Bastrop Wildfire Claims: Cost of Clean Up & Additional Living Expenses

I spent last week meeting with property owners in the Bastrop area who are dealing with the aftermath of the horrible fires that dealt a blow to not only their personal financial condition, but also to the hearts of those who live there. In several meetings I noticed how emotions would seem to overtake those who spoke about the ordeal. However, Bastrop citizens are like a lot like other small town Texans in that they choose to pick up a shovel and start rebuilding their lives. This blog post will help provide insurance policy claim information related to the Texas and Bastrop Wildfire insurance claims.

Although FEMA employees seem to outnumber the entire population of Bastrop right now, being self-sufficient Texans the Bastrop citizens seem to be taking the bull by the horns, cleaning up, and taking care of themselves. I wonder if FEMA has lacked in applicants for assistance in Bastrop, because I noticed the following link on my email–( The link seems to be encouraging people to sign up even if they are concerned that they may not qualify. Sorry FEMA, but being a native Texan I can tell you that we are not like other places, and you will find few of us sitting on the curb waiting for the federal government to rescue us. Witnessing the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality has been an inspiration to me over the last week.

With all the discussion of clean up and living assistance for those with damaged homes, two insurance policy conditions come to mind for me. The first policy condition I am referring to is called “debris removal”. Whether you know it or not, your insurance policy likely has a provision to cover removal of debris that is a result of this fire. This will typically cover the demolition and removal of the burned structures on your property and may cover some of the trees involved if they have fallen on, or affected the structure. The amount you are entitled to is typically 10% of your main dwelling coverage limit. So for example if you carried $200K on your home’s main structure, then you likely have access to $20,000 in order to clean up. While many well intentioned folks have gathered fellow church members and friends to get to work with shovels in hand, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is that if you hire someone to perform debris removal and you have the coverage, the cost is likely covered and you are free to spend your time in other pursuits. The bad news is that if you do the work yourself, most policies have a clause that allows you only minimum wage or some other grossly minimal pay for your time. By doing the work yourself you are giving your insurer a break from what they justifiably owe you. My advice is to look at your policy carefully to see if you have debris removal coverage before doing any work. If you do, find a reputable local demolition contractor who can do the cleanup and let them get to work as soon as your insurer has inspected the property.

The second policy condition I am referring to is ALE or additional living expenses. This coverage is for the additional expenses you incur over and above your normal living expenses while out of your home. To be paid, these must be incurred and you are entitled to assume equal living conditions to what you had prior to the fire.

Additional items that are covered under this coverage can be the cost differential to eat out now that you cannot prepare food at home, any additional travel expenses you incur to travel longer distances to school and work, dry cleaning now that you cannot launder your own clothes and any other costs you incur as a result of being displaced from your home. Like other coverage, ALE usually has limited coverage amounts that are specified as a percentage of your dwelling policy limit or as an incurred time line to make repairs or rebuild. ALE limits are often 10% to 25% of your dwelling limit amount or up to 1 year incurred to rebuild or repair. Read your policy carefully and make sure that you understand this coverage before you end up blindsided and out of money to live.