Preparing Your Home For an Insurance Claim

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One of the reasons most commonly used by an insurance company to deny a homeowner’s insurance claim is that the damage claimed was caused by “deferred maintenance” and not from the actual storm. “Deferred maintenance” is insurance adjuster parlance and basically infers that the home was not properly maintained.

For instance, when Hurricane Ike struck in 2009, the Gulf Coast area saw winds in excess of 100 miles per hour in some places. Some homes were completely demolished in the storm. Other homes, however, were fortunate to sustain only minimal damage. Contractors and engineers alike investigated many homes to find shingles missing from roofs or water intrusion at window joints. This type of damage is not uncommon when you have extremely high winds. However, invariably, some adjusters attributed the resulting water damage to the homeowner’s failure to maintain the windows or roofing system. When this happens, a significant legal fight usually ensued.

The best way to protect yourself from accusations of “deferred maintenance” is to prepare your home for the potential for a storm. Whether you live in the Gulf Coast area that is prone to hurricanes or if you live in North Texas that is prone to tornadoes and hailstorms, it is important to take at least some minimal steps to protect your property. Hopefully you never have to file a homeowner’s insurance claim, but if you do, it is best to be prepared.

Tip 1: Check Your Roof – Do you know how old your roof is? Do you know what type of shingle you have on your roof? This is important information to know, especially in places where hail and high winds are prevalent. Knowing the age of your roof and when the shingles have reached their maximum productive lifespans will help you know when your roof needs to be replaced. This information will also help an insurance adjuster in his investigation into your damage claim. If your roof has reached maximum age, replace it.

Tip 2: Check Your Windows – In high heat, the sealant around your home’s windows can become weak or even begin to crack. If you do not address signs of cracking in your window’s sealant, your home is left vulnerable to water infiltration into the walls. One clear indicator of potential issues with your window seals is water staining around or under your windows.

Tip 3: Perform Routine Maintenance – Pick a date of the year to do a complete investigation of your entire home. Clean your gutters. Check the seals of your windows and roof. Trim your trees back from the home. Check your attic space and walls for water stains or other signs of water intrusion. And take pictures of the condition of your home. Photographs are great evidence that you can use to prove that you are someone who takes care of your property and there are no “deferred maintenance” issues. Additionally, if your pictures are time stamped, you can create a clear record of property condition for insurance claim purposes.

Tip 4: Inventory Your Possessions — When a significant weather event occurs, it is not uncommon for people to sustain water damage to their property. In the winter time, house fires can also be devastating. Reconstructing your personal possessions can prove to be an exhausting and demanding exercise. Again, photographs (and video) can prove to be very helpful to prove your ownership of certain possessions. Go through each room and make a recording of each square foot of the home.

If you do the above, you will be in a much better position to present your claim to the insurance adjuster in the event a bad situation arises. Does this mean that the insurance company will automatically pay you every cent you are owed? Of course not. There are a myriad of reasons an insurance company may dispute or deny your insurance claim. But, doing the above will certainly help make sure you have a better chance of proving your claim.

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