When it comes to homeowners insurance claims, the average amount paid per claim is over $13,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. For everything from water damage to forest fires, homeowners depend on this income to get their property back in order after disaster strikes.
But for those whose claims are denied—or those who don’t get the payout they deserve—it often means paying that hefty repair bill out of pocket.
The last thing you want is a long battle against your insurer over your insurance Claim Denied. If you’re concerned about getting what you’re owed, here are the essential homeowner’s insurance claims tips you need to know.
1. Start With a Good Policy
This won’t help if you’re starting to consider this after a natural disaster or another incident has occurred, but picking the right policy in the first place is one of the most crucial things you can do to protect yourself. Going with a cheap policy that won’t come close to helping you recover from a major disaster won’t do you any favors.
Start by finding an insurance provider you trust, and figure out what types of insurance are sufficient for your property and the area you live in. From there, review your policy thoroughly to ensure you understand your coverage.
2. Create a Home Inventory
Again, in an ideal world, this is something you will have done before an accident or disaster happens—but it’s still worth doing after the fact.
Create an itemized list of all of your belongings in your home, including photos where relevant. Though this may seem daunting, the process is relatively simple thanks to modern technology. Make sure to keep this list updated, and store it somewhere safe—preferably backed up in the cloud.
Don’t forget about exterior items and furniture, as most policies will protect these things as well.
3. Document Everything
Here’s where you want to get granular. Document every aspect of the damage via photos as well as extensive notes. It’s always better to have captured too much evidence than too little.
Before you start cleaning, take pictures of the initial damage. Don’t forget to also follow up with additional pictures if the damage grows, like spreading cracks or buckling floorboards.
It’s also a good idea to document the conversations you have with your insurance company, witnesses, neighbors, and contractors. Capturing the details of these conversations can help you recall them later—or provide evidence if needed.
4. Show You Mean Business
After property damage has occurred, it isn’t uncommon for insurance adjusters to toss out a lowball initial offer. This is a way of seeing whether you’ll accept the low payout and move on.
Don’t forget, however, that insurance companies don’t have your best interests at heart: their job is to minimize losses and protect profits.
If you want to get the most out of your claim, show them you mean business. Know the ins and outs of your policy, familiarize yourself with the claims process, and make sure you understand what’s required of both you and your insurer under the contract.
5. Keep Things Civil
It’s true that you don’t want to allow your insurance company to steamroll you, but that doesn’t mean you should lose your temper—even if the conversations get frustrating. Refrain from shouting over the phone, and give yourself time to cool down as needed.
Showing that you’re calm and collected is a good way to ensure a friendly working relationship between you and your adjuster. It’s much easier to have your way if you prove yourself reasonable enough to work with.
6. Stop Things From Getting Worse
Some homeowners mistakenly think that it’s best not to repair any damage until an adjuster sees it, but this isn’t always the case. While you shouldn’t invest in full repairs of your home, you should do whatever is in your power to prevent ongoing issues from getting worse.
For example, letting a pipe continue to leak might mean your insurer won’t cover any damage it causes. Just make sure to save a receipt for reimbursement.
7. Examine the Damage
Before the insurance adjuster arrives, do an inspection of your home’s damage.
You know the ins and outs of your property better than anyone, and you know what your home looked like before the disaster occurred. As a result, you might notice faults or issues the adjuster might not see. Pointing these out can ensure that you get the coverage you need.
8. Get Multiple Estimates for Repairs
Your adjuster will offer an estimate, but if you don’t know how much repairs typically cost, you might accept it without thinking.
Instead, spend some time getting your own estimates from third-party contractors. If the adjuster’s offer seems low by comparison, you can use your own estimates to ask for an explanation or to demand more compensation.
Note that upgrades and downgrades when repairing can make a difference in your insurance estimate. Pandit has a great breakdown of what this means and why it matters.
9. Consider Getting a Public Claims Adjuster
If you’d rather leave the subtleties of insurance negotiations to an expert, hire a public claims adjuster. These professionals can handle the claims process on your behalf, including negotiations. They can also call in a trusted network of plumbers, electricians, and contractors to help with the repairs.
Better still, they won’t require an up-front fee, as they’ll simply take a percentage of your final settlement instead.
10. Think About Hiring a Lawyer
If your struggles with your insurance company are ongoing and you can’t get a fair settlement, it may be time to work with an expert third party. A lawyer can be a great resource in cases like this, as they’ll help you with the investigation, documentation, and negotiation process. Like a public claims adjuster, they’ll take a percentage of your compensation—but the end result may still be much more than you would have initially gotten.
Put These Homeowners Insurance Claims Tips to Use
When the time comes to report a disaster or accident, use these homeowners insurance claims tips to get the most out of your claim. Though the process may take weeks or months to play out, a little forethought and plenty of hard work will help you get the money you deserve to get your life back on track.
For more of the critical real estate tips you need to know, check out our other helpful guides.