Accidents happen all the time and often there is nothing we can do to prevent them. There are many reasons to file homeowners insurance claims. They include fires, storms and other natural causes, theft, etc. In case of disaster, it is important to remain calm and focus on repairing the damage. The sooner you file homeowners insurance claims, the sooner everything will be back to normal.
Notify the police if needed
Sometimes, you have to involve the police. Burglary is one of the common reasons homeowners file insurance claims. In case of burglary, you must report it to the police immediately. Your insurance company will require a police report as evidence – it is necessary to support the claim.
Read the insurance policy
It is important to have realistic expectations. Knowing what your insurance does and does not cover prepares you for the next step. Being familiar with all the limits, exclusions, and add-on provisions means you won’t have to rely completely on what the adjuster says. It’s also possible that the insurance company has made some coverage changes you don’t know about. So, try to stay informed.
Document the damage
This is the first thing to do before you file homeowners insurance claims. Your insurance company will need proof of the damage your home has suffered. Providing sufficient information to your company can speed up the claims process.
Photos, videos and receipts
Take photos or make a recording of your home, paying special attention to the most expensive items. You do not have to take a photo of every single item you own – an overall shot of each room would be sufficient. Providing before and after pictures/videos would be very useful. Also, this proof can be used if you need to appeal, in case the company gives you a lower estimate than you think is fair.
Furthermore, you should make a list of all the items, adding when and where you bought them. If you did not save the receipts, use an estimated cost. Moreover, write down all the details of the incident in which damage was caused, including the time and date. The adjuster will need all this information to determine the size of your payout.
Contact the insurance company
Your contract requires you to report any damage to your homeowners insurance company as soon as possible. This is the first step to filing a homeowners insurance claim. Your claim will be denied unless you do it within the stated time limit. You can do it over the phone or online, depending on the company. Large companies usually have emergency hotlines available 24/7. The claims process begins after the company is notified. Bear in mind that the process takes a lot of time and preparation. It involves the following phases:
- the initial contact with the insurance company,
- an evaluation of the claim,
The necessary information for the first phase includes name, policy number, address, type of claim and the description of damage. After you contact the company, the claims department will send a claims adjuster to assess the damage and estimate the costs.
Make urgent repairs
If your home is at risk of additional damage, start making temporary repairs right away. If you make permanent repairs, the company might deny your claim. Make sure to keep the receipts for all the repairs, make copies, and present them to the insurance company. In case your home is unlivable and you need temporary accommodation, also keep all the receipts, so you can get compensation from the insurance company later. Furthermore, it is important to secure your home to make sure no one gets injured, including the third party.
Consider a public adjuster
The insurance claims adjuster your company selects needs to ask questions about the routine maintenance and the safety measures you took to protect your property before the incident. Since the adjuster is looking out for the company’s best interest, the final figure might be much lower then you hoped. Therefore, it is a good idea to hire a public adjuster whose job will be to assess the cost of the damage independently. This person will represent you if you decide to appeal. By hiring your own experts to help you through the case, including a public adjuster, you have a better chance of reaching the desired settlement. The public adjuster gets a part of your payout, provided that the appeal is successful.
Filing renters insurance claims
If you are renting a home and you have renters insurance, the filing process is pretty similar. The first thing to do is notify your landlord of any damage to your rental home. In most states, structural repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. Such repairs may include plumbing issues, leaky roofs, broken windows, etc.
Common mistakes made when you file homeowners insurance claims
- Throwing ruined things away. Do not dispose of anything before it has been properly documented. No matter how much damage an item has suffered, do not throw it away, even if it’s damaged beyond repair. These items are important evidence you can use to your advantage when you file homeowners insurance claims.
- Believing you must use the insurance company’s vendors. Hiring your own professionals instead of using theirs is not only possible but also recommendable. These include engineers, contractors, public adjusters, etc.
- Making repairs without the company’s approval. Never start any repairs until your insurance company approves them. You need to discuss the repairs and their prices with the company before making them. Remember that you should document such agreements as well – they should not be verbal only.