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Guide to Filing Homeowners Insurance Claims

Like most insurance types, homeowners insurance operates as an abstract promise. If anything were to go wrong with your home — and if that hypothetical wrong fell within the policy’s coverage — you’d be relieved of the cost burden. You make a claim; your insurance company forks up.

While most of us choose our insurance based on out-of-pocket costs, it’s the into-pocket costs you’ll be thinking about during a claims process. The best homeowners insurance companies make the process smooth and timely, but most importantly, they pay out fairly on your claim. While you can check on general consumer satisfaction with top providers, the claims process isn’t something that you can test yourself until it’s go-time.

That said, the ball isn’t entirely in the insurance company’s court. Here are some best practices to help you come out ahead in the claims filing process.

Before Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Don’t under-insure

Unless you’ve purchased a special endorsement, your coverage limits don’t automatically adjust to keep up with your home’s rising market value. Limits also don’t reflect the renovation you’ve done since you originally purchased your home. Every few years, you should request a customized estimate of your home’s value and insure accordingly. If your insurance limits don’t reflect the true value of your home, you may have to settle for subpar replacements.

Take a home inventory

A home inventory is an itemized list of all the personal possessions in your home (clothes, electronics, furniture), along with their distinguishing details and purchase price. Taking the time to draft one up before your belongings have been lost or damaged can save you a lot of time and confusion in the claims process. You won’t have to search your memory for what you had and what it’s worth — all of that will already be tidily stored away. If sifting through every cabinet feels like too much work, consider just cataloguing the big-ticket items, like your entertainment system, treadmill, and tech gadgets.

Keep up with safety measures and maintenance

There are lots of easy steps you can take to make your home safer and better functioning. Not only can they potentially save you from the heartache (and headache) of making a claim in the first place, they can secure discounts from your insurance provider. Smoke detectors, sprinklers, and even a simple deadbolt all look good to underwriters. Regularly cleaning your oven, dryer vent, and chimney, for example, is doing your due diligence to avoid household perils. And, in the event of catastrophe, proving you did in fact have an unobstructed chimney and working smoke detectors will ensure that your claim isn’t rejected on a technicality.

When It’s Time to File a Claim

Contact your insurance agent right away

The particulars vary from company to company, but there’s a time limit on when you can file a claim — usually around 30 days, but sometimes up to 60. It’s best to get on the phone with your agent as soon as you know that the loss merits filing a claim.

Keep on top of the claims process

Accurately and promptly fill out all claims paperwork and furnish evidence of your losses. Take photographs and annotate them with date of purchase, amount spent, and replacement cost, and track down original receipts whenever possible. If you already have an up-to-date home inventory, this part will be pretty painless.

Documentation shouldn’t only focus on the past. Ensure that you have a paper trail of communication with your insurance agent, their appraiser, and a public adjuster if you hire one. Keep a log of all communications with date and time recorded, and reiterate what was said over the phone in follow-up emails. The more information that is conveyed via written word rather than voice, the better. You never know when you might be working with new company reps or needing to prove that someone told you differently.

Pursue the payout

The payout amount your insurance company offers isn’t the amount you have to accept. Because the claims process can be drawn-out and the after-effects can include a hike in insurance rates, you should be getting as much value out of your claim as possible. If you’ve researched the needed repairs and reached out for bids and the total exceeds the amount the insurance company wants to settle for, bring it back to the drawing board. The higher the claims amount, the more likely there is to be a disagreement between the insurance company and the policy holders. The payout threshold when claims get dicey? $20,000.

If you’re in a high-stakes claim disagreement, consider hiring a public adjuster. A public adjuster is an independent party who works for you, not the insurance company. You can find a well-reviewed and accredited adjustor through the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. While you should expect to pay a substantial amount for their assistance (a flat fee or a percentage of your ultimate payout — around 10%), you can also expect a better payout.

Keep an eye out for insurance scams

In the wake of natural disasters, scammers frequently prowl. If you are approached by someone who offers to perform all needed repairs on your home in exchange for your anticipated insurance reimbursement, think twice before signing any papers. In assignment-of-benefit scams, individuals posing as contractors skip town after accessing your payout. It’s also wise to verify the identity of anyone who claims to be an appraiser sent by your insurance company or by a relief service like FEMA. You don’t want to release private information like Social Security numbers until you’re sure of who you’re talking to.

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    AWG: Covid19 Announcement

    Dear Valuable Clients and Partners, 

    Following the suspension of activities at workplace premises under the elevated safe distancing measures announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on 3rd April 2020, we would like to announce the following changes to our work so as to continue our service to our customers. 

    AWG Insurance Brokers is a key member of the financial service industry and we are exempted from the suspension. We will continue to provide services to our customers, but with the following measures and changes. 

    Closure of Office to walk-in Customers. 
    We will no longer allow walk-in submission of documents. The office will not be opened to the public and you will need to submit any Original Documents to our Letter Box placed at our office. If Original is not required, we will encourage sending via email. This is to reduce human contacts and reducing the risk of infection. 

    Working from home
    Our staff and management will be taking turns to work at home. We will have a reduced workforce during this period. Many insurance companies also have their staff working from home. You may still contact your servicer at the DID in their email. 

    Premium Payment

    We will not be able to receive cash payment from customer and all payment is to be made via Paynow with UEN No : 199002234G, QR Code (reflected on our debit note) and Cheques. Please indicate the policy/policies number that you pay and email to for any funds transfer 

    MAS has also announced recently on the availability of premium installment. We have not gotten any update from insurers as of today and will update you soonest once we have any information.  

    Claim function is probably the most important part of our existence. We continue to assist and advise you on any claims matter. For claims payment, we would advise that you opt for direct fund transfer to your designated account number if the option is available. 

    We apologize if there is any inconvenience caused and wish you good health amidst this difficult time.