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June 14, 2013

Homeowner Insurance Claims & Your Household Inventory

Pencil on a pad of paper

Hurricane season is upon us here in Florida. If your home destroyed or damaged by a hurricane (or burglarized or destroyed by fire), can you list every piece of property you lost? You’ll need to if you plan to make an insurance claim. It won’t surprise you to know that preparing a list before something happens is eas­ier than relying on your memory later.

A home inventory is an invaluable resource to have if you ever need to file a home insurance claim for property damage. It’s extremely difficult to name every item in your home that’s been lost or damaged if you don’t have a list to reference. Homeowners who haven’t taken the time to inventory their contents are much more likely to forget items in their claim. And they end up missing out on valuable coverage they deserve.

The best way to make sure you’re covered? A household inventory. A list, preferably with photographs, of everything in your home. Having a home inventory list will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

How do I create a household inventory?

  • Go to the “Resources” tab on our website and click on Documents Library  and click Home Inventory Sheet or create your own list with categories such as “Quantity,” “Item Name,” “Serial Number,” “Year Purchased” and “Cost.”
  • Write a brief description for each item that includes any other pertinent information not included in the categories above. For example, if one of your more expensive belongings is in pristine condition, record that information in order to prove value later.
  • Take a photo of each item in order to help prove quality and condition.
  • Include receipts when possible in order to help prove cost and estimated values.

Make a copy of your list and photos and store your copy outside of your home (perhaps in a safe deposit box) or keep a digital file online, somewhere like iCloud or Dropbox. You can even email them to yourself and keep them in ar­chives so you can access them wherever you can log onto a computer (even it’s not YOUR computer because your computer has been stolen or damaged).

Tips for creating the most helpful home inventory:

  • Make your inventory as complete and detailed as possible. Your insurance company will re­quire a detailed list of your personal property before paying your claim. REMEMBER: Update your inven­tory regularly to add new items.
  • List purchase dates, values, serial numbers, and brand names. Keep receipts for expensive items.
  • Take pictures of each room in your house. Don’t forget closets, storage buildings, the attic, and the garage. Open drawers and take pictures of the contents. Label the pic­tures with the date they were taken.
  • Review your policy’s personal property cover­age limit annually, and be sure the limits are high enough to cover the items on your home inventory. Personal property coverage pays if the items in your house (such as furniture, clothing, and appliances) are damaged, de­stroyed, or stolen.

Don’t be overwhelmed! If you are just setting up a household, starting an inventory list can be relatively simple. If you’ve been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can be daunting.   Still, it’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all. Start with recent purchases and then try to remember what you can about older possessions or work on one room at a time.

Big ticket items: Valuable items like jewelry, art work and collectibles may have increased in value since you received them. An updated appraisal is probably a good idea. Then, check with your agent to make sure that you have adequate insurance for these items. Homeowner Insurance policies have limited coverage on certain personal property, such as jewelry and furs. You may be able to buy more coverage for an extra premium or insured separately.

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