Tips for Making Homeowners Insurance Claims

Tips for Making Homeowners Insurance Claims

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About 1 in 20 homeowners makes an insurance claim each year — but getting reimbursed for a covered incident isn't as easy as simply filing a document.

You can boost your chances of success by preparing in advance, though. The first step is maintaining records of your property and understanding your policy's limits and exclusions. After an incident, you'll need to keep in touch with your insurance company and provide whatever they need to process the claim.

Make an itemized list for future insurance claims

When you have homeowners insurance, it's important to make an itemized list of your belongings before a disaster strikes. The list should include:

  • Anything you would need to replace after a covered incident.
  • Prices for each item.
  • The date you purchased the item.
  • Receipts if you have them.

This list will help you figure out how much you'd be able to replace if you had to make a homeowners claim.

For example, if you bought a policy with $150,000 of personal property protection but your itemized list shows you own $200,000 of property, you would know to increase your coverage in advance.

Keeping track of what you own and how much the items are worth can help you determine when you need to extend coverage. It can also help you figure out if you need to purchase endorsements.

For example, your homeowners insurance might only cover a fraction of what your engagement ring is worth if you don't have an endorsement or floater attached to it. Insurance companies typically limit coverage for special items, such as jewelry or handguns. So if you have these items, consider getting extra coverage.

Understand how to deal with insurance adjusters

When you file a claim, an insurance adjuster will evaluate your property damage and decide how much you'll receive as reimbursement. An adjuster's job is to minimize payouts for the insurance company, so be careful what you divulge to them. You should never make statements that could be taken as an admission of guilt.

For example, if a tree falls through your window, you should not tell your insurance adjuster you've been worried for a long time that the tree would fall. The adjuster could use this information as evidence that your negligence was responsible for the damage, and you would receive no payment.

But no matter what, you should always be truthful with your insurance company and the adjuster. Misrepresenting or concealing information is considered a form of insurance fraud, which could invalidate your claim and lead to legal penalties.

Document your interactions with the insurance adjuster

When you're assigned an insurance adjuster, start documenting your interactions in a journal or spreadsheet.

Tip: Every time you communicate with your adjuster or another person from the insurance company, log the date and time of your conversations, along with a brief explanation of what was said. Ask for paper or electronic copies of any reports or statements your adjuster makes.

If you're uncomfortable dealing with an insurance adjuster, it might be a good idea to hire your own insurance adjuster to assist your claims process. Public adjusters interact with your insurer's adjuster so you don't have to, and they could help you avoid any hidden pitfalls during the claims process. Public adjusters earn a percentage of your claim if it's successful.

Report and document any damage to your property

If your property is damaged and you need to file a homeowners insurance claim, here are the steps you might expect to take:

  • Contact your insurance company. Report any property damage to your insurance company right away and determine if you'll file a claim.
  • File a police report, if needed. If the damage resulted from a crime, report it to the police and ask for a copy of the police report. You'll need this document when you make the claim with your insurance company.
  • Create a log of the incident. This should include a description of the damage along with pictures.
  • Create an inventory. If you don't already have an itemized list, begin an inventory of your property by gathering any receipts or descriptions of the items you have.
  • Gather repair estimates. This information can help you estimate the cost of the property damage.
  • Update your insurance adjuster. When you're assigned an insurance adjuster, keep them in the loop during this process.

Make necessary repairs to your property

Your policy may require you to make reasonable repairs right after an incident to protect the property from future damage.

For example, let's say a tree falls through your window during a thunderstorm and rain gets in, soaking your office. It's probably not reasonable or possible for you to move the tree out of your office yourself, but you might be able to move nondamaged property from the office to another room. You also might be able to put a tarp around the broken window to stop water from coming in. If you need to hire a professional to help you clean or repair the property, save those receipts.

Keep in mind: If you don't make reasonable repairs or minimize the loss, your insurer might deny claims later on because you failed to maintain your property. But communicate with your insurance company and get approval for future projects.

Fill out homeowners claims paperwork on time

Your provider's insurance adjuster will check to make sure you meet any deadlines your policy outlines for submitting paperwork after a loss. You might have to send in:

  • A description of the loss.
  • An inventory of lost or damaged personal property.
  • Specifications for damaged structures.
  • Receipts for additional living expenses if you can't live in your house.

Failing to comply with your provider's requests can invalidate your payout. To get the most out of your homeowners insurance claim, make sure you read your policy carefully to understand your responsibilities. If you're unsure how to proceed, consider hiring a public insurance adjuster to help you.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.