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Questions/Answers Regarding Homeowner Claims due to 2015 Storm Damage.

Snow storm pic

Here is a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding claims due to damage from this year’s winter.  As always, please feel free to call our office if you have questions!

 

Q: My home has been damaged, is it covered? Should I file a claim? Will my rates go up? Will I be canceled for making a claim?

A: The answer to these questions involve many factors such as your policy coverage, your previous claim history, the type of loss, the amount of the damage and length of time that you have been insured with your insurance company. Contact us and we will review all of these factors with you so that you can make an informed decision.

Q: How do I file a homeowners insurance claim?

A: Contact us-we are the professionals that can answer questions about your policy, endorsements and deductible. We will advise you of your options, caution you against reporting smaller claims but if you are placing a claim, we will gather information from you so that the claim gets reported to the carrier on a timely basis. During our discussion with you, we will outline the claim process as detailed below as well as advise you on what you can do to mitigate the damage.

Once the claim is reported, we will email you the claim #, adjuster’s name and contact information and will confirm when you can expect the adjuster to contact you.

Q: What information do I need to report my homeowners insurance claim?

A: We will work with you to identify the information needed during the claim process, but it is helpful if you can answer these questions:

  • When was the damage first noticed (date, time)?
  • How do you think the damage happened?
  • What was damaged?
  • Who should be contacted to discuss the claim?
  • Best time and telephone # to contact you.

Q: What are the basic steps involved with handling a home claim?

A: Because each claim is unique, the claim handling process varies. Below are the typical steps that the insurance company adjuster will go through with you when discussing your claim:

  • Confirm with you what has been damaged
  • Review coverage available on your policy
  • Arrange for a visit to your property to view the damage
  • Back at the office, prepare an Estimate of damages
  • Reach an agreement with you on the cost to repair the damages
  • With your agreement, settle the claim

Q: Who can I call with questions about my homeowners insurance claim?

A: If at any point in the claim process, you have questions, we are always available to you. In addition, we will make sure that you have the name and contact information for the insurance company adjuster so that you can readily reach them when needed.

Q: What happens after I report my homeowners insurance claim?

A: A claims adjuster will be assigned to your claim and will contact you, usually within 2 days after we speak with you. At that time, your claims adjuster will explain the claims process and steps involved, discuss what your insurance policy covers, and answer any questions you may have. They will also advised upon the next steps to be taken. Make certain when you are speaking with the adjuster, they make a firm commitment on when an adjuster will be visiting your home.

Q: Should I wait until an adjuster sees the damage before making repairs?

A: If temporary repairs, ice or snow removal or water remediation is needed to prevent further damage, you do not have to wait for the adjuster to visit your home. Your policy has a provision to cover reasonable and necessary work that you incur while trying to protect your property from additional damage. Please be sure to save your receipts and discuss this with the adjuster.

Q: What information will I need when I meet with my claims adjuster?

A: The more information you have about the claim and the property that was damaged, the faster we can handle your claim. The following information will help you and your claims adjuster accurately and expeditiously handle your claim:

  • If available, photos of your home prior to the damage
  • If damaged property had to be moved, photos of the damage before it was removed
  • Inventory of damaged personal property. (sample attached)
  • Receipts for any work that needed to be done to prevent further damage ie: snow removal
  • Receipts for any temporary living expenses or supplies you needed to prevent further damage to your home
  • Contractor estimates that you have received

Q: My house isn’t safe to live in because of my loss. What should I do?

A: If your home is not safe to live in following your loss and you have coverage for Additional Living Expenses on your policy, the insurance company will pay for reasonable living expenses including lodging and personal belongings. Your claims adjuster will discuss the amount you will be given for these types of expenses.

Q: What do I do with the Insurance Adjuster’s Estimate?

A: After visiting your home, the adjuster may provide you with an advance to get you started on repairing the damage. Back at the office, the adjuster will complete a loss estimate based upon what they viewed. Once your claims professional completes a loss estimate, they expect to review it with you before issuing payment. The estimate of the cost to repair covered damage is organized by room, area or item, and includes individual line items that indicate what will need to be repaired or replaced to bring your property to its pre-loss condition. It also includes a summary of all items included in the estimate.

The estimate you receive from your Claim Services professional is just that: an estimate. A number of issues may contribute to differences between their estimate and your contractor’s. DON’T Panic over any differences. Review them with your contractor and then send the differences to the claim adjuster for review. Oftentimes, with your permission, the adjuster will discuss and possibly directly resolve these differences with your contractor. At times, when additional damage has been discovered, the adjuster may want to make another visit to your home to resolve any differences.

Q: What’s the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost?

A: Actual cash value is typically defined as replacement cost less depreciation (the amount deducted based on the age and condition of the item). After a claim, in ordered to be reimbursed for the replacement cost of damaged property, you must replace or repair the damaged. Due to this, the insurance company will issue you an initial payment with the depreciation withheld. All you need to do to be paid this difference is to just supply the adjuster with proof of replacement-so make sure that you always retain receipts for replaced items and that your contractor(s) always provide you with a receipt indicate that all work is completed.

Q: What happens if I, or my contractor, find additional damage after my claim is settled?

A: Call your claims adjuster immediately. If the additional damages were covered under the original claim, the insurance company will reopen your claim and work closely with you and your contractor to satisfactorily resolve the matter.

Q: What if I have a mortgage on my damaged home?

A: Generally, mortgage lenders are named along with their borrowers as co-payees on homeowners insurance policies. If your mortgaged home is damaged or suffers irreparable loss, your insurance company typically cuts a check made out to both you and your lender. You will need to contact your lender to arrange for their signature on the check before you can deposit the claim payment.

Q: How do I select a contractor to do the repairs?

A: MA Office of Consumer Affairs has the following Recommendations before you enter into any written agreement to perform repairs on your home:

  1. Ensure that the Contractor is appropriately licensed and is a Registered Home Improvement Contractor .
  2. Confirm that the contractor has adequate liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. You should be provided with a Certificate of Insurance. Once you receive that form, send it to us and we will critique it for you.
  3. Ask the contractor for a written list of his/her three most recent projects with names, telephone numbers and addresses of the owners.       You need to make sure that the contractor has experience doing the type of repairs that are needed on your home.
  4. Call the owners and ask questions as to the performance of the contractor.
  5. Check with your local better business bureau, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Office of the Attorney General to find out whether the contractor has any complaints filed against the contractor or whether or not any disciplinary action has been taken against the contractor.
  6. Do not enter into any construction agreements without a detailed written contract that outlines work to be done, timelines and responsibilities. If at all possible, before signing a contract make sure that your attorney reviews the contract.

Q: What is a Municipal Lien Certificate?

A: Under MA Law, if you have a rental property (non-owner occupied property) and your claim is over $5000, the adjuster may ask you to obtain a Municipal Lien Certificate. This is issued by your town treasurer and states the amount of property taxes that are assessed against your particular property and confirms that you are current on payment of your taxes.