You probably bought your home policy years ago, then stuffed it in a file somewhere. Will it be there for you when you need it? asks ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports.
Here’s how to protect yourself:
1. You’ll probably have to fight to get a big claim paid. Homeowners who suffer a loss of $30,000 or more get the most pushback from their insurers over damages, coverage and slow payouts, ShopSmart’s recent survey data shows. But the coverage of huge losses is exactly why you buy home insurance.
Protect yourself. You can cut your odds of a fight by doing business with an insurer that pays its claims. The best carriers for claim-payment satisfaction are Amica, Auto-Owners and USAA, according to the most recent Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 9,905 subscribers who filed homeowner’s claims from 2010 through the first six months of 2013.
2. The first offer may not be your best offer. Consider your insurance adjuster’s first offer just an opening gambit.
Protect yourself. If you have a dispute over damages, make the adjuster go over the estimate, line by line, with you and your contractor. Get a second opinion from an independent contractor or multiple estimates, if necessary.
3. Your trees can bankrupt you. Linda Paustian of La Porte, Ind., discovered that after a violent thunderstorm dropped about 40 hard maple and red oak trees on her home and property in June 2010. State Farm paid $6,000 to remove the trees that struck Paustian’s 1895 Arts and Crafts bungalow, but nothing of an additional $6,000 that was needed for tree and debris removal and stump grinding.
Protect yourself. Understand that a standard policy covers trees that fall on insured structures but generally not those that land in your yard.
4. Your bank might hold up your check. “Every check sent to us had to be forwarded to the mortgage company so they, in turn, could write another check to us so we could pay the contractor,” says Thomas Sloan, who suffered $33,000 in damages when the remnants of Superstorm Sandy blew a neighbor’s oak tree onto his West Virginia home in October 2012.