How to File a Renters Insurance Claim Without the Headache

By Shannon Ireland

What would you do if someone broke into your apartment or rental home and stole your belongings? Or if a fire damaged your possessions? If you’re one of the estimate 37 percent of renters with renters insurance, you should be in good shape — if you successfully manage the claims process.

Relax, it’s not that hard. Here’s a look at the process, and tips for getting the most out of your policy so you can file a claim stress-free.

If a break-in has occurred

Contact the police so you can start the process of filing a report. While you’re waiting for officers to arrive at your home, take inventory of the damage and the items that are missing.

Once you’ve filed your police report, contact your renters insurance provider and begin the process of filing a claim. You’ll need the number of the police report, as well as:

  • Your insurance policy. It will contain information about your deductible and coverage.
  • Photos of the damage incurred during the break-in. It’s important that you keep the damaged property rather than disposing of it. The claims adjuster likely will want to see it.
  • Your home inventory. This is a list of the contents of the apartment or rental home, complete with photos and, when available, receipts. You can still file a claim if you don’t have an inventory, but the process could be longer and more cumbersome. If you haven’t done an inventory, complete one before trouble strikes. An inventory checklist can help make this task easier.

Be sure to notify your landlord of the break-in, particularly if there is damage to the structure of the home or apartment. Your landlord’s insurance will be responsible for that.

Other reasons for property loss and damage

If you’re the victim of fire or damage from wind or hail or another covered peril, contact your insurance provider immediately to begin your claim and start assessing the damage to your possessions. Again, that home inventory can really help. Follow these other steps:

  1. As with a break-in, take plenty of photos to document the damage to your possessions. Don’t get rid of the damaged items until a claims adjuster gives you the OK.
  2. Keep a record of receipts for any expenses or repairs associated with the loss. If you must relocate for repairs, your policy could provide for reimbursement for extra expenses.
  3. Let your landlord know about the damage. Temporary repairs to prevent further damage are OK, but ask him or her not to proceed further until the adjuster has investigated the claim.

Once you’ve filed your claim, ask how long it will take to process it so that you can tackle the next steps in a timely fashion.

Get estimates and meet with the claims adjuster

Depending on the specifics of your policy, you could be reimbursed for the replacement value or the actual cash value of your stolen or damaged possessions. Replacement value reimburses you for the full cost of the item, while actual cash value takes depreciation into account. Either way, get replacement and repair cost estimates for your possessions.

Start the final phase of the claim process by meeting with a claims adjuster, who will investigate your claim to ensure its validity, approve or veto the claim, authorize payment action and approve requests for temporary living arrangements.

Settling the claim

Before signing the documents to settle the claim, review it in its entirety. It’s a good idea to have a lawyer look it over.

If you’re not clear on any of the language or information presented in the claim document, ask questions. Now is the time to contest things. Once you’ve signed off on the settlement, keep a copy of the settlement documents for your records.

Filing a claim isn’t difficult, but it’s important to do it correctly. Follow these steps to simplify the process. And be happy that you’re not one of the 63 percent of renters who don’t have insurance.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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