With freezing temperatures lingering this week, here’s how you can protect your home should frozen pipes be a concern. January is also a good time for an insurance coverage check-up. Everyone should prepare for the unexpected with a home inventory following the steps outlined.
“The prolonged stretch of extreme cold has many homeowners paying an unexpected price,” Leslie Gamble, AAA spokesperson, said. “Knowing what to do when your pipes burst, what your insurance will cover and how to process your claim is key.”
AAA Insurance offers the following tips when dealing with homeowner’s insurance coverage and claims questions for victims of this extreme weather:
What to Do First:
• If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately by warming them with a hair dryer or safe space heater, or call a plumber for assistance.
• If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills. You do not want the water to do more damage than it already has.
• Call your insurance company claims department as soon as you can. An insurance adjuster does not need to see the spill before you take action. However, the adjuster will want to inspect any damaged items.
• Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage. Remove any carpet or furniture that can be further damaged from seepage.
Managing Home Insurance Claims
• Make a list of the damaged articles and take photos.
• Save the receipts for what you spend—including additional living expenses if you must leave your home until repairs are completed—and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
• Standard homeowners policies will cover most of the kinds of damage that result from a freeze. For example, if house pipes freeze and burst or if ice forms in gutters and causes water to back up under roof shingles and seep into the house. You would also be covered if the weight of snow or ice damages your house.
• If the home sustains water damage, it is important to make sure that it is properly dried and repaired to prevent any potential problem with mold. Remember, mold cannot survive without moisture.
• Check with the agent or insurance company so you will be sure what the policy covers.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, only half of homeowners have an inventory of the possessions they'd want their insurance company to replace in case of a flood, fire, theft or other disaster.
January, right after acquiring new items as holiday gifts and, perhaps, cleaning out the old, is the perfect time to create or update a home inventory. It’s certainly better than after a crisis that presents its own challenges.
Five steps to create a home inventory:
1. Grab your camera, smartphone or pen and paper and take a tour of the home.
2. Record everything you'd want your insurance company to replace. Don't forget items that may be hidden away in your closets and garage.
3. Pull together copies of sales receipts and any other documentation. Also note model and serial numbers if you have them.
4. Store your home inventory and related documents in a safe and easily accessible place, including online, with friends or family, or in a safe deposit box. Don't rely solely on your home computer, which should always be backed up, in case of fire or a hard drive crash.
5. Add up the replacement costs for all of those items to make sure you have enough insurance. Not all policies cover the actual replacement costs, so be sure to check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need. In some cases, an additional endorsement may be needed for valuables such as jewelry, cameras, furs, firearms, trading cards, comic books or other items. The availability of endorsements varies from state to state; check with your insurance agent to find out what is offered in your area.
Creating a simple home inventory helps you track what you own and what it's worth. It can be invaluable in deciding how much insurance coverage you need and ensuring you are protected if you ever need to file a claim.