Being hyper-organized comes in handy sometimes, especially with homeowners insurance claims
If you've experienced some damage to your home, the first thing you need to do is file a homeowners insurance claim. The claims process can be confusing and frustrating, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself. Here are 12 tips for itemizing your damage for a homeowners claim.
1. Make a List and Take Photos
This may seem obvious, but the first thing you should do is go around your home and assess the damage, making a list of everything. If you're unsure whether your policy covers the item, put it on the list; you can verify coverage later. If you have flood damage, put together a flood remediation checklist. Take photographs of everything from all angles and in different lighting, if necessary. It's better to have too much information than not enough.
2. Stay Organized
Organization is vital when keeping track of a homeowners insurance claim, especially if you have many items that need to be repaired or replaced. Make a binder or keep a spreadsheet with everything to track, such as:
The date of purchase
What you paid
Receipts are like gold in insurance claims because they back up the value of your belongings. So if you don't have a receipt filing system for valuable items in your home, start one now. Keep track of all interactions with your insurance company throughout the claims process—dates of phone calls or visits, who you spoke to, and notes on what was covered.
3. File Your Claim Immediately
The faster you file the claim, the quicker you'll (hopefully) get the funds you need for repairs. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the incident, whether via phone or online. If there was a storm in your area and you're filing a hail damage claim, the odds are that neighbors in your area are filing as well, which will help your case. There's a chance that your insurance company will be skeptical if you wait too long, so the sooner you can file, the better.
4. File a Police Report, Too
If your home damage results from vandalism or theft, filing a police report is an essential step. Get a copy of the police report and take notes on who you spoke to and any officers who came to inspect your property. Your insurance company will likely ask for a copy of the police report.
5. Don't Rush the Process
While it may be tempting to rush through your inspection to get the reimbursement process started as quickly as possible, taking your time is essential. Also, take your time with the process—research any terms you don't understand, ask for explanations, and ask for help from friends and family. After a big claim, it takes time for the insurance company to do its calculations. You'd rather have them be accurate than quickly take a smaller check.
6. Make Temporary Repairs
With some insurance claims, you can wait until the company issues payment before making repairs. For others—like a roofing insurance claim—you may need to have some repairs done so your home doesn't incur more damage. Additionally, if you don't make temporary repairs and more damage happens, your insurance company may deny the additional damage because you didn't put measures in place to stop it.
7. Save Those Receipts
If you make any temporary repairs to your home between the time the damage occurs and the insurance company issues payment, save all of your receipts. You can submit them to the company for reimbursement as part of your claim.
8. Know What Your Policy Does and Doesn't Cover
Industry terms and jargon often dominate insurance policies, which can be challenging. But it's crucial to understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover. You may have contractual obligations outlined in the policy, such as deadlines for submitting receipts. If there's something in the policy you don't understand, ask your agent or a knowledgeable friend to explain it.
9. Be Polite—But Stand Your Ground
Stay in constant contact with your adjuster and be your own advocate. Insurance adjusters have a duty to protect the insurance company's interests, and unfortunately, those interests can conflict with yours sometimes.
If you're having trouble handling the situation on your own, you can enlist the help of a public insurance adjuster. They’re experts who’ll manage your claim process and advocate on your behalf. Public insurance adjusters usually charge around 15% of your settlement amount, but some states have a lower cap.
10. Get Several Repair Quotes
As with any home improvement project, get quotes from several pros on what your repairs will cost to prepare for what you'll eventually pay. When your insurance adjuster gives you an estimate for the repair cost, it should be in the mid to high range of your repair quotes. If not, negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you get a fair amount.
11. Re-Review Your Policy
If your company denies your claim or even part of your claim, do another review of your policy and see if you can appeal the denial. A first denial doesn't mean the insurance company won't issue a settlement; it may just mean it didn't have the necessary details or paperwork to pay the claim.
12. Track Your Living Expenses
Did you know that your policy may cover hotel expenses if your home is too damaged to live in? Most standard homeowners insurance policies have a loss-of-use coverage clause covering either part or full expenses if you and your family are displaced. Keep all of your receipts from hotel stays, meals, and other costs so you can submit them to your insurance company.