General Question

BBSDTfamily's avatar

How do you "prove your belongings" to your insurance company when your house burns down?

Asked by BBSDTfamily (6737 points ) December 19th, 2009

I caught a piece of toast on fire last night and set off the smoke alarm, and it got me thinking about the fact that some freak accident like this could happen and we could lose our home. That thought lead to the worry that I don’t know how to prove what belongings were inside the house if it were to burn. We have our house insured for a definite dollar amount, and the belongings insured for another amount, but I’m pretty sure we’d have to show that we actually had that amount of valuables in the house to receive any money. If your house is gone, what do insurance companies want as proof?

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16 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I believe your policy includes a mathematical method of calculation. What they do suggest is walking around your house and videotaping all of your items, artwork, camera equipment, etc. and storing that video at a different location, such as a bank deposit box.

Anything you own that has a value of over $1500 should be covered by a separate rider.

Xann009's avatar

@PandoraBoxx Yeah, I’m pretty sure your supposed to document your belongings (what you want insured, anyway.)

dpworkin's avatar

Adjusters are used to seeing the damage and extrapolating from what they see, but I have always used a camera to document my belongings in situ and then store the photos off site.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

What happens to the people who think they’re safe by paying their premiums and don’t ever think to document everything in their home? It seems to me that if you pay for X number of dollars worth of insurance, you should rightfully get it if something were to happen. I hope there aren’t people out there who get screwed by the insurance company… It would be terrible to have my house burn down, and then even worse on top of that to not be able to replace everything.

Cotton101's avatar

yes, was a homeowner adjuster for 25 years and Pdworkin is correct! You might, i never done it, take a video or photos of you stuff and put in a lock box. Bottomline, the adjusters deal with this everyday. They will make it as painless as possible, but under the best of circumstances, it is a very painful process!

Fernspider's avatar

Bear in mind the the amount you pay for your premiums go up with each higher amount of your “sum insured”. If you suffer total loss, then you are rightly entitled to be paid out your full sum insured. (Often with total loss, a Loss Adjuster and on occasion an Investigator is appointed to investigate and minimise fraud. They sometimes complete checks to see if it appears reasonable that an individual could realistically own x amount of property).

Total loss for Home Contents or Home cover is actually quite rare so insurance company underwriters factor in the likelihood and frequency of these types of events in certain circumstances (fire alarms in the home, if you personally live in the residence, if you are renovating, home owners vs renters, alarmed properties, previous insurance history, demographic etc). In cases of total loss, the insurance company makes a financial loss but this is compensated by the large number of clients who never claim and certainly don’t suffer total loss.

There are exclusions in your policy too. If the house burnt down and the circumstances surrounding the fire can be attributed to arson or are treated suspiciously, the claim could be declined.

Keeping a back up of items and their worth including receipts is beneficial as you may need to claim on particular items at some stage and may be required to submit proof for this.

If you ever suffer total loss, you will definitely have your premiums increased in future after post loss underwriting is completed.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I have a complete photographic record of the contents of both houses. The books and firearms collections are insured separately. The photo albums and inventory lists are in a safe-deposit box. This should make an adjusters job fairly simple.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Xann009 Danke sorry, no umlaut on my keyboard

Xann009's avatar

Kein Problem! I memorized the alt code for it XD I’m taking german so it’s good to know!

john65pennington's avatar

After the fact is too late. taking photos of each room and its contents are the best proof in the world and most insurance companies will accept this. in 1998, we had a tornado in Nashville. it destroyed a lot of property. we had no electricity for two weeks. everything in the fridge was destroyed. we had to start all over. Nationwide insurance accepted our food list from the freezer, as gospel. they paid for all the spoiled food, without hestitation. photos BEFORE the fire are your best best. after the fire, attempt to gather all your receipts and notify the locations you bought merchandise for a duplicate. if purchased with a credit card, this should be no problem.

Cruiser's avatar

Photos and receipts and make sure you insurance policy is up to date as far as personal belongings and content value.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Cruiser Good point, I make frequent additions/deletions to my library and firearms collection and have to keep those documented with the insurance carrier.

Cotton101's avatar

Receipts are not as big a deal as some might suggest. If the adjuster can verify some of the larger items in regard to value and age and the loss is a clean loss, this should suffice for most adjusters. But, having said that, each adjuster is different. Some are more documentation conscious as opposed to others. So, if you want to be safe, take your receipts and photos of your content, and put them in a lock box!

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kgoneil's avatar

I recieved a letter in the mail today from a company wanting help us in case of an insurance large such as fire, flood, theft or wind/tornado damage to my home. What they do is charge a fee and come into your home and take photos of all your content such as tv, funiture, guns, all jewlery etc… They will also make note of any seriel numbers that may be on a certain product, such as dishwashers and hvac units. They will keep this on file and you will have access to add to this is if you buy new items or change items. The reason they do this is because insurance companies will only pay what you can prove if you have a large loss. I know these losses are few and far between but if something did happen I think I would not to be protected. The fees range from $450—$999 and lot of it depends on how much stuff you really have in your home. They will also charge a yearly fee of only $9.95 a year. I thinks this is a great idea because a lot of us say we are going to do this and store in a safty deposit box but we never do. Does this seem like a good idea to any of you? And do the prices seem reseasonble? The also will give us claim advise in case of a loss

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