How to Navigate the Homeowners Insurance Claims Process

David Deem

If your house gets damaged by a covered peril and the cost of repairs is significantly higher than your deductible, you will most likely decide to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. Before you do so, it’s important to know what to expect and how to handle each step.

Understand Your Coverage
Before you submit a claim, read through your insurance policy to make sure that your loss will be covered. Pay attention to the list of exclusions. If your home was damaged by something that is specifically excluded, your claim will be denied. The insurance company may also refuse to pay if the damage was caused or made worse by lack of maintenance.

Make sure that you know if you’re covered for replacement cost or actual cash value, and that you understand the difference. Check your policy for additional coverage, like other accommodations, for example, if your home is uninhabitable.

Report Damage to the Insurance Company
If the damage to your home is serious and you decide to file a claim, get in touch with your homeowners insurance company as soon as possible. A representative will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. 

For instance, the company may ask you to take photos and/or videos to document the damage, but may instruct you not to have any repairs made and not to throw away any damaged belongings until an insurance adjuster conducts an inspection. The insurance company, however, may ask you to take steps to prevent further damage, such as covering a hole in the roof with a tarp. A representative can also explain how to get an estimate and submit it to the insurance company.

Keep Detailed Records
Get your claim number and the adjuster’s name and contact information. Every time you contact the insurance company, document it. Record the date and time of the communication, the person you spoke to, left a message for or emailed, and what was discussed in every conversation. Those notes may be helpful if there is a dispute or misunderstanding at any point in the process.

Provide Necessary Information, But Don’t Share too Much
Answer any questions honestly, but don’t volunteer information that isn’t requested. An insurance company is in business to earn a profit. The less it pays out in claims, the more money it will keep. Watch what you say and how you say it so you don’t give the company a reason to pay out less than you’re entitled to or to deny your claim altogether.

Get the Compensation You Deserve
You don’t have to accept the insurance company’s first offer. If you disagree with the amount, or if the insurer refuses to pay for something that you believe should be covered, you have the right to appeal the decision. You also have the right to seek help from a public insurance adjuster or an attorney.



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