Recent extreme weather related to climate change means that property owners face a higher risk of experiencing severe damage to their home. This high risk places a premium on taking steps to maximize the financial recovery from an insured’s homeowner’s policy. A home inventory can be a critical tool for policyholders whose residences have been damaged in intense storms, fires, and other perils. These inventories should document all items within the home along with the relative value of these items of personal property.
There are many approaches to constructing a home inventory, which include free or inexpensive software solutions and apps. However, these technological innovations are not necessary. A video camera along with handwritten notes can serve equally well. The format of the inventory does not need to be an issue of focus, the key is simply to have a detailed list when pursuing a property damage claim.
As a Florida Insurance Claims Law Firm, we frequently hear from homeowners who fail to prepare an inventory because they assumed such a step only makes sense for wealthy families with extensive assets. This tragic misconception can lead to devastating results for those who struggle to make ends meet. Policyholders with significant means might have the financial resources to replace damaged or destroyed property. However, those living paycheck to paycheck often discover the cost involved in replacing beds, dressers, dining room tables, clothing, dishes, computers, televisions, and other essentials amounts to tens of thousands of dollars. Many people do not have savings to cover this type of unanticipated expense even on a short-term basis. Although a hurricane can bring economic hardship for people from all walks of life, those with the most limited means might be most severely impacted by a massive loss.
Despite the vital role of an inventory following a disaster, the insurance industry estimates that only forty percent of homeowners actually prepare such an inventory of their possessions according to the Claims Journal. Insurance industry experts also note that an inventory can serve multiple functions:
- A list of items and their value can cut the time to process a claim by half.
- An inventory can eliminate questions about the existence of specific items and prevent denial of recovery for certain property.
- Preparation of an inventory also helps policyholders assess whether they have sufficient coverage, so they can increase your coverage.
- If you determine you have insufficient coverage with an inventory, you also can anticipate the need to explore other alternatives to fill the void like applying for aid or declaring losses on your income tax return.
The benefit of an inventory can be enhanced by adopting some ancillary practices. When purchasing items of value, a cell phone provides an easy way to take a photo record of acquired items. Credit card records and bills should be saved and organized because they can provide a supplement to receipts that also need to be preserved.
The handling of the inventory also is important to ensure it is readily available when you need it to file your insurance claim. Two copies of the inventory should be prepared with one kept in a secure place away from your home, such as a safety deposit box. An insured does not necessarily need to send a copy of the inventory to the insurer unless a dispute arises about a claim or the insured is trying to assess whether he or she has sufficient recovery. The other copy should be forwarded to a person you trust in a remote part of the country.
While it is more expensive to hire a home inventory company, there also are benefits associated with this choice that can make it a worthwhile investment. Because insurance companies often allege that an insurance claim is fraudulent, use of an independent company to conduct the inventory essentially eliminates the potential for allegations of fraud.
Our Miami bad faith insurance law firm invites you to contact us if you are having difficulties with your insurance company. Florida insurance claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo handles claims against insurance companies in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.