10 Things You Should Never Do Following Damage to Your Home

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  • A capable insurance agent will walk you through the build or repair process.
  • It's up to you to notify the insurance company if you plan to take anything from the home.
  • Flood and earthquake damage are not covered in a standard homeowners policy, so if you need the coverage, you'll need to add it to your existing policy before the peril occurs.

Stress can lead us to make emotional decisions.

Whether you're there when it happens or not, damage to your home can be traumatic. After all, this is the place where you're building a life, where you sleep at night. But the thing about trauma is that it can lead you to make rash decisions, and that's what we're hoping to prevent. Whether your home is damaged by fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, or some other peril, here are 10 things you should never do in the aftermath.

1. Don't go it alone

There's a reason you pay for a homeowners insurance policy. As soon as an incident occurs, contact your insurance company. They're accustomed to dealing with this sort of thing and are a great source of advice regarding the immediate future.

2. Don't get tied up in the future

Try to focus on your immediate concerns rather than worry about what's going to happen next week or next month. Looking too far down the road will only make you more anxious. All you need to decide now is your next move.

3. Don't ignore your insurer's instructions

Let's say a storm comes through and damages your roof. Rain pours through a hole in your roof and into your living room. If your insurer asks you to attach a tarp to the ceiling to catch some of the water before leaving the home, do your best to comply. As mentioned, your insurance company has been down this road and knows the best ways to prevent the damage from getting any worse.

4. Don't forget to schedule a follow-up call

Over the next few days, you're going to come up with a list of questions you were too preoccupied to ask the day of the incident. Write them down as they occur to you. For example, you may wonder about coming back to the house to pick up things you need or when you can expect work to begin on your home. By scheduling a follow-up call with your insurer, you have a set time scheduled to ask whatever you want.

Of course, a good insurance agent is going to be available, both by reaching out to you and by being available whenever you need them. However, insurance agents have different ways of doing business, and their method of communication may not be what works best for you.

5. Don't rely on your memory alone

Stress does a number on our memories. Make it easy on yourself by writing down any and all information provided by your insurance company. If you're concerned about missing any of the details, ask them to send you an email outlining what you need to know.

6. Don't remove anything from the property

Whether your home is damaged by a storm or a fire, it may be tempting to empty the house of valuables. Do not do that without speaking with your agent.

The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to walk through the site, and the adjuster needs to see everything that was there at the time of the incident. As they walk through, the adjuster will take pictures and make notes to document your possessions.

Let's say you want to take your jewelry, eyeglasses, passport, birth certificate, photographs, and other important items. Give your agent the heads-up. Then, carefully document the entire removal.

You can document removal by taking photos -- lots and lots of photos. Better yet, record a video too. The idea is to have plenty of evidence that you can later share with the adjuster. The adjuster will need that evidence to complete a Schedule of Loss form.

7. Don't clean up

There are several reasons that you should not take on the job of cleaning up:

  • It's possible that you'll remove or throw away personal items that the adjuster needs a record of.
  • The insurance company will pay for cleanup and debris removal. Let them take care of the dirty (and possibly dangerous) job.
  • Whether it's smoke damage or mold forming on the surface of your walls, it can be hazardous to your health. Let the pros handle it.

8. Don't lose receipts

If your home is uninhabitable, your insurance company may pay for additional living expenses. This includes hotel stays, renting another home, and even ordering takeout while you live without a kitchen. You may also need to replace clothing and other personal items.

Whatever you buy, keep receipts to prove the expense. Whenever possible, electronic receipts are the easiest to keep track of, but a good, old-fashioned folder filled with paper receipts will also work.

9. Don't lose your cool

Once the shock of the event wears off, you may be anxious to get back to life as usual. However, your homeowners insurance company has its own way of doing things. No matter how frustrated you become with a contractor or how slow you feel the process is, share your concerns with your insurance agent and allow the company to do its thing.

Getting emotionally worked up will only add to the stress of your situation. Trust that the process works, even if it takes time.

10. Don't risk it without the coverage you need

A standard homeowners policy does not include flood or earthquake coverage. The best time to buy those coverages is today, before anything happens. If the premium is too steep, find out about discounts available to homeowners or raise your deductible enough to lower the premium.

It can be challenging when the place where you feel the most safe is damaged. The one thing that would make it worse would be the lack of homeowners insurance to make things right.

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There are many homeowners insurance companies to choose from. We’ve researched dozens of options and short-listed our favorites here. Looking for a green build discount or easy bundle policies? Want an easy-to-use interface? Read our free expert review and get a quote today.

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