Homeowners and renters insurance can help you replace your possessions after a loss, but only if you file a claim in a timely and complete manner. Use these tips to get started.
1. Report the incident to authorities. For a burglary, vandalism, fire or other trauma, this is a vital first step. Leaky roofs, malfunctioning HVAC systems, etc. aren’t typically reasons to contact the police or fire department. If police and fire are dispatched to your residence, give them all the details of the event. Keep copies of their reports – you’ll need them when filing your insurance claim.
2. Call your insurance company. After you file a police or fire report, contact your insurance agent or company’s claims department. Your policy probably requires you to do so within a certain amount of time after the loss. When you call, have all of the details of the incident, plus your policy number.
3. Complete a claims form with your agent. This form includes all the details of the incident. Be thorough – note what was damaged, when and how. For smaller claims, filing a claims report should suffice. For larger losses, your agent may send an adjuster to inspect the damage.
4. Document the damages. Before you begin cleanup, photograph or record the damage and include the images with your claim. It’s a good idea to visually document your home and belongings before a loss, so you have “before” and “after” images when filing a claim.
5. Make temporary repairs so your home is safe and livable. While you’re waiting for your claim to be processed, you may make temporary repairs. But review your policy for guidelines about what’s covered and be sure to save your repair receipts. Don’t start permanent, major repairs or renovations until your claim is complete and your compensation is confirmed.
6. If you have to move temporarily, save your receipts. If the damage to your residence is so extensive that you must relocate for a while, your policy may help cover those costs. Save hotel and restaurant receipts – and discuss with your agent how to submit them for reimbursement.
7. Make yourself available. Be reachable and ready to talk with your insurance agent and claims adjuster after you file a claim. The faster you can answer questions and provide necessary information, the faster your claim can be processed.