The best time to learn about the home insurance claims process is not at the time of loss. Knowing what to do after a loss can make filing a home insurance claim much less stressful, and preparing ahead of time can help homeowners avoid potential claims issues, and ensure they receive an adequate payout.
Before filing a claim, review your policy to verify your deductible amount, and consider if it is worth filing the claim. Many experts suggest not filing a claim unless the damage is 3-5 times the deductible amount. If the damage is more than your deductible and you decide to file a claim, here are some tips to help you in the process.
Maintain an inventory of household items
In order to receive a fair payout for damage to your home or belongings, keep a list of what you own, especially the more valuable items, including their value, even if it’s only an estimate. Taking pictures or videos while describing the items would also work. We suggest that you keep a physical and digital copy, so sending it to your email will make it easily accessible from anywhere.
It is critical to understand what your policy covers and what is excluded. You don’t want to have to rely on what a claims adjuster tells you, especially when they’re the one cutting the check for the loss. A standard home policy will not provide coverage for Flood or Earthquake, and certain items like jewelry, fine arts, and collectibles have special limits of coverage.
Make Temporary Repairs and Quickly Document Damage
Take pictures of the damage as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you have pictures from prior to the damage it can be helpful in determining the value of the items damaged. If there are holes in the roof or windows are broken, cover them quickly to prevent further damage. DO NOT throw out damaged furniture or any other expensive items until after the adjuster has seen them.
Contact your Agent Right Away
After suffering a loss that you will be filing a claim form, contact your agent to get the claims process started. If you can’t reach your agent, most home insurance carriers have the option to call in or file a claim online directly with them. If your home is inhabitable, you may also have coverage for living expenses incurred due to the loss.
Be Prepared to Negotiate
Once the damage is assessed and a payout determined, if it seems too low, be ready to negotiate with your adjuster. You want to ask the adjuster to show you the contract language that justifies the proposed amount, and if you’re still dissatisfied you can hire a public adjuster to help in the process. Typically a public adjuster charges 10% of the settlement amount paid by the customer.
Watch Out For Scams
After a loss, many homeowners are anxious to get the repairs started, and fall victim to contractors that overcharge for repairs. Many times they will require large cash deposits or have you sign a contract that is not in your best interest. Use a reputable contractor and don’t be rushed into anything!
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