It doesn't take a flood or hurricane to cause water damage to a home. Anything from broken appliances to leaking plumbing to improper land grading can lead to water flooding a single room or an entire level of your house, damaging property and vital structural components. While water itself can be damaging, saturating drywall and carpeting, it can also lead to the growth of mold. Many homeowners insurance policies cover water damage at least to some degree. When you file a claim, your insurance company may send an adjuster to determine the extent of the damage and whether it is covered by your policy.
Prepare for the Visit
Prior to the visit from the adjuster, you can take a few steps to make sure you're actively involved in the inspection process. Review your insurance policy to determine what is covered. For example, problems resulting from what is considered maintenance, such as an aging, leaky roof or basement seepage, may not be covered. Then take photos or video of the damaged parts of the house and other property, documenting everything as thoroughly as possible from all angles.
During the Visit
Be present during the adjuster's visit if at all possible, and tour the house with him, explaining any damage as best you can. Cooperate with the adjuster, but refrain from signing any forms or providing a sworn statement unless you are sure you understand your rights and what the papers mean. Finally, whether it is the adjuster or contractor who gives you a written estimate, make sure it includes line-item details, such as individual parts, the number needed and the cost per part.
After the Visit
Adjusters can make mistakes, including overlooking damage or underestimating costs due to lack of experience. You may want to hire a contractor for a second opinion on the extent of the damage and the estimated cost of repairs. You could even turn to what is known as a public adjuster, who -- for a fee -- represents your interests as homeowner rather than the interests of the insurer.
In some cases, you may need to make repairs before the adjuster arrives. Make only urgent fixes to stop flooding and ensure the house is livable, postponing major, permanent work until after the adjuster has seen the house. Finally, retain any damaged property and keep a record of any and all expenditures on repairs to share with the adjuster.
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