A devastating tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, destroying the lives and homes of most of the town’s residents. Another tornado touched down in Minneapolis, Minnesota over the weekend claiming the life of at least one person and causing extensive property damage. Many homeowners whose homes have been damaged are left wondering what to do next? Here are a few tips:
Check your homeowners or renters insurance. Hopefully, you read through your policy coverage before you purchased it, but make sure that it fully covers tornado and/or wind-related damage. If you cannot locate your policy, request a replacement copy – do not rely on the insurance company to tell you what is and is not covered.
Check your auto policy. If your auto was damaged, check the comprehensive section of your automobile policy to see if what coverage is available to you.
Contact your insurance company(ies). Call and inform the insure[s] of the damage which your property sustained and request a claim form. Continue to phone them ever few hours until you are able to speak with a live person and get a claim number. Fill out any claim form[s] provided and return it/them ASAP to get the claims process underway.
Document any and all damage. Take photos and/or videos. Create an inventory of any property which has been damaged. Try to include the price you paid for each item. Keep in mind that some damage, such as water leakage, may not be readily apparent and could take months to show up.
Get multiple bids for repairs. Unfortunately, there are businesses and individuals which prey on victims of natural disasters, so it is very important to seek out estimates from multiple contractors for any repair work which needs to be completed. Do not rely on the insurance company’s “recommendation”. Get your own bids. Check with the Better Business Bureau as to the business reputation of any contractors you may be interested in dealing with before you sign a contract.
Read anything the insurance company sends you CAREFULLY. Do not simply cash a check the insurance company sends you, read the language of any and all documents or checks the insurance company sends. Look for words such as “paid in full.” Be cautious about releasing future claims you may have arising from the tornado. Again, some damage may not become apparent until months later.
If you were not affected by one of this weekend’s tornadoes, be sure to check your homeowners policy. The best time to review your coverage is before you need it. A recent article in USA Today indicated that while approximately 96% of people have homeowners insurance, 64% of homes are undervalued for insurance purposes.
Nearly ¾ of all tornadoes which occur in Minnesota happen between May and July.
Think about it.