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Fast facts: Homeowners insurance claims as Hurricane Irene looms

Consumer Reports News: August 26, 2011 03:38 PM

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If your home happens to be in the path of Hurricane Irene here is some last-minute advice on how to file a homeowners insurance claim if damage is done.

First steps for filing a claim:

  • Make a quick list of your possessions. Ask family and friends for photos they might have of your home's interior.
  • After taking photos of the damage, do emergency mitigation: Throw a tarp over a damaged roof, for example, or dry out flooded areas with fans to prevent mold. Document your efforts and keep receipts for expenses. Get a repair or mitigation estimate from a trusted local contractor. Keep receipts for temporary living expenses.
  • Document every contact with your insurance company, including times, dates, and what was discussed. Note when an adjuster visits as well as any missed visits, unreturned phone calls, or rude behavior. You might need the notes if you have to sue.
  • If you get a payment up front for living expenses, don't sign any document that says it's your final payment. Also, don't sign any document that says that all the damage was flood-related.

For more advice, including best practices for working with an adjuster and what to do if you get the runaround, check out our report Making a claim: How to get your due.

Bear in mind that standard homeowners policies might not cover everything. For example, they don't cover flood, earthquake, sinkhole, or landslide damage. And in 18 coastal states and the District of Columbia, insurers can impose hurricane deductibles that are a percentage of the insured value of the home rather than a specific dollar amount. These typically vary from 1 percent to 5 percent of the home's insured value. So if your home is insured for $200,000 and you have a 2 percent hurricane deductible, you'll have to pay $4,000 out of pocket before your coverage kicks in.

For general information about homeowners insurance see our report, Five home-insurance trends that could affect your coverage costs.

For more information on hurricane deductibles, see the Insurance Information Institute's report, Do You Know What Your Hurricane Deductible Is?

Other tips and advice for weathering Hurricane Irene:
Irene's advancing—get out of her way and stay safe
Hurricane survival tips for your electronics
Weathering the storm: Hurricane car survival tips
How to keep your food safe if Irene knocks out your power

Maggie Shader

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