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Insurance-Covered Home Repairs - Top Ten Tips for getting through the red tape

Earlier this summer, I wrote about my experience in getting insurance to cover storm damage to my home.  In Minnesota, we have up to a year to file a claim on storm damage. 

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I'd like to write an update to my previous article, as I have learned a lot. 

  1. If you want your insurance to consider covering storm damage, be very clear about WHEN and WHAT happened.  We had very obvious leaks coming into our house but unless we could prove those shingle blew away on that day during that storm, it was impossible to get repairs covered.  Don't invite an adjuster over unless you can demonstrate what, how, when
     
  2. If you are having an adjuster look at exterior repairs, have them visit late morning to 1 p.m. - the first time our adjuster came out, the evening shadows masked serious problems with our roof.  He came out again in the morning and everything was much more apparent and we were approved for more work. 
     
  3. Get four bids for the repairs.  Minimum.  It took four visits for me to judge who was good, too cheap, or too expensive.  I used Craig's List and recommendations from Menards.  The contractor I picked was mid-priced and took the time to look under my siding and asked a lot of questions. 
     
  4. What I also liked about the contractor I picked is that he had excellent communications skills.  It demonstrated to me he was able to manage a group, negotiate good prices, keep me informed and he kept a good record of expenses.  We bought the materials and he provided the labor. (Or, you can have the contractor supply the materials - ask if you can pay his supplier directly.)
     
  5. In most cases, when you get your insurance check, it is written to you AND your mortgage company.  You have to mail in your insurance check to your mortgage company and then they will take a long time to cut you a check..oh, but there is more to this...
     
  6. The mortgage company will give you only half your check amount, until nearly all (in our case, 95%) of the repairs are done.  Yes, this means you're paying for supplies (if self-contracting like we did to save money) or out of pocket for HALF of the money until stuff is DONE.  We had $12,000.00 floating on a credit card for awhile.  Yikes!
     
  7. Our mortgage company was more difficult to deal with than our insurance company.  Our insurance company requested receipts (of which I faxed in) and the checks were forthcoming.  The mortgage company must have a rep come out to see the house before we got more money.
     
  8. Fax in receipts regularly to your mortgage company and insurer.  Don't just send it all at once when it's all done unless you don't mind waiting longer for your entire reimbursement. 
     
  9. I had requested an exception to get paid more than 50% of the total check because we had spent almost the entire allotment (I faxed in receipts as I got them.  I insisted we needed the money to continue - it was clear we needed it) The mortgage company, after I bugged them enough, relented. 
     
  10. Your insurance company will keep an amount of money for depreciation - they will give you this money after you verify the related repairs have been done.  If the amount of money is under $2500.00, they might just write the check to you.  It varies - ask your claim adjuster what this amount is for you. 

And finally, there is a HUGE difference between Actual cash value vs. replacement cost coverage - PLEASE be sure you're able to afford to fix your home when disaster strikes.  Our insurance agent (who has been taking care of us for 12 years) explained this all to us.  Get an agent who gets to know you and can go to bat for you when you need it.  If you don't have one, call mine

See the State of MN's information on Actual cash value vs. replacement cost coverage  
 

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