A Stress-Free Homeowners Insurance Claim Process
It's our most expensive purchase. Our largest asset. And it survives almost every storm. Yet, the minute we have damage to our home, we lose our mind. We get emotional and can't see the forest for the trees. I know, I've been there. But I've learned the process, and I no longer let the home insurance claims process stress me out.
The process actually starts the minute you discover damage. And there are 3 things that should come to mind. 3 simple steps that can keep you from being stressed out.
It is very important for us to remember that claims aren't typically repaired overnight. And checks aren't written before the damage is assessed by the insurance company.
1) First and foremost, it's your duty as a policy holder to prevent further damage. Whatever it takes within reason.
Have a hole in your roof and the forecast calls for rain? Find a way to tarp it. Plug that hole the best you can. Leaving it open is neglect, and that's not a battle you want with your insurance company.
Water line to the toilet busted and your house is flooding? Shut the water off. Either behind the toilet or at the water meter. Here is a good tool to keep around the house: Water Shut-Off Key. It's used to turn the water meter line on and off.
Sometimes you can't prevent further damage. That's okay. Prevent it when you can.
2) Assess the damage, and make a few phone calls. We need to get an estimate on getting it repaired. We haven't started the insurance claim process yet. We're just assessing the damage.
Too often we jump right into making a claim and regret it afterwards. Claims cause premiums increases. We should always assess the damage before calling our homeowners insurance company.
Getting estimates is easy. Sometimes we need a referral, a specific person to call, but our insurance agent or any home builder can help finding a sub. A sub is someone who does the work. Electricians are subs. Plumbers are subs. Framers are subs. Etc. A home builder can determine what sub we need. How can I find a home builder? Ask around. Ask at church, or call a few friends. Somebody knows a home builder. Call a lumber yard. They know home builders.
Once we get the estimates, once we know the cost to repair the damage, we can determine if we want to start the homeowners insurance claim process.
3) Now is when having a relationship with your agent comes in handy. It's consulting time. We want to be able to talk with our agent about the damage, the estimates, the deductible, and the coverage in our policy without placing a claim just yet.
Let it be known to your agent - I want to talk with you about some damage, but I'm not ready to start the claims process. First I'd like your opinion.
Some agents automatically refer you to the claims department, and that's a shame. They need to listen, and help us make an informed decision. One that we won't regret. At The Gann Agency we prefer our customers call us with every single claim.
There are a few things we want to go over with our agent: nature vs. non nature claims, premium increases, and losing a loss-free credit on our homeowners policy. Calling the claims department directly will most likely not get those questions answered.
You're ready to move forward. Your ducks are in a row. Further damage has been prevented. Estimates have been obtained, and you've decided to place a claim or not.
Now, we get started repairing the damage.
I've put together a short list of how to handle the claim checks, and/or how and when to pay your subs. This is useful information, because you most likely won't get a lump sum check from the insurance company. They'll pay your some up front, and the balance once the damage has been repaired. You wouldn't want to pay your sub up front regardless. This list helps in that process.