Homeowner’s insurance is one of those things that sort of wind up forgotten about until we need them the most. You spend a little time shopping for it when you first buy a home, for example, and then the monthly payments for your policy are automatically tied into your mortgage payment. So you can basically forget about it, and that’s what most people do.
Then an accident happens. A tree limb crashes through the attic, or the basement gets flooded. There is a kitchen fire, a tornado, or a lawsuit because someone trips on the stairs and breaks a leg. You suddenly become really focused on that insurance policy, and start scanning through pages of small print to figure out what your options are and whether or not you’re covered.
So it is a good idea for every homeowner to have an annual insurance checklist, sort of like an annual physical at the doctor’s office. You may not be sick and need to go to the emergency room, but if you are staying on top of your health then you still take time out from your busy life and make an appointment for that once-a-year checkup. The same should apply to homeowner’s insurance. You don’t need to have an emergency or a hole in the roof to get you thinking about your insurance, and if you make it an annual end-of-the-year task then you will be able to do a much better job of staying on top of any issues related to your important homeowner’s insurance.
Have you acquired any new items that should be added to your policy? Expensive belongings – from jewelry and computers to musical instruments or antiques – often fall outside the limits of a basic policy. In that case you need to notify your agent because it may be necessary to purchase additional coverage to insure those things.
Can you prove you own something that you might later need to file a claim for if it is stolen, damaged, or destroyed? Insurance companies don’t reimburse without a valid reason, so make sure you hold on to purchase receipts and keep an inventory of belongings that is updated annually. Photograph your stuff, or better yet make a simple home video. Just go from room to room, pointing the camera at everything and zooming in on the especially valuable items. Later you may need to use that visual inventory as evidence.
Another part of your insurance checklist is a physical inspection of your home, both indoors and outside. If you have falling limbs from a diseased tree, for example, that condition needs to be attended to by hiring an arborist. Otherwise if your home is damaged by a fallen tree or someone is injured by a falling branch the insurance company may claim that it was your fault, and refuse your claim. Other things to look out for are drainage problems that could cause flooding, loose roof shingles, shaky and unstable handrails, broken or slippery stairs, and unsafe wiring.
When in doubt, hire a professional inspector to conduct a walk-through and give you a written report indicating any special areas that might represent safety hazards or needed repairs. The first time you make out your insurance checklist and then take care of the items on it, it may seem like a challenge. But if you consult your insurance agent they can help you, and once you’ve made up a checklist then it will be really easy to refer back to once a year and it won’t take much time at all to do this helpful annual checklist task.