Most people will never file an insurance claim for their home. Only 5.3% of all homeowners insurance policyholders filed a claim in 2014. The chances are slim, but everyone should understand the claims process and be able to determine if they need to file a claim in the first place.
Over the course of our research and conversations with agents, attorneys, public insurance adjusters and other professionals, these are some of the must-know tips we’ve heard most frequently.
A Little Effort Before A Claim Can Go A Long Way
No one expects to file a homeowners insurance claim, but if mortgage lenders and individuals didn’t think policies were needed then no one would buy them. Claims happen and no matter where someone lives they need to prepare as if one is inevitable. Doing so can save a policyholder a lot of headaches and money.
Professionals across the insurance industry stress one thing in particular that homeowners need to do: Prepare a detailed list of personal belongings and their value.
Taking an inventory of personal property does two things. First, it ensures that a policyholder doesn’t forget anything that might be covered and can be lost. Second, it helps when negotiating a payout for a claim. Insurers don’t simply write checks for the claim requested. They pay as little as someone asks and if there is any ambiguity in the claim, they pay the least amount possible while still making a policyholder whole.
It might sound silly but, depending on the number of items someone owns and the degree of the loss, a policyholder could easily forget things.
Most people won’t forget that they had a television in their living room and two end tables. People forget small things and small things add up. Some DVD’s on a shelf, a tablet computer in a drawer and an antique picture frame in the hallway can easily slip someone’s mind.
Ideally, a full, written inventory describing each item and what it would cost to replace it is best. Walking around a home and taking a video of every belonging is better than nothing, though, and will do the trick.
Not doing anything is ill-advised. Without those details, a policyholder weakens their case to their insurance company to pay any claim they submit. There’s no sense in paying an annual homeowners insurance premium ($952 on average in the U.S.) and not getting the appropriate payout if you need to file a claim.
The Larger The Loss, The More You Probably Need A Public Adjuster
Insurance companies would likely tell a policyholder the opposite, but everyone else agrees that when filing a large loss it’s a good idea to seek help from a public insurance adjuster.
Public insurance adjusters evaluate property losses, file insurance claims and negotiate with carriers on behalf of policyholders. In many cases, hiring one might not be necessary.
For example, if a policyholder is filing a claim for an knows the value of only one or two items.
Larger, more complicated claims – especially those involving structural damages – probably require the help of a public adjuster.
Public adjusters are experts in policy language and details, as well as filing and adjusting claims. They frequently are able to negotiate a higher payout for a claim, in part because they have resources like claim calculating software and a much better understanding of costs. For example, many homeowners fail to include the cost of any necessary demolition and debris removal from their claim. Public adjusters don’t make slip-ups like that.
Review The Terms Of Your Insurance Every Single Year
The cost of homeowners and renters insurance can change each year and if someone’s premium goes up substantially, it might prompt them to shop for a new policy. They should do that – they might be able to save money – but they should do that every year.
Too many policyholders assume that because the cost of their premium hasn’t changed, that they their coverage hasn’t changed. In reality, insurance companies are constantly making changes to the language of their policies and even a small change could make a significant difference.
For example, an insurer might begin to exclude claims resulting from a certain type of dog or pet that a policyholder has. It’s possible the policyholder might simply renew their policy, unaware of the change, and leave him or herself at risk.
A change some insurance companies have recently made to policies is to exclude damage to some housing materials that they consider “cosmetic.” For example, some insurers have altered language to deny claims for metal roofing damaged by hail, arguing that the dents to the roof are cosmetic and do not hinder the roofs effectiveness.
The article Homeowners Insurance Advice Echoed By Professionals originally appeared on ValuePenguin.
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