7 Homeowners Insurance Claim Tips
- 7 Homeowners Insurance Claim Tips
Having homeowners insurance is a security blanket. It’s nice to know that in the event of a disaster, you have the coverage you need to replace or repair the damaged elements of your home or personal property.
If you’re filing an insurance claim, you’ve probably already got a lot to deal with. You want the claims process to help you, not hurt you. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make the process go smoothly and be resolved as quickly as possible.
These seven homeowners insurance tips will show you how to get the most from an insurance claim, and even help you avoid some common issues that lead to home insurance claims before they happen.
Homeowners Insurance Claim Tips
The average home insurance claim for most Americans is roughly $13,000, and you have nearly 1-in-15 odds of having to file a homeowners insurance claim every year.
Your homeowners policy will cover certain types of damage, but only after you’ve paid out your deductible, gone through the process with your adjuster, and waited for the repairs or a resolution. Here are seven homeowners insurance tips to help with the process.
1. Invest in a Security System and Smoke Alarms
Given the expense and the reality that even with the support of your insurance policy, not everything you own is completely replaceable. It’s always better to avoid perils that lead to claims wherever possible. One of the scariest claims you might have to file is due to burglary and theft.
Investing in a home security system can give you peace of mind and added security at the same time. It may also qualify you for a discount on your homeowners insurance premium.
Also, maintain working smoke detectors and replace the batteries regularly. This could prevent a house fire in the first place. Also, if it’s discovered that you had smoke detectors with no batteries in them after you file a claim for fire damage, this would complicate your reimbursement. It might seem simple, but the importance of smoke detectors can’t be overstated.
2. Stay on Top of Home Maintenance
This may not sound like a tip per se, but it’s one of the most important things homeowners can do to protect their property.
For instance, avoiding water damage by installing leak-detecting sensors and having your house’s HVAC and wiring systems inspected routinely can save you from costly home repairs and potential insurance claims.
Plus, some expenses won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance policy if the insurance company determines an issue with your home was due to negligence.
Some instances where the question of negligence may come into play include snow damage on your roof, burst or leaky pipes, or electrical fires. All of these involve some aspect of preventative maintenance, and performing this maintenance can stop issues for homeowners that result in insurance claims.
3. Perform a Wind Mitigation Inspection
In addition to expected home maintenance, you may want to be proactive in protecting your home if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes or tornadoes. Getting a wind mitigation inspection on your home will inform you what you can further do to safeguard it from strong winds, and it may qualify you for discounts on your premiums.
When getting a wind mitigation inspection, a certified inspector will check parts of your home, like the doors, windows, and many aspects of your roof, and assess how they would stand up to strong winds. If it’s determined that your home can brace for storms especially well, you can qualify for wind mitigation discounts with your insurer. Some states require insurance companies by law to reward homeowners who have wind-resistant homes.
If you don’t pass the inspection, the inspector can recommend ways to improve your home’s durability and safety. Your premiums don’t go up if you fail, either.
You can’t control the wind or the rain, but you can take care of your home to make sure unexpected storms or weather surges don’t leave you in the dust. Fortifying your home could prevent you from filing claims for wind damage.
4. Understand Your Coverage
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many policyholders don’t fully understand the aspects of their coverage. Read through your policy so you know what damage is covered and what’s excluded. Understand your policy limits and deductible, and recognize how you’ll be paid out after a claim (actual cash value vs. replacement cost).
If you’ve incurred damage that’s only slightly more than your deductible, it might not be worth it to file a claim. Home insurance claims can raise your premiums.
For instance, let’s say you’ve got a $2,500 deductible, and a tree crashed through your patio and caused $3,500 worth of damage. Even though the damage might be covered under your plan, you may want to hold off on filing a claim and shoulder the costs yourself. Even if your insurer pays for the damage, which would only be about $1,000 after you pay your deductible, they may raise your rate more than $500 after your policy is renewed since you now present a greater financial risk.
Additionally, be aware of your policy’s sub-limits so you know if you need to invest in additional coverage. Many providers will protect your jewelry or art as part of your personal property coverage, but they’ll provide monetary limits as to how much they’ll pay out for individual pieces.
For example, if you’ve got a $10,000 watch, and your policy only has a $5,000 limit for jewelry, you may want to get scheduled personal property coverage. Knowing your policy limits will help you determine if you need extra endorsements or riders.
5. Document Damage Thoroughly
If you’ve determined that you’ve sustained enough damage to file a claim, be sure to document the damage to your property thoroughly. The more information you provide to the insurance company, the better your odds of a smooth claims process.
Keeping a home inventory list so you know what possessions you own and how much they cost is very helpful. This way, if your things are damaged or stolen, you can consult the list to inform the adjuster how much each item was worth. Keeping receipts for big-budget or unique items can be helpful as well. If something gets damaged as part of your claim, keep it to show the adjuster instead of throwing it out.
Also, take as many photos and videos of the damage to your home as you can. The more, the better. In the case of a burglary or vandalism, contact the police and get a hold of the police report, as your insurance company may need it. This is all evidence for the insurer that can and will help with your claim.
If you’ve experienced property damage, you may also want to consult local professionals or contractors on repair estimates. This can give you an idea of the payout to expect from your provider.
Right after your house has sustained damage, take the necessary steps to prevent additional damage, but don’t begin any major repairs before consulting your insurance company.
For example, if a tree falls through your roof and creates a hole, you probably want to cover the opening with a tarp or move your furniture out from under the hole to prevent water damage from rain that could come through the opening. But don’t start fixing your roof itself before your insurance company gets involved.
6. Communicate Cordially and Extensively With Your Adjuster
After you file a claim, your insurance company should send an adjuster out to assess the damage in person. While you may be frazzled after you experience significant home damage, it’s best to be cordial and cooperative with your adjuster. This person is the main link between you and your insurance company during the claims process.
Be helpful when you can. Providing as much information as you can as quickly as you can will help the claim go faster. This is also why it’s important to document all damage. Also, be truthful with your adjuster. Falsifying or withholding information can be grounds to deny your claim, and you could be committing fraud.
Ask questions when you don’t understand something, too. Your adjuster must be honest with you, just as you should be honest with them. You probably want to fully understand the thinking behind their decisions about your home repairs.
7. Have The Right Policy
Getting the most out of your home insurance claim means having a policy that works for you, not against you. Even if you do everything right and avoid having to file a claim with your homeowners policy this year, you could still be overpaying for coverage.
As with all of your insurance policies, it’s worth checking every year to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Most people set their insurance policies and forget about them until they need them. If you’re savvy, you could save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars by checking what’s available in your market and making a switch.
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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.