Having property damage is no fun… zero, zilch, nada. In fact it sucks! For most Americans, our home is the biggest investment of our lifetime. And it isn’t only a financial investment, it is the emotional investment as well. To see your home damaged is difficult, don’t compound the distress by making costly insurance mistakes. Let’s learn how to protect this important asset by learning how to properly file a homeowner’s insurance claim for water damage.
The most common type of homeowner’s insurance claims are for water damage. Most homeowners, however, are not well prepared and don’t even know where to begin when filing an insurance claim. A homeowner must inform themselves on their rights under the policy.
First Review Your Homeowners Policy
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage? There is some subjectivity from company to company and between individual policies within companies. You may or may not have coverage for:
- Sewer or drain backup
- Water damage from a heating or air conditioning system
- Mold remediation
- Restoration of water-damaged furnishings, electronics and personal items
- Living expenses if you need to move to temporary lodgings during the repair works; etc.
Sit down with your insurance agent and review your existing policy. Your agent will be able to educate you on the particulars of your policy. This will eliminate any surprises if the unfortunate incident occurs and gives you an opportunity to beef up the coverages if you spy any weaknesses. Please be aware of the amount of your deductible!
The DOs of Filing a Water Damage Insurance Claim
- Do Prevent Additional Damage and Secure Your Valuables – Safety first! Take care of your family and then prevent additional damage to your home. Board up any broken doors or windows, tarp holes in the roof, turn off the water supply, remove excessive water, etc. Also, take your surviving valuables to a safe and dry place to keep them in good condition. Your peace of mind is very import.
- Do Notify your Insurance Company – Inform the insurance company the details of the event. They will get the process moving. Make sure to take care of all their requests…dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”! Develop a point of contact with the company. When possible get a direct phone number of the claims personnel, claims adjuster or even your insurance agent. Whoever the point of contact ends up being, remember you have the right to communicate with them. Make sure that they clarify the process for you and give you a timeline.
- Do Record Proof of Water Damage – Create an evidence trail of the damage for insurance claim, take pictures and videos of your damaged property. With changes in the insurance industry, it is possible the claim will be 100% handled with photos. In other situations (dependent on the particular insurance company) an adjuster will be involved. Initially, nothing is to be discarded. and preserve any broken parts that may have caused or allowed water damage to take place – this way, you will have indisputable evidence for your insurance claims. Have in mind that nothing should be thrown away and the scene should not be altered (as much as possible) until an adjuster comes to inspect the property.
- Do Create an Inventory of your Damaged Possessions – Speaking of “no fun” it is important, albeit painful, to create a detailed inventory of damaged items that includes:
- Make and model
- Age and pre-event condition
- Replacement cost
- Actual cost of item
This seems like a lot of work (and it is!) but it is well worth the effort to make sure that you receive all the funds that you deserve. Keep in mind, that the replacement cost is different from the market value of your items. Your insurance company will only pay for the estimated cost of repairs, minus depreciation (a decrease in value due to wear and tear or age).
- Do Complete all Insurance Claim Forms – The paperwork may seem overwhelming and sometimes seem duplicative but always fill out the requested insurance forms. You don’t want your claim denied or delayed with a technicality.
- Do Keep a File of Information – Keep all information regarding the claim such as invoices, insurance company correspondence, log of conversations and even handwritten notes in one central location. This will decrease the stress and headaches when a question or verification is required.
The DON’Ts of Filing and Insurance Claim for Water Damage
- Don’t Throw Anything Away – Evidence is vital in the insurance claim process. Most homeowners insurance policies indicate that the damaged property should be available for inspection at any time throughout the claim process. This includes credit card statements, receipts and bank statements regarding your loss. You risk having your claim denied if you discard documentation too early.
- Don’t Make Permanent Repairs before You Have Approval from Your Insurance Company – Large insurance claims, unfortunately, take a long time to settle. This process almost always involve a lot of negotiation, so it is best to remain patient and let the process work its course. Again, you can make emergency repairs to protect your home from further damage. Always, always keep the receipts!
- Don’t Use the Insurance Company Vendors if You Have Preferable Options – Your insurance company may give you a list of contractors and cleaning vendors they have experience with. You are not obligated to use their vendors. If you have found a better equipped, more reliable and more experienced restoration and cleaning company you have the power and the right to use them. The better educated you are the better your decisions. Make sure to research your options, ask for recommendation and get estimates.
- Don’t Have the Insurance Company Direct Pay Contractors – It may seem simpler but you lose control. If the contractor has not completed the project to your expectations, you will want to maintain the leverage of the the final payment.
The water damage insurance claim process does not need to be overly complicated, but it does require doing some prep work, being organized and communicating with your insurance company. I can’t promise that the claim process will be completely painless If you follow my “Do and Don’ts” but if you follow the simple steps the process will go more smoothly and you will receive fair compensation for your loss.