returning to a wildfire damaged area, repairing and replacing damaged and destroyed property, and collecting all available insurance funds. The CalFire Incident Report on the McKinney Fire can be viewed here. The incident reports for the Alex and Yeti Fires can be viewed here. We recommend watching this Wildfire Recovery Orientation. Although it was recorded in 2021, it’s current for today.
If your property is damaged or was destroyed, our guidance is here to help you get started on the road to recovery, make good decisions and keep moving forward.
United Policyholders is a non-profit organization that has three-plus decades of expertise in wildfire recovery and insurance claims. Our staff, disaster veteran and professional volunteers, and our public, private and non-profit partners can help lighten your load and give you reliable strategies, information and pearls of wisdom and support. We’re rooting for you and here to help. No strings attached. We don’t sell our services or provide one-on-one professional claim or legal help, but we offer honest, free and experienced guidance and links to reliable professional and government resources.
Below you will find short cuts to items in our extensive library of resources that should be most useful and relevant to your current situation. Through our Roadmap to Recovery® program, you can access tips, tools and the straight scoop on insurance, clean up, contractors, lawyers, adjusters, avoiding ripoffs and mistakes, your legal rights and emotional support from people who genuinely care about helping you navigate successfully.
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Watch our FIRST STEPS AFTER A WILDFIRE video here.
Taking it in and Getting Started
TIP: If you lost your home in the wildfire, when you file your insurance claim, be sure to ask for a cash advance to help you get situated. If this wildfire is a “California declared disaster”, your insurer is required to give you an advance of no less than 30% of your contents limit and at least 4 months of your “Additional Living Expense” coverage. Be sure to ask for it in writing (email counts). Your adjuster may be from out of state and unfamiliar with California law. California has special rules related to insurance and deadlines that are designed to make it easier for you to collect all available funds after a total or partial wildfire loss. Our goal is to empower you to be your own best advocate in the recovery process and get professional or government help when you need it.Resources General
- First Steps After a Wildfire
- Primeros Pasos Despues de un Incendio Forestal
- Top 10 Insurance Claim Tips
- A Simplified Guide to Your Homeowners Policy
- Sample Letter Requesting Complete Copy of Homeowners Policy
- Speak UP: How to communicate with your insurance company
- Avoiding Frauds and Scams After a Disaster
- Insurance Lingo en Español
- Register with FEMA (if/when declared)
- Fannie Mae Mortgage Help - Don't Pay Before You Plan
- Fannie Mae - Planificacion de indemniz aciones después de un desastre
- AT&T Disaster Recovery - Customer Relief
Arranging Temporary Housing
After a declared state of emergency, your insurance company must give you a cash advance of no less than four months of living expenses while working with you on calculating your losses and benefits.
Your insurer must give you, upon request, a list of items normally classified as reimbursable ALE expenses. It is best to ask for this list in writing–email counts.
Please Note: This law went into effect January 2021–if your insurance adjuster is from out of state, they may not be aware of California law.Resources General
Getting Organized, Informed and Empowered
Resources Partial Loss
- Insurance Consumer Rights in California (2022)
- FAQs about Home Insurance Claims in California
- Renters Insurance Claim Tips (California)
- Organizing Carrier-Specific Disaster Survivor Groups
- Insurance Accounting Spreadsheet
- Survivors Speak: Forced Choice Matrix for Decision-making
- Speak UP: How to communicate with your insurance company
- The Chemistry of Fires at the Wildland-Urban Interface
- Insurance Claim Tips For Partial Loss Fires
- Wildfire Glossary September 2020
- Why Indoor Chemistry Matters (downloadable PDF)
- Permitting and title assistance from the California Department of Housing and Community Development
- Fast Facts Rebuilding After a Disaster - CA Contractors State License Board
- Getting Debris Removed
Being Pro-active in Documenting and Valuing Your Losses
Partial Losses/Standing Homes
If your home was spared but was exposed to extreme heat and smoke, we offer specialized guidance on partial loss insurance claim issues related to proper cleaning, inspecting for damage, restoring healthy indoor air quality and repairing obvious as well as hidden damage.Resources General
- Insurance Recovery Tips for the Dwelling Part of Your Claim
- The Scoop on “Scope” (of loss)
- Guidelines For Reviewing Adjusters’ And Contractors’ Estimates
- Xactimate Demystified
- Survivors Speak: Estimating Your Loss
- Sample Letters and Documents
- Reimbursement for Claim Preparation Expenses
- Mobile / Manufactured Home Insurance Claim Tips
- Consejos para reclamos de seguros para casas móviles / fabricadas (California)
Creating Your Home Inventory and Navigating Your Contents Claim
Making Housing and Financial Decisions
$1 billion in mortgage relief funds are now available to California homeowners who have fallen behind on housing payments or property taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds do not have to be paid back and the program is free. Contact the California Mortgage Relief Program to see if you are eligible for this assistance.Resources General
- Underinsurance 101
- Survivors Speak: Coping With Underinsurance
- Tax Tips for Disaster Survivors
- Updating your home insurance after a loss...Staying protected without wasting money
- Sample Letter Requesting Extension of Deadlines to Collect Full Policy Benefits - CALIFORNIA DISASTER
- What to Do With Checks from Your Insurance Company
Choosing a Contractor
You can check with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) website tools Find My Licensed Contractor and License Check (available on the homepage of CSLB’s website) to help find a licensed contractor, confirm the license is in good standing, and verify the contractor carries an active surety bond and workers’ compensation insurance.Resources General
Working with Your Mortgage Company
Your mortgage company cannot require you pay off your loan with your insurance proceeds, but they will typically be listed on the insurance payments along with you. Fannie Mae’s Disaster Response Network™ can help eligible homeowners navigate the broader financial impacts of disaster and the challenging recovery process with a team of HUD-approved housing counselors offering:
- A needs assessment and personalized recovery plan
- Help requesting financial relief from FEMA, insurance, mortgage servicers, and other sources
- Web resources and ongoing guidance from experienced disaster relief advisors
Homeowners can call 877-833-1746 to access the Disaster Response Network or other available resources.
Visit Fannie Mae’s KnowYourOptions.com consumer website for housing resources, including details on disaster relief. Homeowners can visit www.knowyouroptions.com/relief to learn more and find out if they have a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage and access to the full benefits of their Disaster Response Network.Resources General
Getting help if/when you need it
If you need help beyond insurance claim help, connect with a disaster case manager to help you develop a realistic long-term recovery plan. The disaster case manager helps identify and facilitate access to appropriate community resources that will support the plan. This will be set up during the long term recovery.Resources General
- Taking Care of Yourself Along the Way
Government Bulletins & Announcements
FEMA Fact Sheet. Beware of Frauds and Scams.
For the most up-to-date fire information for your region or county, please check with local authorities.
Siskiyou County https://www.facebook.com/SiskiyouCountyOES/
The USDA has announced the availability of home repair grants to help people repair their homes that were damaged by severe weather or natural disasters in 2022, including the California severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides (as well as the Mosquito, Oak, Coastal, Fairview, and Mill fires).
People living in identified counties in California may be eligible for the funding. The homes must be located in presidentially declared disaster areas (presidential declarations include public assistance, individual assistance, fire management and emergency management).
The grants will be available through supplemental disaster funding under the Rural Disaster Home Repair Grant Program. Through this program, people may apply to receive grants of up to $40,675 directly from USDA to repair their homes.
Funds will be available until expended. They may be used to:
- Pay for home repair expenses that were a result of a presidentially declared disaster in calendar year 2022.
- Prepare a site for a manufactured home.
- Relocate a manufactured home.
To be eligible:
- Applicants must have household incomes that do not exceed the low-limits based on their household size and county.
- Homes must be located in an eligible rural area.
- Homes must be located in a presidentially declared disaster areas 2022.
Residents in the following counties may be eligible for the funding:
Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, and Yolo.
For more information on how to apply, contact Stephen Nnodim firstname.lastname@example.org (530) 792-5830 or visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs/single-family-housing-rural-disaster-home-repair-grants.