TEWKSBURY, MASS. (WHDH) - A Tewksbury family says they got a shocking surprise when they tried to rebuild their home after a fire. Now they want to warn you about the heartbreaking financial disaster they’re dealing with. 7’s Hank Phillippi Ryan Investigates.

Tina watched the video on her phone in horror — her home surveillance system showing her house was on fire.

“I was completely panicked,” Tina says. 

Swirling smoke filled her living room as the fire alarms shrieked! 

She could see her dog Dunkin trapped inside! 

“It was so scary. I ran out of work, and I jumped in my car. I called the Tewksbury Fire Department. 

‘Get my dog out of the house!’ That was the only thing I asked for,” Tina says. 

Firefighters rescued Dunkin.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I lost him,” Tina says. 

And they got the fire out. 

But there was so much damage, Tina’s home was gutted. “We lost everything,” she says. 

Tina and her husband had insurance and wanted to rebuild their 70-year-old home.

That’s when they got shocking news: They’d have to pay about $70,000 to bring their windows and their electrical and plumbing systems up to current building code. 

And their insurance wouldn’t cover that.

“When it was installed, it was up to code, but now it’s no longer up to code. It’s really sad,” Tina says. 

We found insurance companies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire aren’t required to pay for building code upgrades after a disaster.

Some policies do cover it. If yours doesn’t, there is special coverage you can buy, but many people don’t know about it.

“Unfortunately, we have seen situations where homeowners were not aware that they didn’t have building code coverage and were absolutely shocked when they found out that they’re not protected,” Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute says. 

That’s what happened to Tina. Now her home sits empty while she and her husband live in a hotel.

They’re still paying their mortgage and struggling to come up with the money to rebuild.  

“You work really hard for the things you have and to be comfortable and all that was taken away from us,” Tina says. 

Do you have building code coverage? It’s also called “ordinance or law coverage.”  

To find out, check your policy or call your insurance agent. If your policy doesn’t include it, you can buy that additional code coverage. If your policy does include it be sure to ask how much it covers to make sure it’s enough. Some policies only include about $10,000 in coverage, and you may need more. 

For more information: 

Massachusetts Guide to Homeowners Insurance 

Insurance Information Institute: What is homeowners insurance? 

Insurance Information Institute: Am I covered? 

Insurance Information Institute: What is covered by standard homeowners insurance? 

Insurance Information Institute: Home buyers insurance guide 

If you have a tip or story idea, email Tell7@whdh.com 

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