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What Happens When You Have To File A Homeowners Claim?

Monday, August 5, 2019

When disaster strikes your home, few people know where to begin when filing a homeowners insurance claim. The first step is to notify your insurance agent to start the claims and inspection process. From there, the process requires due diligence and excellent documentation on your part. Hopefully, you found time to make a thorough home inventory when you purchased homeowner’s insurance. The guide below is designed to help you navigate the claims process with less stress throughout the repair and recovery of your damaged home. 

1. Document The Damage

An essential first step is to document the damage to your home. Combine both video and photos to create an accurate picture of the destruction to your property. You are responsible for providing an inventory for the loss of your personal belongings. 

2. Review Your Insurance Deductible

It is advisable to determine if the damage exceeds the expense of your deductible. For minor restoration, you may choose to pay out-of-pocket for repairs if the material and labor costs will be less than paying the full deductible. Before making a final decision, you may need contractor bids. Taking the time to consider this option could keep your insurance rates from rising in the future. 


3. Secure Your Property

When reporting property damage, find out who is responsible for securing your property. Roof damage may need to be covered with a tarp to avoid further water damage, and a broken door may need to be secured for preventing theft.  Each insurance company will have a different procedure for this necessity, and your homeowner’s coverage may provide emergency service professionals to take care of battening down the hatches in a crisis. 

4. Document Every Detail

Filing an insurance claim is often a lengthy process. Be sure to keep a record of the contact information for every person you speak with when discussing repairs and payment. Make sure you have a claim number, the name and contact information for your insurance adjuster and the details of how payments for service will be received. 

Keep every receipt for expenses, especially if you are unable to live in your home during the repair phase.  Adjusted Living Expenses (ALE) is considered a separate cost from the home repair process. Hotels, car rental and food expenses are a part of the ALE.  Keeping track will assure a fair repayment of costs while you are absent from your home. 

5. Insurance Is A Business Transaction

Having patience in the repair process is helpful, and be aware that you are the customer — the adjuster is an employee of the insurance company. In these scenarios, the most important aspect is the safety of your loved ones. Then comes making sure the entire operation of replacement and rebuilding delivers a secure structure. If possible, plan to be on-site and meet with any professionals involved in your assessment for repairs. The adjusters are expected to save the insurance company money, so you must carefully review the paperwork to confirm value from the policy you purchased. But in general, they are fair and interested in keeping a happy, satisfied client. 

6. The Repair Process

Expect a timeline similar to a typical remodeling project. Estimates, contractor bids and obtaining replacement materials all take time. You have the right to challenge a settlement if your documentation proves the repair offer is undervalued. If your home had custom details and specialty materials, it might take additional time to find exact replacements. 


7. The Payment Process

 Who gets the check?  Your mortgage lender has a significant interest in a completed repair and may receive the payment. In other cases, an installment may go directly to the contractor, or into your pocket to be managed and disbursed. Payments may be staggered as work progresses: ALE checks may arrive quickly, while the decision between replacement cost and cash value for your belongings takes more time. These are the details you should review with your trusted insurance agent. 

No homeowner wants to go through a disaster, much less the resulting repair process. Knowing who to trust — and who to call if your home is damaged — is reassuring in a crisis. Your Independent Insurance Agent is committed to making sure you have excellent coverage to protect your most significant investment. Give us a call if you have questions or feel free to make an appointment to discuss or update your insurance needs.