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By Carol Church

Homeowners should be sure file soon after the damage as there will be a time limit on the policy as to how long there is to file. When filing, ask how long it will be before an adjuster can come. Also ask what to do as far as repairs being made in the meantime and whether to obtain estimates for major repairs at this time.

Men shaking hands in front of words about insurance

After the claim is filed, an insurance adjuster will visit the home to assess the damage. When he or she has completed his or her work, there will be more forms to fill out and submit. This is where lists and photo documentation will come in. Homeowners should be sure to keep a record of all phone calls and conversations during this process.

If There Is a Problem

Having serious damage to your home is a stressful situation, and few homeowners want to take the time and effort to go to bat against an insurance company. However, at times this may be well advised. Some may wish to consider hiring an independent adjuster to give a second opinion on the claim. This adjuster is paid by and works for the homeowner and helps ensure that he or she can get a full settlement. Insurance companies have dispute procedures that apply in this situation.

Wait for Payment

Once the homeowner and the insurance company have come to an agreement, a check will be issued. Laws in most states protect the homeowner from delays in payment.

If the settlement is large, has been contentious, or there are any concerns, it may be wise to involve a lawyer before signing anything or accepting the payment.

In some cases, the insurance company pays the mortgage lender, not the homeowner. This can result in delays and bank fees, but is done for the bank’s protection.

Severe Disasters

If damage to the home was caused by a serious and wide-scale natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or major flood, special circumstances may apply. Once a region has been officially declared a disaster area, numerous types of assistance go into effect. For instance, homeowners may be eligible for additional FEMA benefits that can help pay for damage not covered by insurance, or for a place to live while repairs are done. Special tax benefits may also apply. For more information, go online to or call the toll-free FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (FEMA).

Special Circumstances for Military Families

What if belongings and possessions are damaged by a natural disaster or other problem while a family is in military housing? While some might assume that the military would reimburse for damages like these, this is not the case. It’s crucial to always have rental insurance when living in rented housing, just in case of catastrophic events like these. It’s typically far less expensive than homeowner’s insurance.

Another important factor that’s important for service members to know about is vacancy clauses. Many homeowner insurance companies include a statement in their policies that they will not pay out for damages incurred to a home that has been left vacant for more than some certain specific period of time, in order to prevent having to insure vacant and abandoned properties.

However, insurance companies do not typically wish to harm deploying service members and may well have a special endorsement available to military members in this case. If it’s likely a home will stay vacant more than 60 days, this is something to look into.  Many insurance companies also offer discounts to service members.

Having serious damage to a home is never easy or simple, but insurance does offer protection. At times, the repaired home will even be superior to what existed before.


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