After Hurricane Sandy hit right before Halloween, some 7 million homes along the East Coast were without power—mine being one of them. In addition, some estimate that the storm created more than $20 billion in damage in New York alone. Remember: this storm affected many other states severely as well, including Pennsylvania (where I live), New Jersey, and Connecticut. So the total damage is likely way more.
With all that damage needing to be taken care of, I have spent the past two days writing about home insurance. In yesterday's blog post, I suggested what you needed know about home insurance coverage. In today's piece, I provide advice on the steps you need to take to ensure that you receive any payments due to you from your insurance company, because of damage. In addition, you may be able to claim some of the damage on your 2012 income tax return. So be sure to pay attention to my advice in that regard.
Here are 6 tips for home claims when you need to file an homeowner's insurance claim.
- Take meticulous notes and document everything. After you contact your insurance company, take pictures of the damage and log your expenses so you can provide this information on your claim.
- Do not throw away your damaged property and do not make any permanent repairs. Your home insurance claim could be denied if the insurance company or adjuster is unable to see the extent of the damage to your property. If you do make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied. We learned about this waiting to make repairs after last year's ice dam situation, when we needed to file a home insurance claim. Because of the widespread damage from the snow storm, we had to wait two weeks for an insurance adjuster to make it out to our home.
- Keep your deductible in mind. Just because you have homeowner's or auto insurance doesn't mean that you can avoid a deductible. Some people choose to have a larger deductible (the amount you have to pay upfront before insurance kicks in) to make their monthly payments more affordable. If this is the case with your insurance company, you will have to pay something upfront as part of your policy. However, the one exception is if you have an insurance company that is negating deductibles in disaster areas. For example, Allstate and Allstate New Jersey announced that tropical cyclone and hurricane deductibles on property policies will not be applied for Northeast and several Mid-Atlantic states heavily impacted by Sandy—specifically New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
- Be wary of scam artists. As I wrote last week, be suspect of anyone who knocks at your door and offers to do your home repairs. Natural disasters can be a magnet for scam artists and therefore the reason I wrote my scam alert article.
- Understand how property claim adjusters work. You need to know your options when working with a property claims adjuster. You have the option of working with a company-appointed adjuster—like we did with that aforementioned ice dam damage and our homeowners insurance claim—or you may choose to use a public adjuster to assist you in filing your claim. Be aware that public adjusters will charge a fee for their services.
- Remember your losses at tax time. "Several areas have been noted as federally declared disasters, which allows taxpayers to claim their losses on their 2012 tax returns," explains Mark A. Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. You can claim your casualty loss on Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts. Keep in mind, though, that you must be able to itemize deductions on your federal return to be able to claim your loss.
Again, if there are any other topics within property claims that you would like to see me cover here on Home Goes Strong, let me know.