Before we purchased our home in 2008, we had to have proof of insurance before closing. When I looked over the policy, I felt the payouts for structure and contents were high, but, I felt comfortable knowing we would be covered, in case of a loss.
Fast forward to October 12, 2018. Our home caught on fire and it was a total loss. It was only then that we began to understand and were thankful that the coverage was what it was! There were items in our policy we weren’t aware of that were in there!
Disclaimer: Not all policies or insurance companies have the same coverage!
We learned that because we were self-employed, we could be reimbursed so much for office equipment, such as computers and printers. It is important if you are self-employed to check what, if any, coverage you may receive.
Even if you don’t own your home, and are renting or leasing, you should still get insurance. Sure, the landlord SHOULD have insurance on their dwellings; but, their insurance will not cover the loss of your contents! If you don’t have renter’s insurance, please check with local insurance companies for competitive rates and coverage. You may spend a little more for better coverage; but, in the long run, you’ll be glad you did!
A couple of things I would advise you to do are the following:
Sit down with your agent and go over your coverage!
He or she will be able to break down everything in your policy and explain them to you. At this point, if he or she feels that you’re not fully covered (perhaps your policy is old), you can decide if you need to update your policy. You don’t want to have something terrible happen to your home or apartment, only to find out you aren’t covered enough, or their policy doesn’t cover certain things in your possessions. Double-check with them if there is coverage for loss of important documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.)
Take inventory of all major content items, like major appliances and furniture!
If you have the owner’s manuals for major appliances and other equipment, put them in a safe or a fireproof container. Take pictures of those documents and the items themselves, and store them in your email, or on a flash drive. You can still photograph them in case you don’t have those documents. Now maybe a time to declutter by getting rid of things, or, putting them in storage bins, labeled and photographed. Note: You CAN email them to yourself, in case you did not know this!
The quicker you take action, the more at ease you’ll feel. Nobody wants to go through a loss like a fire, and then have to try to remember every little thing that was in your home. A thorough inventory with photos will bring you peace of mind, as well as immensely help the contents adjuster if you have two separate adjusters (contents and structure). This was something we were not aware of, so we had been dealing with two people when it came to our house.
Tip: If you aren’t sure what’s covered by structure or content, imagine you can pick your home up and flip it upside down. Everything that falls is contents, and what stays is structure.
It is never too late to start conducting an inventory and documentation process. The more detailed, the better. It’ll be too late if you put it off and something happens! Remember, you don’t have to “eat the whole elephant in one day”. If you have a lot of stuff, take a room or two at a time. Label the rooms on a flash drive beforehand.