If you are renting your home, you may be able to bring a renters’ insurance claim if your property is damaged or stolen. Tenants will need to follow certain procedures in these situations, starting with informing their landlord promptly about the damage or theft. This may be required by state law and under the terms of your lease. You also may need to report the incident to the police if it involved a crime. The insurer may follow up with the police to get more information about the situation. (Damage that is non-criminal usually does not need to be reported to the police.)
You should take additional precautions to protect any other possessions in your home. This may include fixing broken locks or windows, and it may even involve moving out temporarily if your home cannot be made safe efficiently. You may be able to get reimbursement from the insurer for your living expenses during the repairs. This is known as loss of use coverage.
Filing a Claim
Most insurers require policyholders to file a claim within a very short time period after an incident, such as 48 or 72 hours. Your first step in pursuing a claim is finding out whether the damage or loss is actually covered by the policy. In this initial conversation, you should describe the damage or loss, provide your contact information, and estimate the replacement cost.
Once the process gets started, you should photograph any damaged items and list each of them. Even if an item is no longer usable, you should keep it until an adjuster arrives to inspect the damage or until the insurer informs you that this will not be needed. If you have a personal property inventory of your belongings, this may be helpful. You should try to compile this type of list as a precaution and update it over time. Compiling a thorough list will make your claim more compelling and may result in a more efficient settlement.
The next step is to complete the claims form and provide related documentation, such as receipts and a police report. You may receive a favorable resolution within a matter of days or hours, but the process may take longer if the documentation is incomplete or if you are reporting a substantial amount of damage. The insurer will give you an estimate of how long the process may take.
Possible Reasons for Denial
Claims under renters’ insurance policies usually are approved without much difficulty, but there are certain situations in which a tenant may encounter obstacles. For example, the insurer may find that the landlord caused the damage or loss. This means that the policy would not cover the related costs, but you would have a right to seek remedies from the landlord. In other cases, the insurer might find that the claim is fraudulent or that the damage was intentional. Sometimes people intentionally destroy their belongings to get reimbursed for replacing them. The insurer will need to feel satisfied that the damage resulted from an accident or a third-party crime.
If your property sustained only minor damage, the insurer might deny the claim because it does not exceed your deductible. (This is the amount for which you are responsible before the insurer takes over.) However, if you sustained property damage earlier in the same year, you can subtract that amount from the deductible.
You should review the list of exclusions in your policy. You may not be able to recover reimbursement for damage caused by hurricanes, floods, and other acts of nature unless you purchased specific coverage for them. Also, you may not be able to get coverage for damaged business equipment in your home unless you have an insurance policy for business property. Insurers tend to scrupulously enforce any list of exclusions in a policy. If you believe that an exclusion does not apply when an insurer says that it does, you can consult an attorney for advice on whether it is worth disputing.