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Destroyed by fire ñ now what?

The Black Forest Fire that sparked on June 11 consumed more than 14,280 acres and destroyed 488 homes before it was fully contained on June 20, according to a July 17 article in The Gazette. The fire has created a perfect storm for landlords.ìRentals have skyrocketed and a lot of people, right after the fire happened, were trying to find rentals,î said Jody Heffner, Falcon real estate agent with The Platinum Group. ìThere was kind of a frantic movement of people trying to find a place.ìRealistically, the Falcon market before the fire was a rental market. People donít always have the ability to get a loan. Once the fires hit, people were trying to find anything and everything just to get into a place rather than be in a hotel.îHeffner said he heard of some property management companies talking about upping their rental prices because there was such a high demand. ìI would say about 20 percent of the people were thinking they could take advantage of that,î he said.Kevin Koenke, Falcon State Farm agent, said he heard the same conversations. ìI heard other agents talking about the day of the fire they had 25 people call on one property,î he said. ìIf theyíre charging more money for rent now, itís because they can.îKoenke said his customers donít have to worry about that type of ìprice gougingî because State Farm pays the rent on a house thatís similar in size to the house they own, and they pay to furnish it as well. ìWeíre going to pay as much as we need to for two years so you can get your house rebuilt,î he said.Since the fire, rumors have been spreading about insurance companies like State Farm changing their policies to make more stringent fire mitigation requirements, Koenke said. ìWe havenít changed our policies,î he said. ìTrees still need to be 30 feet away from the house and brush and pine needles need to be cleared away up to 100 feet.ìAll our policies are staying the same right now. I canít just change my rates tomorrow; it all has to be filed with the state. People probably wonít see a rate change for a year down the road or longer. Rates are individual. Two people can own houses next door to each other and have different rates. Everyone has their own rate.îHeffner said one major complaint he heard involved people who were getting insurance on a newly-purchased home in the area. ìA lot of (insurance) companies targeted the 80808 (zip code) area or the 80831 area, places with a lot of trees,î he said. ìThey werenít even giving policies out in those areas. People that had already had their home loans underwritten and put into place were getting their closings put on hold because their insurance company wouldnít write a policy for that area, period.îKoenke said that wasnít the case for his company. ìThe only difference is that weíre going to ask for additional mitigation like clearing away the pine needles and keeping trees 30 feet away from the house; and, basically, if it happens again, your house is ready for the firefighters to come in and fight it rather than worry about the trees,î he said. ìWe actually sent a third party out there to make sure customers were mitigating three weeks prior to the fire. Many of my customers didnít lose their house because of the mitigation they did.îHeffner said some people called him the day after their house burned down looking to relocate to an area out of the trees. Koenke said most of his customers have chosen to rebuild on the same lots where their house burned down. ìThereís a reason why they live out there,î Koenke said. ìNo matter where you go, you have some type of element, and there is a risk for living in the trees but itís worth it. I foresee most of them rebuilding.îKoenke said most people could actually get a better deal on their homeownerís insurance if they rebuild in the burned area of Black Forest. ìLetís say the (burned) house was built in 1980,î he said. ìThey werenít getting a new home discount or a new roof discount. If you build and complete your home in 2013, you get a 39 percent discount for a new home through us. We give a 28 percent discount for a new roof.îìThere are going to be transitions and changes and we just have to know that,î Heffner said. ìPeople (potential buyers) have been kind of staying away, but theyíre coming back.î

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