When your home is seriously damaged by a windstorm, fire, or other force of nature, you might end up being displaced from your residence. Although the repairs associated with many insurance claims occur while homeowners remain in their homes, this may not be a safe or feasible option. If your home is a total loss or the kitchen is unusable, the only viable option might be to relocate on a temporary basis.
Homeowners who must temporarily move out of their residence will be exposed to living expenses that would not have been incurred without the event that caused the loss. These extra living expenses can impose a substantial financial burden because homeowners will be “doubling up” on certain expenses, such as housing in the form of both mortgage payments and motel/hotel bills. These expenses also include such items as the increased cost of dining out if your normal practice is to prepare meals at home. An insured’s homeowners policy might cover these increased living expenses. This type of insurance company benefit, referred to as “additional living expenses” (ALE), are not automatic in every case where an insured suffers a loss caused by a covered peril.
Our Miami homeowners insurance lawyers understand the home must be rendered “uninhabitable” for ALE coverage to be triggered. This term is not necessarily as straightforward as you might assume. Even if an insured could elect to continue residing in his or her residence, this does not mean that the home is habitable under the terms of a homeowners policy. While the basic definition of “uninhabitable” is “not fit to live in,” the standard for making this determination typically is based on state, county, or city code standards. As a general rule, almost every locality requires that the occupants’ basic needs be met for a home to be considered habitable. When such fundamental services as water, electricity, heat, or plumbing are unavailable, these deficiencies will usually constitute a basis for determining the residence is not habitable.
The part of the house that is damaged by a covered peril also determines whether a loss makes your home unlivable. If your kitchen is gutted, for example, this would likely trigger ALE coverage provided your family regularly uses the kitchen to prepare meals. A family that almost always goes out to eat would not necessarily be entitled to ALE compensation for damage to the kitchen of their home. When the only bathroom in a home is flooded and unusable, this type of loss also typically would justify ALE payments following a loss. Similarly, the loss of the master bedroom in a two bedroom home would likely make the home uninhabitable especially if the other bedroom belongs to another member of the household, such as a child.
While these situations might seem fairly obvious, the situation can be much more complicated. If a bedroom that is unused is damaged, this may or may not trigger ALE benefits in the eyes of the insurance company. However, the policyholder should pay special attention to the impact of repair issues in this type of situation. The enormous noise generated by equipment used to dry water might justify relocation even if the water damage is limited to an unused bedroom. Similarly, repairs of the water damage to the spare bedroom might require turning the plumbing off, which also might make the home unlivable.
Because the “normal” standard of living of a family is used to determine if the homeowner is entitled to ALE benefits, the individual circumstances of a family’s daily lifestyle might become relevant. The bottom line is that many insurance issues can turn on subtle factual distinctions.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Policyholders from Homeowners Insurance Companies
If your Florida homeowners insurance company is using sharp practices or otherwise fails to process and pay your claim reasonably promptly, you might have a legal claim for financial compensation. Our Miami property damage attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted homeowners with damage claims across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.