When an issue arises or damage happens to your home, you might start thinking about filing an insurance claim! The process from start to finished repair can seem murky, with convoluted twists and turns- especially if it’s your first time filing a claim. Let us break down the home insurance claim process for you, hiring a contractor, and then what important questions to ask!
Before filing, check your policy to see if the type of damage is covered. For example, weather related issues like storm and hail damage is nearly always covered, but negligence on a homeowner’s part (like not using appropriately treated wood on your home) is not covered.
If you have questions about what is and is not covered with your policy, you can call your local insurance agent or the customer service line for your insurance company.
If leaving the damaged area untouched would worsen the problem, then it’s important to make some emergency repairs. For example, let’s imagine a giant tree limb smashes a hole in your roof. It’s better to tarp the hole to prevent rain water from coming in than to simply leave it exposed.
Save your receipts, as your insurance could cover the emergency repair cost you made while waiting for the claims process.
Even with national insurance companies, the time parameters to file a claim with your home insurance changes state to state and even town to town.
For example, in upstate S.C. you can file a claim for weather damage that happened on your property up to three years ago. Right across the border in North Carolina, you can only file a claim on damage that happened within the last year.
If you ever have an issue, even if it’s not immediately obvious or causing problems, it’s best to go ahead and file the claim immediately so you don’t accidentally go outside the allowed time limit for coverage.
“I don’t want to file a claim and cause my insurance policy payment to increase” is a common objection to filing a claim. However, it’s a little more nuanced than that.
Your insurance company will keep track of claims you’ve filed, but the claim itself doesn’t necessarily make your insurance go up. Especially if you’re not deemed a “risky homeowner.” Sure, if this is your 4th claim in a year, your insurance premium will increase. But if you only file a claim every now and then, it shouldn’t make a big impact on your bottom line. Also, not all claims are created equal. Some are guaranteed to hike your insurance premium, whereas others, like some weather related issues, have a much smaller effect.
What insurance companies assess when determining what a homeowner pays in insurance is how risky insuring a whole area is. For example, if you live in a neighborhood that frequently experiences tornados, even if you never file a claim for wind damage on your home, if all of your neighbors file one, then your insurance premium will increase anyway. And now you’re paying more money without reaping the same benefits from your home insurance that everyone else is.
Only file a claim if the cost of repairing the damage is greater than your deductible. It can be tricky to determine exactly how much a repair can cost if you’re untrained. Something might look small and cheap to fix, but actually cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. We recommend asking a local contractor to do a free inspection for your issue and give you an estimate for repair cost to help you know if it’s worth filing.
Which brings us to our next point…
-They provide free estimates before you file a claim
-They can offer helpful information to make filing a claim easier
-They can be there with you while the insurance adjuster does the inspection to represent your needs
-They have good relationships with local adjusters
-They know how to read the scope of work covered and make sure nothing was missed
-They’ll already be in the know when it’s time to begin work
After the claim is filed, your insurance company will send out an insurance adjuster to conduct the inspection. They write up the report of damage they found, send it to the company, then you’ll receive an email containing the scope of work (aka what the company will pay for), and you are free to find a company to do the repair work.
However, not all adjusters that come out are local or even work for your insurance company. Sometimes the job is contracted out, other times the adjuster is brought in from out of state. The latter case can result in justified claims being denied due to the adjuster misunderstanding local state guidelines.
So something that qualifies for coverage in South Carolina, might actually not qualify in Texas, where the adjuster is coming from. If this happens, you can always call your insurance company and ask for a reinspection. They’ll send out a new adjuster for a second opinion and inspection.
When your insurance company writes their report of the damage, deciding what they pay to cover, they’ll send over the write-up in something called a “scope” short for “scope of work.” Check out our other articles on how to read one, as it’s important to make sure you know what they’ll be covering, if anything was left out, what your deductible is, and how the payment checks are broken apart.
-What paperwork will you need from me?
-What dates do you require?
-Do I need to be home for the inspection?
-How will I be notified when the inspection is scheduled?
-What am I liable for?
-What is your scheduling timeline?
-What is the turnaround time once work begins?
-What is your quality assurance policy?
-Do you have references or examples of your work?
-How do you handle problems, should any arise?
-What is the warranty for workmanship and materials?