Proactive Steps to Help Simplify a Property Claim

No one likes to experience home damage – it can be traumatic and costly, and it can even disrupt your entire life. But, when you do, isn’t it nice to know you have home insurance to help with the covered expenses and repairs?

Now, when it comes to taking advantage of your insurance benefits and filing a home insurance claim, are there certain things you can do to help things go more smoothly? There certainly are.

Here are my five suggested dos and don’ts for filing a homeowners insurance claim:

  1. Do call your insurance agent or insurance carrier right away.
    Of course, you’ll want to make sure you and your family are in a safe place first. And, do what you safely and reasonably can to minimize more damage. But, always call your insurance company to report the damage as soon as possible. Call your insurer before you call a contractor to start repairs.
  2. Do take pictures.
    Be careful here. While you want to document the damage to your home, from different angles if possible, you don’t want to expose yourself to harm. So, only if it’s safe to do so, take several pictures of the damage, as well as the root cause. You can share these photos with your claims adjuster.
  3. Don’t assign your benefits to a contractor.
    Contractors may ask you to sign a form called Assignment of Benefits (AOB). It gives them full authority over the claims process, including ownership of any payments from your carrier. Here’s the danger: Disreputable contractors have been known to collect payment without actually finishing the job. So, how do you find a reputable contractor? Most carriers have agreements in place with contractors, such as water restoration companies, building contractors, roofers, painters, etc., that have proven to be trustworthy and efficient. Ask for a recommendation in your area.
  4. Don’t throw out receipts.
    Need to spend the night in a hotel because you’re not sure if your home is safe? Need to pick up a few things at the home improvement store to help keep the damage from spreading? Save the receipts for any expenses related to the incident that damaged your home. Your policy may provide coverage for them.
  5. Do have an updated home inventory on hand.
    Theft, fires, fallen trees – many covered incidents impact both your home and your belongings. When it happens, be ready to tell your insurer what items were impacted and how much they were worth. If you had previously invested some time in creating a home inventory, an itemized list of your belongings and their value, you can simply provide those details to your carrier. Otherwise, you may be relying on guesswork.

Of course, you never know when you may find yourself facing home damage that falls outside the scope of your policy. In these cases, you’ll likely be footing the bill rather than filing a claim. Examples of such situations can include losses that cost less than your deductible, as well as incidents that your policy just doesn’t cover, such as flooding and earthquakes.

My suggestion is to have a self-insurance fund set aside for just such occasions. It will also come in handy if you need to cover any expenses, such as temporary repairs, before receiving the check from your insurer.

As an independent insurance agent, I always want the most efficient claims process possible for my clients. And, my clients want that, too. By following my suggested dos and don’ts above, you can help set yourself up for a smooth claims experience, as well.

Some claims are bound to be more complicated than others, and there’s no guarantee everything will go off without a hitch. But, it never hurts to be proactive. Though, if at any time you feel these suggestions just don’t make sense for you, please do what you feel is best for the situation, your family and your property.

This post was originally authored by Shaun Murphy as part of a series of insurance blogs on Safeco.com showcasing the expertise of independent insurance agents and aimed at helping you understand important insurance coverages and issues. Image credit Safeco.com.

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