Angie's List: Are you covered by your homeowner's insurance?
If disaster strikes, it's important to know that you and your family are well covered to deal with damage. Homeowner's insurance can help protect you in the event of weather disasters, fire, theft and even injury.
The consumer review website, Angie's List has some suggestions for homeowners. Angie Hicks is the creator of Angie's List, and she says, "Reviewing your policy every year is a good idea because it allows you to comparison shop the actual rates you are paying and to have a conversation to make sure you have the appropriate coverage. For example, if you've remodeled your house you'll need to add additional coverage. Also, your belongings - if you buy something, buy some jewelry, electronics, those are important conversations to have with your insurance agent to make sure they are covered as well."
Hicks also says there are especially some misunderstandings about home insurance since the recent drop in the housing market. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that they're coverage will go down because the housing market has gone down. Just because your house may not sell for what you paid for it, does not mean that your insurance value has gone down because the insurance is based on the replacement cost and the cost to rebuild your house may actually be going up", she says.
Angie's List offers the following suggestions for consumers looking to get proper coverage on their home and belongings:
1. Annual review: When you get your renewal notice, talk to your agent about whether you need to adjust your coverage. You should consider updating your policy if you have added square feet, remodeled, bought expensive items like jewelry, added a pet or made other changes to your household.
2. Get what you need: Replacement cost insurance covers the cost of replacing your home and is generally the policy for most homeowners. Your agent will evaluate your home and its contents and then write a policy that would replace it at that value.
3. Get specific: You should find out what your policy says about storm, water, mold, wind and flood coverage. In the past ten years companies have increasingly changed the language about these specific items. You can also ask about adding specific endorsements if your agent or company doesn't offer the coverage you want.
4. Flood warning: If you live in a low-lying area or one that is predisposed to flooding, Angie's List suggests purchasing flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.
5. Get loss-of-use coverage: You should consider loss-of-use insurance to help cover rent or hotel fees in the event your home is uninhabitable after a catastrophe. Experts recommend at least one year of coverage.
6. Claim deadline: Check with your state's Department of Insurance for the statute of limitations for filing a claim, which can vary from one to two years.
7. Safe keeping: Be sure to put important paperwork, especially policy information, in a fireproof and waterproof safe. You should also consider taking photos and videos of everything in your home and adding those to the safe, as well.
8. Ask around: When it comes to proof-of-loss statements, use at least three independent contractors' estimates as your starting point. Angie's List found that the insurance company's initial payout is often drastically lower than what the work will require.
9. Public adjuster: If you experience a sizable loss, you should consider hiring a public insurance adjuster who will file and submit your claim on your behalf. These adjusters often have years of experience on the private insurance side and work to get homeowners the best settlement possible.
10. Crash course: Lastly, you should familiarize yourself with what you are entitled to receive in the event of a loss. You should also ask your agent about his or her experience in handling a loss claim. An experienced agent should be able to not only detail what your policy will and will not cover, but be able to give you a good idea of what to expect if a claim takes place.