Finally! Answers to the Fire Debris Removal Program for Malibu Residents

Local architect Lester Tobias has given our readers a first hand account of the frustration residents are experiencing with the debris removal process (no thanks to the City and the County’s communication on the subject).

The Local reached out to experienced Fire Attorney Bill Robins of Robins Cloud LLP to formulate an easy to understand checklist for Woolsey burn out victims.

Before signing up for the Los Angeles County Debris Removal program get an estimate from a licensed debris removal contractor

The Los Angeles County debris removal program is not free as is often stated.  If you opt-in to this program (deadline extended to January 28, 2019) you must assign the County “any and all” proceeds from your debris removal insurance coverage to the County.  Most insurance policies provide a benefit for debris removal in addition to the face value of the policy which may also be available to reclaim your property or for other costs of construction.  If debris removal can be provided by a licensed contractor at a cost less than what the County would take from your insurance coverage, you may have more money for rebuilding.  Whether participating in the program is right for you is a decision that should be made only after that comparison is done.

Document all damage to trees and other landscaping before any debris removal takes place

Evidence of trees and other landscaping destroyed by the fire may be lost after debris removal occurs.   Most insurance policies will not cover the full value of lost trees and other landscaping, and these underinsured losses may be recoverable from SoCal Edison or other third parties found responsible for starting the Woolsey Fire.  California law also allows for recovery of up to two times the value of lost trees from the responsible party.  Documenting damage to the trees and other landscaping is an important part of supporting these claims.  Take photos of all damage or have an arborist assess the damage before removing destroyed trees and other landscaping.

Create a fully itemized list of your contents and their value

People may be discouraged from fully itemizing their contents once they get to the policy limit, or may be tempted to accept a waiver of the itemization requirement by the insurance carrier in exchange for acceptance of less than the full policy limit. These may seem like easier approaches, but, aside from not receiving every dime you are entitled to under your insurance policy, there is another hidden danger.  If you choose to pursue a third party claim, a list of contents will be a valuable tool to ensure you receive full and fair compensation for everything that was lost.  Every toothbrush, every spoon, every table coaster has value.  Trying to create a list of everything that was lost six or twelve months from now will be frustrating and difficult as those items will fade from memory.

Be patient in making your decision whether to rebuild or replace your home 

As the shock and disbelief wears off, people may find the task of rebuilding or finding another comparable home overwhelming, and may be tempted to just cash out their insurance for the face value of their coverage for loss of their structures on the property.    However, many insurance policies have provisions that will pay money above the policy limit for the purpose of rebuilding or replacing their burned structures.  People who inform their insurance company they do not have an intent to rebuild or replace their property may lose these proceeds, without being told there may be money available beyond the face value of the policy limits that can be used for rebuilding or replacing their home.   

Cece Woods

The Current Report Editor in Chief Cece Woods started The Local Malibu, an activism based platform in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of pro-preservation ballot measures and seating five top vote-getters in the Malibu City Council elections.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the two-year law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings, and a few short months later provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over one million hits across her social media platforms.

Since 2020, Woods was the only journalist reporting on the on-going public corruption involving former L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington. Woods worked with Political Corruption expert Adam Loew, DC Watchdog organizations and leaders in the Capitol exposing Washington which ultimately led to the withdrawal of his nomination to head the FAA.

Woods also founded Malibu based 90265 Magazine and Cali Mag devoted to the authentic southern California lifestyle.

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