How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim

Lucy Lazarony
November 3, 2020

There are a number of steps you need to make when filing a homeowners insurance claim. And it is important that you do each step correctly and as soon as possible. Delaying will only delay your claim being approved. And you want the repairs on your house to be made as soon as possible. Here are the steps you need to make to file a homeowners insurance claim.

Steps to Filing an Homeowners Insurance Claim

The first steps are reaching out to the police and your insurance professional. So don’t delay these conversations.

Report Crimes to the Police. If your home has been burglarized or vandalised, it is important to file a police report. Get a copy of the report and get the names of any law enforcement officers that you spoke to. You may need this information when you speak to your insurance company.

Contact Your Insurance Professional. Who handles your account at your insurance company? Reach out to them directly about the state of your claim. Is your claim covered? How long do you have to file a claim? Is your claim going to exceed your deductible? How long will it take to process the claim? Should you get estimates for repairs for the damages to your home? These are all questions you need to ask.

Fill out Claims Forms. If you speak to your insurance company and it is established that you are indeed making a claim, your insurance company will send you the necessary claims forms. Complete and return these claims forms without delay. You want the claims process to go as quickly and smoothly as possible. And you doing your part promptly and efficiently will move things along.

Meet with an Insurance Adjuster. Most likely your insurance company will arrange for an insurance adjuster to come out to your home to inspect the damages. An insurance adjuster is a company representative that inspects property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. An insurance inspector will both interview you and inspect the property.

Prep for an Adjuster’s Visit. Be prepared to show an insurance adjuster the full extent of damages to your home. Make a list of items damaged. Make this list as detailed as possible, painting a picture of the full extent of damages to your home. Take photos and videos of the damage to your home. Avoid throwing out damaged items until the inspector has visited.

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Do Temporary Repairs. Save receipts for what you spend on temporary repairs. You may be able to submit them for reimbursement later.

Make a List. Making a list of damaged or destroyed items can not be emphasized enough. Be as thorough as possible and give a copy of the list to the insurance adjuster when he or she visits.

Keep your Receipts. If your home is so damaged that you need to live elsewhere while repairs are being made, keep the receipts for the additional accommodations such as hotels. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for additional living expenses. But you will need to provide proof of the cost of these expenses.

Ask Questions. If any part of the claims process is not clear to you, feel free to ask questions of your insurance professional. They are there to answer your questions and help smooth the process along.

The First Check is not the Final Check. An insurance adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer an amount of money for repairs based on the terms and limits of homeowners policy. The first check that you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount and not the final payment.

On-the-Spot Settlement. If you are offered an on-the-spot settlement offer, feel free to accept the check right away. Later, if you find additional damages you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount of damages.

Separate Checks. If both the structure of your home and your personal belongings are damaged, you will receive separate checks from your insurance company for each type of damage. If your home is too damaged to live in during the repair process, you will receive a check for additional living expenses. And if you have flood insurance and your home was flooded, you will receive a separate check for flood insurance.

Some Contractors Want to be Paid Directly. Some contractors may ask you to sign something called a “direction to pay” form. This allows the insurance company to pay the contractor directly. This form is a legal document and you should read it carefully before placing your claim over to the contractor. Discuss the matter with your insurance professional. Do you really want to take yourself out of the claim process? Or would you rather stay involved?

Replace Damaged Items. To get fully reimbursed for damaged items, most insurance companies will require that you buy replacement items. Your insurance company will ask for copies of receipts as proof of purchase and then the insurance company will pay the difference between the cash value you initially received and the full cost of the replacement item of similar size and quality. You have several months to purchase these replacement items. Contact your insurance professional for details.

Total Loss Payments. If your home is a total loss where the entire house and its contents are damaged beyond repair, an insurance company will pay up to the policy limits. This means you can expect to receive a check for the home and its contents in the amount for which they were insured.

How To Create A Home Inventory

In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to recall all the possessions that you own? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you do just that. And a home inventory will help with filing home insurance claims when you are trying to determine which items in your house have been lost or damaged in a flood or other natural disaster.

Pick an easy place to start. Start somewhere that is easy to count. Try a small appliance cabinet in your kitchen. What items do you have there that you use every day? Would you miss these items if they were damaged?

List New Purchases. Another way to get started is cataloguing your most recent purchases. What items have you bought lately? Add them to your home inventory.

Describe each item. Make note of where you bought it, the make and model and how much you paid for it.

Count your clothes in general categories. For example, you have three pairs of jeans and three pairs of sneakers. Dresses would be in a different category and so would shoes. Make note of any valuable items that you have.

For appliances and electronic equipment, you’ll want to record serial numbers. So check the back and bottom of electronic equipment and appliances for these numbers.

Art, jewelry and collectibles may have increased in value and may need special coverage separate from a standard homeowners policy. Check with your insurance professional to see if you have adequate coverage for your most expensive items.

Off-site Items count as well. Any items that you have in a personal storage unit should be counted in your home inventory. These items are covered by your homeowners insurance so it makes sense to include them in your home inventory.

Use technology to make building a home inventory easier. Use a smartphone to take photos and add descriptions of items. Use a video camera or a smartphone to verbally describe each item as it is being recorded.

Need a little help? Use a home inventory app such as Sortly, Nest Egg and MyStuff. You will be organized in no time.

Add any major new purchases to your home inventory. Make a habit of adding information about the item and the receipt to your inventory. That way your home inventory stays up-to-date.

If you have a paper home inventory, you will want to place a copy of your inventory outside your home. Put it someplace safe such as a safe deposit box along with receipts. A friend’s or relative’s house is another option. You just need a safe place to store a copy of your home inventory away from your home.

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