Homeowners Insurance AttorneysThe law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients with homeowners insurance disputes across central Ohio, including Franklin County, Delaware County, Union County, and Fairfield County. Through working with clients in a multitude of disputes against their homeowners insurance companies, the lawyers at Harris & Engler have developed the following list of general tips and tricks to help prevent any future issues with your homeowners insurance company and to help you in case you ever do have issues.
Things to Know About Homeowners Insurance:
1. Sometimes, your Homeowners Insurance will cover you if you ever get sued.If you are ever sued, you may want to check with your homeowners insurance agent to see if you are covered. If you are covered, then the insurance company will provide for your legal defense. Some people are covered against lawsuits for things such as dog bites, even if the dog bite does not happen on your property. If you are ever sued for any other unfortunate reason, it will still be worth your time to see if you are covered, because that could save your thousands of dollars in legal defense fees.
2. Use Your Homeowners Insurance Carefully.Some things are not worth filing a homeowners insurance claim for. As a general rule of thumb, you will only want to file an insurance claim for big things, and not necessarily for things under $1,000 worth of damage. First, you will have to keep your deductible in mind and you should not file a claim for anything under the value of your deductible. Second, as a general rule of thumb, if you file 3 or more homeowners insurance claims within 5 years, then you are likely to be "dropped" by your insurance carrier. The insurance carrier may decide to simply not renew your policy if you file too many claims within a 5 year period.
3. Take pictures and inventory.If a fire or any other devastating event happens in your home, then you will need pictures and an inventory list in order to actually prove what items were damaged. You need to take these pictures and inventory BEFORE anything actually happens, and update it regularly as you acquire new things of value. You will generally not be able to recover for personal property unless you can provide some evidence that you actually had the items in question. For this, the best practice is to take pictures of all of your valuables and to keep a spreadsheet of all of your valuables, including brand names, serial numbers, price, et cetera. The more information you have about the items of personal property, then the more likely you are to get reimbursed for the item or get a better price for it. Additionally, you will need to store your pictures and inventory list in a location outside the home, such as on the "cloud" in secure storage on the internet, so that you can access the documents from anywhere, even if your home is destroyed in a fire.
4. Know Whether You Have Actual Cash Value or Replacement Value on your Insurance Policy.You will have a few options with your homeowners insurance company in determining how you will be reimbursed if your personal property is destroyed. There is a huge difference between actual cash value or replacement value. Actual cash value is the fair market value for the item. Replacement value would be more in line with the original value, or dollar figure that it would take to purchase a replacement product. Generally, replacement value is a much better options, but it is also more expensive.
5. Know Your Contractual Limitations Periods.There are multiple time limits that you have to be aware of in your homeowners insurance policies. Generally, you should file an insurance claim as soon as you become aware of the circumstances giving rise to the damage. Secondly, you will usually have a limitation of action period in the insurance policy that will limit the amount of time within which you can bring a lawsuit against your homeowners insurance carrier in case you disagree about certain items of coverage.
6. Get Umbrella Coverage.You need to make sure your insurance coverage dollar amounts meet or exceed the actual value of all of your property. If your insurance coverage falls short, and something tragic happens, then you may not be able to get reimbursed for the full value of your property. Alternatively, if you are sued, you will want a policy of umbrella insurance to cover you up to the limits of your actual assets, otherwise your actual assets rather than the insurance policy could be at risk.
7. Know Your Exclusions.Flood insurance is typically extra. Many insurance policies only cover water damage coming in from a storm, but not water damage coming from the ground up (sewer, plumbing, pipes). You will want to know what your homeowners insurance exclusions are in order to best protect the value of your home.
8. Know Your Contractual Obligations and Rights.Your homeowners insurance policy has certain requirements for when and how you can file a claim. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, whenever there is a tragic event at your home you need to understand that you have the right to find your own contractors. Sometimes contractors will just show up at your house and you will assume that the insurance company provided them, but there are many shady contractors out there and you will want to get your own estimates from a contractor that you trust.
Additionally, if you are working from home, and you have work tools at home, then those things may not be covered by your insurance policy if they get damaged or stolen. You may need to have additional coverage if you work from home in order to protect the value of your work tools in case something happens.