A lot of folks never plan to have a homeowner's insurance claim... therefore they "plan to fail" should this occur. Be prepared, follow these simple steps to get there:
1) Keep a detailed inventory of your home. Complete with serial numbers where applicable & photos of each room to "jog" your memory in the case of a loss/claim. These also serve as GREAT supporting evidence to your claims should an adjuster need them. Update this information at the least annually. Save receipts of all future purchases... especially big ticket items. These records should be kept in a very secure place. The first choice is off site storage online... see below for a great resource I have found that you can use for free home inventory and/or online storage for a low fee, the last option is a safe deposit box at your local bank.
NOTE: there are many local inventory companies that will do this for a small fortune, but I do not believe the price is worth the return.
2) Read your homeowner's policy thoroughly... know what is outlined in this contract as your responsibility. Note the obligation you have to notify the carrier if certain changes take place... for example if the home is vacant or you no longer occupy it as your principal residence. Educate yourself about your policy. If you do not understand the language, consult an expert such as an attorney that has experience in reading these contracts. Most importantly, know what it covers.
3) Study the "perils" your policy insures against. If you have a concern over a coverage that is not outlined in your policy as covered or specifically excludes this type of loss... contact your agent. If your agent cannot address your concerns then shop around to other carriers/agents for a policy that will. The probability exists that there is a policy to fit your needs, so be diligent.
4) Maintain your home properly... performing regular/bi-annual maintenance on heat/AC units. Check the AC condensation drain lines/drip pans and clear of obstructions at least once every 2 months during the warm months. Paint/weatherproof the exterior of your home BEFORE it show signs of weathering... at least every 5 years or as the paint manufacturer recommends. Clear all debris from your roof annually, keeping a watchful eye for shingle deterioration, lifted shingles, broken shingles or signs of wear that suggests the time has come to replace them. If you suspect problems, call a licensed contractor to investigate.
5) Report claims IMMEDIATELY to your insurance company. Consult with your agent... he/she is there to help.
6) After reporting the loss... you have to stop and think, "what can I do, if anything to prevent more damage/loss?" You are required under the contract to do what is "reasonable" to prevent further loss. A great example: if you have a leak in your roof that is dripping from a ceiling inside; place a tarp over the area of roof suspected. Save all receipts for materials used and log time spent... reimbursement is usually available for this expense under covered claims.
7) Before you disturb the damaged area... take photos. The adjuster may need this documentation to process and pay your claim. Provide any and all information upon request by an adjuster. Remember: adjusters are busy people too and the quicker you provide the information requested/needed, the quicker they complete their file and close it to mark off of the "to do list." Help them help you.
About the Author:
DJ Noland is a licensed insurance professional in the state of Arkansas and managing Principal of McGhee Insurance Agency of North Little Rock, AR McGhee Insurance specializes in insurance protection for Arkansas homes & homeowners. If you have a question or would like to contact, please visit his agency website http://www.mcgheeinsurance.com
Contact McGhee Insurance NLR at 501-392-0300
Link to free home inventory software: http://www.knowyourstuff.org