Your homeowner’s and flood insurance is meant to protect you if any of your property or possessions are damaged or lost due to theft, a hurricane, or another natural disaster. Unfortunately, you may discover that your insurance company drags their feet when it comes time to process your claim—or outright denies the claim—if you can’t show them a home inventory.
Insurance Journal recently shared the results of a survey from Allstate that found that 90% of homeowners are concerned with protecting their assets, but less than half (41%) have ever documented their valuables. Insurance Journal also found that the people who do document their valuables typically get better results when filing a claim; 80% of insurance professionals say they believe claims are processed as much as twice as quickly when a homeowner has done an inventory.
Home inventories are key to recovering compensation when valuable items are not just damaged, but missing altogether. For example, if you owned an antique roll top desk that was completely consumed in a fire, no evidence remains to prove that you actually owned such a valuable asset, and your insurance company may think that you’re attempting to take advantage of them—unless you previously documented the desk in your home inventory.
So how exactly do you create a home inventory that will help you when it comes time to file an insurance claim? Read on for basic guidelines, and consider talking with a bad faith insurance claims attorney to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your insurance company from denying your claim.
How to Create a Detailed Home Inventory
A home inventory, at its most basic, is a list of all the possessions in your home, from the basement to the attic (and including any attached structures like a garage or a shed). It might sound exhausting to go through your home and document everything—especially if you’ve accumulated a lot of possessions over the years—but it’s worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll have evidence to present with your insurance claim if anything happens.
As you add items to your inventory, you will want to note, at minimum:
- A brief description of the item (including the condition that it is in)
- The purchase date (or the closest approximation you can come up with)
- The brand or serial number (if the item has one)
- The estimated value of the item
Here are a few steps to follow to create an effective and thorough home inventory.
Decide how you are going to document your assets. You may decide to just use a simple Excel sheet, but many major insurers also provide a free online home inventory tool, so check your insurer’s website. Whatever method you decide to use, make sure it is backed up somewhere (just writing it on a piece of paper or saving it to your computer’s hard drive isn’t going to be enough).
Walk through each room of your home. This is the most systematic way to create a home inventory. You shouldn’t just sit at the kitchen table and try to remember all the valuable items in your home, because human memory is flawed, and you may leave off something very important.
Keep a visual record. You should visually catalog your items in addition to writing them down. You can do this either by taking pictures or recording a video as you walk through every room in your house. As with the written list, you’ll want to make sure the pictures or recordings are backed up so that you can easily access them.
Keep track of financial documents related to your purchases. Your claim will be even stronger if you have financial proof of purchase for valuable items, such as receipts, credit card statements, and appraisals. Keep these documents somewhere safe, such as a lockbox or safety deposit box, so that you can include them with your insurance claim.
Remember to update your home inventory. Whenever you buy, sell, or otherwise get rid of anything in your home, make sure you update your home inventory to reflect this change.
Having a home inventory should expedite the processing of your insurance claim, but if you’re still having trouble getting your insurance provider to pay for lost or damaged items that should be covered under your plan, talk to a personal injury attorney who has experience with bad faith insurance claims. Don’t let an insurance company take advantage of you—if you’re paying for your policy and doing everything you can to present evidence with your claim, you deserve to be compensated.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”