It is a scary thought for most people—the idea of having to file a homeowners insurance claim. The hassle, the paper work and the fear that you will not receive what your policy promises has many wondering: how do I file a homeowners insurance claim? While each insurance company will have a few different rules and methods for filing the claim, there are a few simple truths, which, if you know them, will make the process go much more smoothly.
Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Be Prepared
Before getting started with the steps involved with filing a claim, you need to put yourself in a position to file a claim. This means having all your ducks in a row. You need a home inventory that is up-to-date which includes descriptions, photos and estimated values (with receipts if possible) of your personal property. Your inventory should be kept in a safe, dry place along with a copy of your policy. Also, know your policy. Read it through before making your purchase.
Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Contact Your Insurer
The first step is to contact your homeowners insurance agent as soon as possible. Many companies now offer 24-hour claims service with 1-800 numbers to expedite the process. Most policies require you to contact the company within a specified time after damages are incurred. This is where it pays to know your policy. When speaking with your insurance company or agent, make sure you ask him or her what steps the insurance provider requires. It is also a good idea to have them send you an email confirmation that you have informed them of the damages and intend to file a claim.
Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Keep Copies of Everything
If there is correspondence through email or snail mail, be sure to keep dated copies of all correspondence in case there are questions later on down the road. If a police report is filed, make sure you have copies of that as well. It is also important for you to take photos of the damage. The insurance company may want copies of these, but you should always have copies of these photos for yourself. The more information you have, the better your chances of getting your claim handled quickly and correctly.
Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Get Your Own Estimates
The home insurer will get estimates of the damages and will pay according to those estimates unless you challenge them. It is a good idea to get your own estimates of damages, multiple estimates, in addition to what the insurance company provides. In some cases the adjuster will take your estimate if it seems reasonable and is from a reliable source. However, the most important reason is to make sure you don’t get short-changed by the insurance adjuster’s estimate. You can usually get a free estimate of repairs quickly from a local person you trust—an easy thing to do that could save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Review Your Policy
Once per year you should review your homeowners insurance policy to bring it up-to-date and familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions. This will include adding or subtracting items to your personal property inventory list, any additions or renovations of your home, and increasing or decreasing your liability protection. By doing this, you will be prepared in the event you have to file a claim.
This is also a great time to compare rates. The changes you make could have an impact on your status, which could mean your current insurer is no longer offering you the best deal. It takes only about 15 minutes to get these homeowners insurance quotes, they are free and can be gotten online, which removes any excuse for not comparison shopping.