If your home suffers serious damage due to a storm, a fire or another cause, your natural inclination may be to start cleaning up as quickly as possible. While it may seem logical to start fixing your home to make it livable again and to dispose of damaged or ruined belongings, that may make it difficult to get your homeowners insurance claim approved.
Your Homeowners Insurance Company Will Need to Inspect and Document the Damage
If you file a claim and ask your insurer to pay for repairs to your home and to replace damaged possessions, the company will have to make sure that your claim is legitimate. To do that, it will send an adjuster to your house to survey the damage and take photographs.
Your homeowners insurance policy will cover some types of damage and will exclude others based on their cause. For example, a policy may cover roof damage caused by a storm, but it will deny a claim for damage that was a result of neglected maintenance. An insurance adjuster will have to conduct an inspection to pinpoint the source of the damage and figure out if it’s covered. That may not be possible if you start cleaning up and making repairs before the adjuster arrives.
It can be difficult for an insurance adjuster to assess the scope and severity of the damage if you begin to remove debris and make repairs right away. If you discard items that got damaged, the insurance company will have no way to verify that they were damaged, or that you even owned them at all. The company may therefore refuse to pay to replace them.
If you attempt to clean things up yourself without using the right equipment and following appropriate procedures, you may inadvertently make the situation worse. Your insurance company may then decide to deny your claim.
What You Should Do After Your House is Damaged
Get in touch with your homeowners insurance company as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Ask a representative what you should and shouldn’t do so you don’t take actions that could cause your claim to be denied.
You have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your home, but you should hold off on making large-scale repairs. If your roof is damaged, for instance, the insurance company may want you to cover it with a tarp to prevent water damage to the interior of the house but tell you not to have a contractor begin making repairs until after an adjuster has documented the damage.
The insurance company will likely instruct you to hold on to any damaged belongings so they can be inspected and to keep any receipts you have for those items. The insurer may need them to determine the value of those belongings. Don’t throw anything away until the insurance company explicitly tells you that it’s ok to do so.