Sometimes bad things happen to good people...and houses. That’s when you pick up the phone and call your insurance company to make a claim, right? Well, maybe. Home insurance claims can do more financial harm than good depending on the amount of damage to a home. Always contact your home insurance agent or broker for consultation on the damage, but recognize that with some claims come higher premiums. Follow this expert advice to best assess your situation, your home insurance coverage, and decide if making a home insurance claim is in your best interest.
Take picture of the damage so you have your own record of what happened. See if there are any other damaged areas and document those, too. Make sure that whatever is damaged does not get worse.
This means cover the hole with a tarp, wipe up the water, board up the window. The goal is to make sure the problem does not get worse. If you need to purchase additional materials to do this, the cost is typically reimbursed by the insurance company.
Insurance is there to help you if you suffer a catastrophic loss. Call your agent for their opinion in the matter. They have the experience dealing with the company to let you know what to expect. The agent can even report the claim on your behalf and, based on the type of claim, can advise you on whether putting a claim in could help or hurt you. By hurt you, I mean non-renew your policy. The magic number for cancellation for “excessive” claims can be between 2 and 3 claims within a 3 year period.
Do you have replacement coverage on your contents? Is your home insured to replacement (not market) value? Do you have sewer water/backup coverage? These are all things that you should discuss with your insurance provider well before you need to make a claim, but check your coverage again after a damage or accident to refresh your memory on your coverage.
If you have decided to report the claim, find out how much it will be to get your home repaired. Three estimates is still a good rule of thumb. You want to have these handy when your adjuster comes to assess the damage to your home. You may be able to negotiate a bit after the adjuster calculates everything and puts it in writing in their report. They will not pay out more than the coverage on your policy.
To make sure you receive what you deserve, provide documentation of the damaged property and items, and any lost items. If you have replacement cost coverage, this will ensure you do actually receive the replacement cost. Documentation should be in the form of receipts (especially for lost items) or clear photos taken as soon as possible after the damage is discovered.
This is not your chance to get back the premiums you paid to the company. Insurance fraud is one of the things that cause premiums to increase in the first place. Honestly answer the questions asked of you and don’t inflate the loss.
Maybe you put in a pool, added in the ½ bath you always wanted, or turned the carport into a garage. All these things add value to your home. If you have made structural changes to your home, you may need to re-asses your coverage. It’s always best to do this before you need the additional coverage.
The first 2-4 (sometimes 6) pages of the policy renewal pertain specifically to you and your house. Read it over, and if you are not sure you have the right coverage, call your agent. In fact, your insurance agent should at least call you once a year to discuss your policy and coverage. They should also talk to you about any changes that may have occurred in the past year that may indicate if a change in coverage should be made.
Insurance is there for catastrophic loss. With that in mind, consider raising your deductible to $1000 or $2500. Your premiums will most likely be lower and you will think twice before calling to put in a claim. Your home insurance is not a home maintenance service. It is there to make you whole if you suffer a large loss. With that in mind, it makes sense to have a higher deductible.
In the event of major damage to your home property, always take quality photos and documentation of the damage. Also put up a secure covering over the damage to ensure minimal-to-no further damage occurs. From there, consult your insurance agent or broker to decide if a claim is worth it for you.
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Photo Credits: Burning House © Images_of_Money - Flickr.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com