Homeowner’s insurance claims, 7 tips to make submitting one quicker and easier
Whether you realize it or not, homeowners insurance is invaluable to your financial stability by providing a contract which will provide funds in the case of a catastrophic loss. Yes, there are some losses that are not covered, but the majorities of losses are routine and are covered by homeowners insurance. This article in several clear steps will provide guidance to submitting a homeowner’s insurance claim, help you understand what to expect in the process, and give you tips on how to ensure the homeowners insurance claim goes as smoothly as possible.
Take Action to prevent further damage to your home
By taking action to prevent further damage, you’ll minimize the likelihood of a more severe loss and the overall disruption to your life. Your homeowners insurance company does not need to see the tree in the middle of the house before actions are taken to remove it and tarp the roof. Whether a homeowners insurance company is involved or not with any potential claim, a tree needs to be taken off or out of a house for repairs to be completed. However, when in doubt you can always photograph the damage. That way if questions later arise during the homeowner’s claims process, you will have documentation to share. In the event the loss is not covered (flood, rot, earth quake, etc), your homeowners insurance company is not obligated to pay for any actions taken to prevent further damage. This is why it’s extremely important to know and understand your homeowners’ insurance policy and what it covers.
Have a clear understanding of the loss as it pertains to your homeowner’s insurance
By having a clear understanding of your homeowner’s insurance claim, you’ll help your claims adjuster help you. This means at first contact with the adjuster by phone, be prepared to state a clear and concise description of what occurred as well as the damage caused to your home. For your adjuster’s sake, leave out the personal notes leading up to the event, for example, what was being cooked for the family event, or what lead you to go to the basement to discover the leaky water heater. If the adjuster feels it’s relevant, they will ask. And if they don’t ask, they’re trying to respect your time by seeking only the relevant information needed to move your homeowner insurance claim forward.
Go ahead, Get estimates
Contacting a few different contractors to obtain estimates isn’t a bad idea. (Although it’s usually good to avoid the ones who knock on your door shortly after a storm or fire, and certainly don’t sign documents for major repairs with these guys before you see an estimate.) Your homeowner’s insurance adjuster will recognize a good estimate when they see it and so will you if you have more than one. If you have two or three estimates, it will give you a good idea of what to expect and what is reasonable. In that process, you’ll likely find a contractor you’ll like. Usually, one or all of the estimates will come in line with the estimate created by the homeowner’s insurance adjuster that visits your home. Again, keep in mind, the claims adjuster will be estimating for reasonable repair. If the damaged portion of the roof is only to one slope, the estimate will be for that slope or maybe a patch. Under no circumstance will an insurance company write to replace the entire roof if only one slope or a small portion is damaged. Homeowners insurance companies owe for reasonable repairs only. Paying only what’s reasonable helps keep premiums lower.
If you’re having hard time finding a contractor to estimate the job, consider that the homeowners insurance company may have contractors willing to do the job for you. Worried about the quality of the work? Put your mind at ease. These contractors have to warranty the work to get into these programs, and the good ones get a lot of work and work hard to keep all parties happy.
Treat Your Claims Adjuster Kindly and with Respect
Your homeowners insurance claims adjuster is the link to any claim. That person is attempting to be fair and expedient in resolving claims for you. They have no interest in keeping a file open any longer than needed or delaying payment to policyholders. That in mind, you’ll be more likely see your adjuster and insurance company as an ally verses an advisory. The homeowner’s insurance adjuster understands that a claim can be very stressful due to the nature of the loss, in addition to the fact that it’s new territory for most. Yet even under stress, treat you claims adjuster with respect, they do hold the purse strings after all. Refrain from snapping, yelling, or getting into heated arguments with your adjuster since this will make the claim harder to settle. If a claim is denied don’t assume the homeowners insurance company and the adjuster are trying to conspire against you. Unfortunately some claims simply are not covered under any homeowner’s insurance policies. By treating your adjuster like an ally, he or she is likely to be more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt when and if questions arise. In the end they may even overlook minor charges or upgrades that might otherwise not be covered.
Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions at any point in the process of the homeowner’s insurance claim. Understanding a homeowner’s policy and its coverage can be difficult and confusing at times. In addition, your claim rep expects you’ll ask questions. Your homeowners claim rep would much rather make sure the claim process is understood rather than get an angry or confused call later. If coverage is denied, ask clearly why in order for you to understand what is, and is not covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. It is imperative that people understand the claim process in order to prevent confusion, miss-understandings, and frustrations.
What to Expect, What Not to Expect, and What to Keep in Mind
Not all homeowner’s insurance claims require an inspection by a claim rep. If it’s a relatively small loss, say a plumbing leak that causes damage to a bathroom ceiling, your adjuster most likely can provide a fair and reasonable estimate over the phone. Estimating to do a drywall patch and to repaint a ceiling is quite common and routine. Settling routine homeowners insurance claims over the phone when reasonable allows for faster claim resolution. Also, some insurance companies have independent contractors that once coverage is confirmed, can do the repairs for you. Often times those contractors will have better warranties than your average general contractor and certainly have a known reputation for quality work. Remember, your adjuster and agent see losses on a regular basis and have a good idea of who does good work, and who does not. By allowing the adjuster to write an estimate over the phone when appropriate or send a recommend contractor to assist, the insurance company is only trying to make your homeowners insurance claim end faster and with a better outcome. If you have your own contractor in mind, just make sure a detailed estimate is provided that clearly identifies labor and material cost.
Be realistic with the value of the homeowner’s insurance claim and be mindful of what your deductible is. If your deductible is one thousand dollars, you may want to take a minute to evaluate if the damages really exceed the deductible. As a homeowners insurance claim rep, I’ve encountered more than a few claims in which we’ve played phone tag for several days only to realize no claim really needed to be submitted under the homeowner’s insurance because the loss was below the deductible.
When a homeowner’s insurance claim is the result of recent severe weather, your insurance company is trying to assist as many individuals as possible. Likely, they’re contacting those with the most severe damages first. So if the gutters are hanging down and that’s it, relax, and get an estimate while you wait to hear from your homeowner’s insurance adjuster. If the water heater leaked, replace it, and call a drying company to assist. (You’re water heater by the way, is not covered.) If the shingles are off in part due to high winds, call a roofer to tarp things in the mean time. If the house was broken into, fix the door or window, call the cops, make a list of stolen items, and start digging out the receipts and manuals for proof of ownership. Try to be patient and know that your insurance company is working as fast as it can to get to you and your homeowners insurance claim.
Keep it in perspective
Lastly, and probably most important is keeping it all in perspective during any homeowners insurance claim. Any loss is stressful, but likely your house is still intact, and you’re still alive. The house and its content can be replaced or repaired. Even a catastrophic loss will soon be in the background. The dawn will always follow even the darkest nights.
In conclusion, any homeowners insurance claim process takes time. Estimates and inventories need to be reviewed and all parties’ involved need to be contacted. By keeping a level head, having reasonable expectation, and treating your claim adjuster with respect, your homeowner’s insurance claim will likely go without a hitch.
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