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Affected by the recent wildfire ?

Malibou Lakes Mountain Club.jpg

First, our community is devastated and we want to do everything we can to help our friends, families and clients in this time of heart break and uncertainty. We urge you to be careful going back to your property as active power and gas lines might be active & dangerous. Please have a licensed General Contractor, Licensed Electrician or Plumber examine your utilities to make sure they are turned off and do not pose any threat to you, your family or animals. Depending on the extent of damages you will need to contact and your Insurance Agency to help provide the needed forms and documents. In the next few days, LA, Ventura County offices along with the City of Malibu will provide assistance and information portals for you to navigate. We can also help with cleanup, planning,  permitting and building. 

We can facilitate Debris removal and complete the application and obtain the needed permits in order to physically remove the debris from your lot(s). We will provide a detailed quote and upon completion of the debris removal provide a certification certificate for completion of the following:

1. Site Clearing - Removal and Disposal of fire debris from remaining of single family home

2. Demolition and Removal of existing footing & slabs

3. Removal and Disposal of all burnt trees / bushes

4. Vehicle Removal

5. Demolition and Removal of complete chimney to the ground dirt.

6. Keep retaining wall and drive way

* Full Compliance with State, County and City Regulations for Demolition and Fire Debris Removal

* Including removal and proper disposal of demolition debris to approved Fire Debris location, Including Dump Fees

* Composition and Submission of Fire Debris Removal Application

* Including Permit Issuance, Including city permit fees up to 6,000 sq. ft.

* File Site Documentation

* File Work Plan

* Including Filing of AQMD Notification & Fees

* Including Dust Control

* Including Erosion Control for Compliance with storm water protection codes

* Including Asbestos Testing, If Asbestos is detected

* Additional charges for Asbestos remediation will apply and bid separately

* Including Soil Testing after cleanup complete, If Soil testing fails testing criteria per State and County

* Guidelines, Removal and Disposal of Soil costs will apply and bid separately

* Composition and Submission of Property Clean Up

* Completion Certification

Contact your insurance agent ASAP


Contact www.FEMA.GOV

Go to:

Go to:

Go to: find building records:

Fire Debris Cleanup Information go to:

Go to: updated Fire Rebuild information:

NOTICE: Please Click on this link regarding FIRE DEBRIS CLEANUP !

Is  your property in:

Incorporated City of Malibu

L.A. County

Ventura County 


Click on this link: Type in your address to see imagery of your property before & after the fire

Once you determine that then you will know what agency you need to contact regarding:

1. House plans and any information that is of official record, this will help you locate the original consultants and move forward in the rebuilding process. 

Authorized Los Angeles County & City of Malibu Waste Haulers Link:


Use a licensed, insured & bonded contractor:

Ask to see their license. You can verify if they have an active & valid license at:



Insurance Claims


If you or someone you know suffered fire, smoke or water damage to your property from the recent fires, please read this.  My story will help you get a fair settlement from your insurance company. 

My Story…

In August 2016 I lost my Pacific Palisades home in the Riviera due to a massive pipe break flood in the ceiling of the top floor.  The house was a total loss and nearly all of the contents were destroyed. 

I naively thought the insurance claims process would be straight forward.  I paid my premiums every year and I thought I would be treated fairly.  I could not have been more mistaken.  Homeowner insurance contracts do NOT have a “prevailing party” clause.  Prevailing party clauses mean the losing party in litigation pays the winning party’s litigation costs.  Without a prevailing party clause, your insurance company has no incentive to quickly settle claims for the fair amount.   Hence, the new strategy of insurance companies is to offer a fraction of the fair value of the loss and threaten to litigate with the people that want to press for a settlement that reflects fair value. 

Why do the insurance companies do this?   The sad fact I learned is that 91% of people accept the first (low ball) settlement offer from their insurance company.   If you want to read more about the unfair and unethical tactics of the insurance companies, here is a great book. 

The updated building codes will likely result in your home needing to be redesigned/updated to adhere to the new codes, so the rebuild process will likely include design with new structural engineering, the permit approval process and then construction.  This process will take far longer than most people realize.  Hence, the total length of time you will likely be out of your house needs to be correctly documented/supported and reflected in your claim.   Also, you are owed fair market rental value of your home under your loss of use coverage.  The fair market rental value needs to be supported correctly by expert analysis.   

The first settlement offer I received from my insurance company for my house, nearly all of my contents and the loss of use of my house was approximately 10% of the amount of my final total settlement.  The insurance adjuster from my insurance company immediately tried to minimize the magnitude of the damage to my house and contents.  Even worse, the insurance adjuster and his consultant twisted and misrepresented the first post-loss conversation I had with them.  It quickly became apparent I needed top legal counsel to serve as a filter and a buffer between me and the insurance company so I could focus on what I needed to do to…begin the process to recover from my loss. 

By training, I am an attorney (non-practicing) and I have been managing M&A and transactional legal teams in a corporate development capacity for over 20 years.  I am a sophisticated evaluator and user of law firms.   After intensely interviewing several insurance coverage firms, I selected a law firm that is widely considered to be extremely skilled in the insurance coverage sector.  Insurance coverage law is a very specialized niche and you need legal counsel that are experts in this area.  Do not use an attorney that is not an expert in insurance coverage law.  The insurance coverage law firm I worked with has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. 

Over the course of 14 months, I learned more about the insurance claims process than I could have ever wanted to know.  Insurance company “experts” that were ethically compromised were used to attempt to support the insurance company’s initial low ball offer for my settlement.  Solely due to the expertise and skill of my attorneys and their ability to deftly counter the unethical tactics of the insurance company, my final recovery was nearly 1,000% higher than the original settlement offer and I was fully paid within 14 months from the date of loss.   I am 100% certain that if I did not retain top insurance legal counsel to expertly document, package and manage my claim, my final settlement amount would have been materially lower and taken considerably longer (additional years).    

Please note….even if your home was not burned, there is likely still a tremendous amount of costly smoke damage to the house and your contents.  Smoke damage is covered by your homeowners policy and insurance companies attempt to even more aggressively minimize settlements for smoke damage.   The process of documenting, remediating, setting the scope of repair and calculating the fair value of the repair and replace damage requires an expert experienced team.  I would not attempt to navigate this process alone. 

My key learnings and recommendations…


  1. If you have a total loss over $250K (includes loss of use, dwelling and contents), it is critical to engage top insurance coverage counsel immediately…even before calling your insurance company.  Your actual total loss is likely going to be far larger than you initially think it is.   

  2. Do not hire a public adjuster.  Instead, it is critical to use a top insurance coverage law firm from the very beginning (instead of a public adjuster) because the law firm will document all interactions, communications and practices with your adjuster to establish the foundation for a bad faith claim against your insurance company if/when they attempt to force a low ball settlement.  The fear of a well-documented bad faith claim is the only leverage you have against your insurance company.  If you first attempt to use a public adjuster and then after months or years realize you cannot reach fair value for your settlement, you will have severely undermined your ability to bring a compelling bad faith claim due to not having the extensive evidence of bad faith documented. 

  3. It is likely your insurance company will use the intense emotion of the loss and damage of your home and contents to attempt to settle quickly for an amount materially below fair value.  Be careful, this is often a trap. 

  4. Once your insurance company sees that you are represented by top insurance coverage counsel, their entire approach to your claim will change in your favor

  5. Your insurance adjuster will likely try to subtly trick or manipulate you to say something that will be used against you to lower the amount of your settlement.   How do I know? It happened to me and I have heard countless other confirming stories. 

  6. Your real policy limits are likely higher than the limit numbers on the front page of your policy.  There are typically various upward escalators buried in the policy.  You need an expert to review your policy to know your true policy limits. 

  7. Video and take 100s of pics of everything before any service provider or remediation company is allowed on your property. 

  8. Do NOT have your housekeepers or non-professionals clean up anything.  Even leave the food in the refrigerator unless you are going to take pics and inventory the contents of the fridge.  If you have a substantial wine collection that was exposed to heat and intense smoke, it is likely a total loss for insurance purposes. 

  9. Do not be suckered into signing away your claim too early before you know the total value of your coverage.  Certain insurance companies that have “mobile units” on the ground now in Malibu and Will Rogers cutting checks.  They act like they are being amazing to you.  Are they?? Be sure you have an attorney review any document you sign.  Some companies are trying to get people to sign settlements quickly BEFORE they are informed about the true value of their coverage limits.  Sleazy!

  10. Get the full PDF or electronic version of your policy immediately from your agent if you do not have an electronic version already. 

  11. Assume everything you say to the adjuster from the insurance company will be twisted and used to minimize your coverage.  Every single word you say could result in either something being covered or not covered under your policy.  I strongly recommend NOT speaking to the adjuster without insurance coverage counsel present. 

  12. Do not send any reports to your adjuster or insurance company.  Have all communication go through your insurance coverage attorney to ensure attorney-client privilege applies.  

  13. Smoke damage - Do not let your insurance company have some low-end cleaning company service your house if there is smoke damage.  Consult with your own insurance counsel on a plan to get top quality industrial hygienists into the house immediately for testing first.  Your insurance company is subtly trying to destroy evidence and minimize your claim by rushing in low-end cleaning services without extensive testing and documentation first. 

  14. Make sure the insurance coverage law firm you select also does all of the claims management in-house.  Otherwise, the left hand (legal) and right hand (claims management) will not be in sync.     

  15. The amount of paperwork, expert reports, analysis, etc. likely required for your initial insurance claims package can be truly daunting.  My initial claims package binder is 3.5 inches thick!  I have a copy of my initial claims binder if anyone wants to see it.  I strongly suggest not trying to manage this process without expert counsel.  There are a million ways that you can mess up and unintentionally cause part of your loss to either not be covered at all or not get full fair value for it.  

Bottom line….  I strongly advise you not to trust your adjuster or insurance company.  I recommend retaining top insurance coverage counsel as early as possible/immediately.  I have done the research in this area and I recommend the insurance coverage law firm I used for my total loss.  I was deeply involved in my claim and the entire legal process.  I know the difference between B+/A- legal work and A+ legal work.  I believe they are outstanding attorneys. 

Also, I negotiated with the firm that represented me to take clients from the Woolsey fire on a discounted flat 10% contingency basis for all of the legal fees and all of the claims management.  Why just 10%?  This is same fee a public adjuster charges, but this law firm provides VIP concierge claims management service and will very likely achieve materially superior settlements for you more quickly.  Lastly, I have reserved capacity with 35 of their attorneys to provide immediate assistance to those that suffered fire related losses.  Whether you are interested in using the law firm I used or a different insurance coverage law firm…it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you are represented by top insurance coverage counsel.  

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

Steve Bardack

(415) 971-5555 mobile  - If I do not answer straight away, I am likely helping someone at that moment.  Please text me.

Sign up for the Next Door app to keep in touch with neighbors and stay connected. Please reach out if we can help in anyway. 


Mark Celentano 310.972.0879

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