How to claim what's yours from homeowners insurance

house repairWith summer storms upon us and hurricane season well underway, it's a good time to think about the homeowner's insurance coverage you have and what you might need to do should you ever need it. Insurance coverage is a financial necessity should a major disaster hit, but damage caused by many smaller weather events could also trigger a claim.

For example, on my home improvement radio show, I'll frequently get calls from listeners who had a stiff storm role though and needed help fix a skylight that now leaks. If it didn't leak before the storm, my advice is to always turn towards the insurance coverage you have, as weather damage is covered.

Filing a homeowner's insurance claim however, is never a pleasant process. And frankly, I'm one who believes that all too often insurance companies design a certain level of aggravation into the process hoping to wear you down. But while you may hope you'll never need to call upon the coverage of your homeowners insurance policy, in the event that you do it is important to properly file your claim.

Attention to detail can be a challenge when you're dealing with the aftermath of an emergency, but every step you take ensures that you get the most out of the home insurance coverage you've paid for. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Take photos or video of the damaged portion of the property. Keep any pictures or tapes with the rest of your homeowners insurance claim records, including a duplicate set in case you need to provide it to investigating authorities. Do this as soon as possible after the damage has occurred.
  2. Phone your homeowners insurance company. As soon as possible, call your insurance company and open your claim. The representative will walk you through related coverage details and initiate scheduling for an adjuster inspection, fire or water damage cleanup service or restoration contractor.
  3. Make temporary repairs. Within reason and as advised by your insurance agent, make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your property. Keep related receipts on file for later reimbursement by the insurer.
  4. Inform the police. If theft, vandalism or burglary is involved, report it to the police immediately. From there, get a copy of their official report and keep records of all law enforcement officers you speak with.
  5. Make a list of all lost or damaged items. You'll need this info when you speak with your homeowner's insurance company, and if you have a written and/or photographed inventory of your home's contents to reference, all the better. Also, resist the temptation to remove any damaged belongings from the scene, as the homeowners insurance claims adjuster will need all items present for review and assessment.
  6. If you have to relocate, keep your receipts. Repair and restoration after severe property damage may require alternative accommodations for you and your family. So be sure to keep records of all additional expenses you incur, as "loss of use" is among the coverages in most homeowners insurance policies, and should be included when you file your homeowner's insurance claim.

Taking steps to prevent storm damage is always the best defense against having to ever file a claim. But if you do, attention to these details can help you get back to normal all that much faster.

Tom Kraeutler is the AOL'S Home Improvement Editor and co-author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure." He delivers home improvement ideas and tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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