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My home was damaged in the Jerusalem fires. How do I get reimbursed?

CM 18/08/2021

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Following three days of wildfires outside Jerusalem that burned more than 2,400 hectares (6,000 acres) of forest and caused countless millions of shekels worth of damage, residents of Ramat Raziel, Tzova, Givat Ye’arim and other towns are starting to ask who is going to pay for their losses.
The good news is that the answer to that question is relatively straightforward: the insurance companies.
“In theory, if the fires would be conclusively found to be a terrorist attack, then some insurance companies won’t cover the damages, and the state will reimburse people for damages, but that possibility is extremely unlikely,” said Udi Shneller, owner of Shneller Insurance in Jerusalem. “Otherwise, your insurance will pay for everything, except for a small deductible of about NIS 500, depending on the company. Anyone who doesn’t have insurance is out of luck.”

Avner Goldfus, owner of Goldfus Insurance, noted that the Association of Insurance Brokers and Agents in Israel has opened a hotline for people with questions related to the wildfires. You can call (03) 636-6516 from 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning, for consultations.
Shneller and Goldfus offered advice for households with damaged property.
First, Shneller said, if you have an insurance policy, tell your agent immediately. The company will send an appraiser to list and evaluate the damage.
 Givat Ye’arim, moments before the evacuating due to the wildfires that raged through the Jerusalem area on August 15, 2021. (credit: Courtesy) Givat Ye’arim, moments before the evacuating due to the wildfires that raged through the Jerusalem area on August 15, 2021. (credit: Courtesy)
“Photograph everything you can before the appraiser comes, and pay attention to all the details around the house, like the garden and the trees, and give this to the appraiser,” Shneller said. “Once the appraiser has recorded something, it is very difficult to get the record changed later, he said.
If you can’t live at home because of the damage, you are entitled to replacement housing, like a hotel or rental apartment, depending on the amount of time needed, and with the approval of the appraiser.
In nearly all cases, insurance covers replacing the old with new, Shneller said. That means that reimbursement is given to buy a new refrigerator or mattress, not just to cover the value of the old one. The same is true even for a home that must be completely rebuilt. This is called erech kinun in Hebrew.
Once the appraiser has submitted the report, you are eligible to receive immediate compensation for the value of the damaged items as they were valued at the time of the damage. This sum, known in Hebrew as erech shipui, will likely be paid within several weeks of the appraiser’s report.
After that, as you buy new products to replace the old ones, you can submit the receipts to the insurance company to get those costs back, minus whatever was paid in damages.
Auto insurance works differently, Goldfus noted. There, you can claim only the book value (mehiron) of the car at the time it was damaged.
The rules regarding businesses that sustained damage from the fires are a bit more complex, Goldfus said. First, one can usually be compensated only for the value of damages, not the cost of buying new property. Second, different business insurance policies may cover other aspects like loss of income or other consequential losses.
Farmers experiencing damages may be entitled to benefits from a specific government fund known as Kanat (Keren Nizkei Teva – insurance fund for natural risks in agriculture).
Insurance companies do not cover personal injury, but there may be benefits available from the National Insurance Institute, if relevant.
In the event that the damage is deemed the result of a terrorist attack, the state will reimburse some of the damages. In that case, Shneller recommends that you bring in your insurance agent to argue on your behalf.
Shneller suggested that people update their insurance information to make sure that property records are up to date. The insurance companies will send an appraiser to evaluate property at no cost.
Another tip: “During the [Mount] Carmel [Forest] Fire in 2010, we saw that people who repainted their homes immediately afterward found that the smell of the smoke was absorbed into the paint,” Shneller said. “Wait until the smell goes away completely before you paint or replace your trisim (shutters).”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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