How to Properly Document Damage for a Homeowners Insurance Claim

Following a fire, flood or any type of disaster, you probably have plenty of anxiety and stress. The last thing you want to do is to be reminded of everything you lost. However, you will also want to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance – that’s why you pay the premiums every month – so you can recover enough of your losses to feel whole again. To do that, you will have to document everything you lost before you file a claim with your insurer to recover for property damage.


Before you make a homeowner’s insurance claim, it is also a good idea to track every conversation with the insurance company.  Take detailed notes on every action related to your claim and keep the notes in chronological order, starting with the time and date of the loss, the cause of the loss and what was damaged. Note the exact time and date of the loss, what happened, what was damaged and other relevant details. Every time you have an appointment with the adjusters, contractors and everyone else related to your loss, take lots of notes.


Just as important as keeping close track of every interaction you have with your insurance company, however, is making sure you can account for the damages you have suffered, including all details and anything that may have an effect on the overall value of your claim. You can’t expect an insurance company to simply write you a check based on your quick accounting; you need to make a case for every dollar of the loss you’re claiming.


Damage to the Dwelling/Structures on the Property


The first thing you should realize is, you must report any damage you plan to claim as soon as possible after you become aware of the damage. One of the most important aspects of any successful homeowner’s insurance claim is prompt notice. You should take pictures or video of the damage as soon as possible after the event, so as to document the damage. Be as thorough as possible. When you take the pictures, use natural lighting to the extent possible and take multiple photos from various angles. You should also keep a log of all damage you find as you find it, including the date and time and a detailed description of the damage and exactly where it was found, and whether or not you contacted someone at the insurance company.


Damage to Personal Property or the Dwelling’s Contents


Once again, if personal items like furniture, electronics, art, jewelry, carpets and rugs and the like were damaged, take numerous photos of each personal item and keep a log of all items that suffered damage. No matter what, however, do not discard any items. Instead, store them in a safe space, like a garage or a shed, or rent a storage locker. You have to keep the items available for the insurance company’s inspection. Take a complete inventory of all damaged items, including descriptions of each item and the extent of its damage, and assign a value to each one. Make sure the descriptions include the date of purchase, model number, brand, serial numbers and all warranties. Any receipts from the original purchase of the damaged item are always very helpful. If possible, photos of the items before the damage usually turn out to be very useful for the insurance company, so if you have those, include them, as well. They can be family photos showing you using the item; anything to show the items before the damage.


Account for Lost Rent or Additional Living Expenses


Suppose the damage to your home is extensive enough to require you to find temporary housing and make arrangements for meals. Keep a record of every expense in those cases, including hotel bills, meal receipts, cancelled checks, text messages and email conversations detailing the arrangements you had to make. Keep several copies of these documents and make sure at least one is filed with the insurance company as evidence of your claim. The same would apply if your property is a tenant property and the damage forces you to relocate some of your tenants. You can recover in either case, but you must provide every detail to the insurance company.


It is important to track every expense caused by the event that led to your loss, at least until the claim is closed and you have been compensated for your losses and damages.  Until everything has been resolved, you will never know when the insurance company will ask for proof of something. Tracking every loss is a difficult prospect, so consider hiring experts to come in and evaluate your losses. It may save you money in the long run.