Owning and maintaining a home is one of the largest financial responsibilities you will ever have. If it has been awhile since you have looked at your homeowners insurance policy, it is time to examine your coverage to be sure you are prepared in the event of disaster. Consider the following tips to be sure youre not in a mess the next time you file a homeowners insurance claim.
1) Request written guidelines from your adjuster regarding how claims will be adjusted.
2) File away copies of all correspondence between you and your insurer.
3) Be sure you call the California Department of Insurance if you consider hiring a public adjuster. You want to ensure s/he is properly licensed.
4) Keep all receipts of your living expenses and any other documents that pertain to your insurance or property. Keep those documents in one location, chronologically ordered, so they are easily accessed.
5) Log all phone calls between you and your adjuster.
6) Never speculate about what has been damaged or lost. Always stick to business and share only factual information.
7) Understand the Unfair Practices Act and Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations published by the California Department of Insurance. You can retrieve copies from the web site (www.insurance.ca.gov) or by phoning 1.800.937.HELP.
Now that weve covered tips things to keep in mind when you file a homeowners insurance claim, lets do a quick overview of the homeowners insurance coverage available to you. Remember that these policies can fall into several categories.
Replacement cost coverage Pays the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home or replacing your possessions without a deduction for depreciation.
Guaranteed/extended replacement cost coverage This is the highest level of protection. Guaranteed replacement pays the cost to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster even if that cost exceeds the policy limit. This policy will protect you against increases in homebuilding costs or other unexpected situations. In most cases this coverage will not compensate for home upgrades to comply with building codes. If your home is older, this policy may not be available to you. Extended policies pay a percentage over the policy limit to rebuild your home. Usually an extended policy will pay 20 to 25 percent more than the limit of the policy. Be sure to see what coverages your state offers. Not all states offer the same coverages.
Actual cash value This coverage pays to replace your home/possessions minus a deduction for depreciation.
Other homeowners coverage:
Structures other than the dwelling Includes structures on the residential premises that are not attached to the dwelling - sidewalks, driveways, permanently installed yard fixtures and private or decorative fences. The average limits on coverage are 10 percent of the value of the dwelling.
Loss of use Reimburses for expenses beyond replacing property if a home cannot be lived in because of fire. This coverage usually pays for the living expenses incurred maintaining a normal lifestyle.
Mobile homes Offered by a few companies. This coverage is considered residential if the mobile home is established as a permanent residence.
Building code upgrade reimburses for building code upgrades that may be required during the repair/rebuilding process.
To learn more about what should be in your homeowners insurance policy, be sure to consult the California State Department of Insurance or your local insurance agent. Never take a gamble with your homeowners insurance - be sure its up-to-date and make sure you are covered for potential disasters.