Homeowners insurance is there to protect you in the event of damage or loss to your home. Still, most homeowners hope they’ll never have to file a claim and may be unsure of what steps to take should such an action be necessary. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance company about their procedures before it becomes necessary to file a claim, so that during a time of crisis the stress of worrying about your home won’t cause you to miss an important step in the claims process.
In the event of damage to your home or property, contact your insurance company immediately. Ask plenty of questions to ensure that you are covering all your bases. Most companies have a time frame within which you’ll need to make them aware of the damage in order for your claim to be considered legitimate. Even if you don’t think the extent of the damage exceeds your deductible, you should still contact the insurance company since additional damage or loss may be discovered at a later time. If the damage is limited and you’re concerned that your premium may go up if you file a claim, you may want to consider having an independent home inspector assess the damage for you.
Structural damage to your home may require immediate action on your part to prevent further damage due to exposure to outside elements. Take steps right away to protect exposed parts of your home and prepare a list of damaged possessions in order to be sufficiently reimbursed by the insurance company. Save receipts for anything you spend on preventing further damage, since your insurance company should cover these expenses for you. If you are unable to live in your home due to the damage incurred, save all receipts for living expenses such as hotel and restaurant bills as well.
Cases of theft should be immediately reported to the police. This will help substantiate your claim with the insurance company as well as assist the police in their investigation. Ideally, you should prepare a home inventory before any theft takes place so that you will have an adequate record of the items in your home. It’s easy to overlook smaller items if the theft has been extensive and you are relying solely on memory. One option for your home inventory is to make a video recording of each room in your home and talk through each item you want to include on your list. Then store the recording in a safe place such as a bank safe deposit box.
As soon as your claim has been reported your homeowners insurance company should send you copies of claims forms to fill out. Be sure to ask any questions you need to in order to fill out the forms properly.
There are some instances when it is best not to file a claim with your insurance company. Multiple claims within a short time period can cause your premiums to go up, so you’ll want to evaluate whether the extent of the damage or loss warrants reimbursement from your provider. If an independent assessor has indicated that the cost of repairs will not exceed your deductible, you can forego filing a claim for the incident. Damage due to negligence on your part should also not be filed as a claim to your insurance company. For instance, if you fail to treat your home for termites and later discover that they have caused extensive damage, your claim would be denied. Acts of nature, however, are considered unavoidable and will be covered, usually without an increase in your premium.
Common sense is key when considering whether or not to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company for damage or loss. Most companies are more than willing to work with you in the event of a legitimate claim, but you could hurt yourself in the long run by filing multiple claims for petty losses. When in doubt, take a step back from the situation, get an independent opinion, and then evaluate whether the claim you are considering is worth the possibility of increased premiums should a more extensive loss need to be reported at a later time.