What to Expect When Filing a Personal Property Claim
The things you own are important to you. And losing them, whether from damage or theft, can be stressful. Knowing how your homeowners, condo or renters insurance policy helps you protect your belongings can reduce that anxiety. So can understanding how the property damage insurance claims process works.
What is Personal Property coverage?
Personal property coverage, also known as contents coverage, is the part of your homeowners, condo or renters insurance policy that pays to repair or replace your stuff if it’s destroyed, damaged or stolen due to a covered loss. This includes clothing, appliances, furniture, credit cards, electronics and more. And the great thing is that it safeguards your belongings wherever you keep them − in your home, yard, car, garage and even hotels when you travel.
The amount of personal property coverage that’s available may vary based on the type of property insurance you have:
Usually 50% to 70% of your dwelling coverage, which protects the structure of your home
Typically between $0 and $500,000
Often from $10,000 to $500,000
There’s also a deductible, the amount of money you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance company picks up the rest. Most people have a $500 or $1,000 deductible, although you can customize it.
If you ever have to file a personal property damage claim, here’s what you can do to make the process as stress-free as possible.
Be prepared before you have a loss
Create a home inventory.
An up-to-date list of your belongings will help ensure you have the right amount of coverage. And if you do have a loss, it will help you get your insurance claim settled faster.
Start by listing everything. Then document each item with photos or video, and detailed descriptions that include the purchase date, original price or appraised value, and serial numbers (if they exist). And keep the receipts for what you buy − especially those expensive purchases! Receipts are like gold in insurance claims, because they back up individual values.
Know what your insurance policy does and doesn’t cover.
The type of personal property coverage and its limits vary with each policy. To submit a claim under a named perils policy, the cause of damage to your personal property must be due to one of the named perils, like a fire, theft or water damage from a burst pipe. On the other hand, an open peril policy will protect your stuff from any type of loss as long as it isn’t excluded.
Also keep in mind that not all personal property is the same. Standard homeowners/condo/ renters policies have specific limits for items like jewelry, art, musical instruments, antiques and certain electronics, including computers. For example, your standard policy might limit coverage for stolen jewelry to $1,500, meaning that’s the most it will pay for theft, no matter the total value of the piece(s). You usually have to purchase extra coverage, called scheduled personal property insurance, to increase the limits on your most valuable possessions. Otherwise, you may not be fully reimbursed if anything happens to them.
Personal property insurance generally doesn’t pay for damage from floods or earthquakes unless you buy extra coverage specifically for those disasters. Accidentally leaving your phone in a cab or dropping your ring down the kitchen sink probably won’t be covered either.
Before the unexpected happens, review your policy or contact your insurer to be certain you have all of the coverage you need.
What you should do when you have a loss
File a police report.
If your claim involves theft, arson or any illegal activity, contact the police immediately at their nonemergency number. Don’t call 911 unless the crime is in progress. Be sure to write down the police report number and request a copy.
Notify the property manager or your landlord
if you live in a condo or apartment and experience any kind of loss.
Create a list of your damaged items and photograph or record them.
Be ready to provide this information to your insurance company. Skipping this step could mean you receive less of a payout than you’re entitled to. The home inventory you created earlier will make it a lot easier to recall what you own.
Report a personal property loss to your insurer
as soon as possible. Most companies require you to file a claim within one year, although the time limit can vary by state. Remember, the longer you wait to submit a claim, the harder it can be to prove the source of the loss.
You can notify most insurance companies online or by phone. Whichever way you choose, be sure to have the following information ready:
- Policyholder’s name
- Policy number
- Address and phone number
- Type of claim (damage, theft, etc.)
- Description of the property loss, including when it occurred
While it isn’t necessary to check prices or get repair estimates before making an insurance claim, taking that step can help you figure out whether it makes sense to file one. If the cost to repair or replace your this is less or about the same as your deductible, it may be worth absorbing the expense yourself.
What to expect after you file a personal property claim
- A personal property damage claim works like any other type of insurance claim, and the process officially begins when you notify your insurer about your loss. They'll assign a claims adjuster to assess the damage, determine if coverage applies and process the appropriate settlement. The adjuster will also assist you with capturing an inventory of the damaged items.
- If both your home and personal property are damaged in a covered loss, and you have a homeowners or condo policy, you’ll generally receive two payments from your insurance company, one for each coverage.
- The amount of money you receive depends on how your insurance policy calculates reimbursement. With actual cash value (ACV) coverage, your insurance company will pay what it will cost to replace a damaged or stolen item minus depreciation. That is, what it’s worth now after losing value over time due to wear and tear. Replacement cost value (RCV) coverage, on the other hand, pays you to purchase a new item of similar kind and quality.
Say you bought a couch for $3,000 five years ago, and today it’s worth $1,500. If it’s damaged in a fire and you have actual cash value coverage, you’ll get $1,500 because that’s your couch’s actual cash value after depreciation. With replacement cost coverage, you’ll get what it costs to buy a brand new couch of similar like, kind and quality.
Even if you have a replacement cost policy, the first check you receive will be based on the actual cash value of the damaged or stolen item. Once you replace the item you’ll be paid an additional amount up to the amount of withheld depreciation. If you decide not to replace an item, you’ll likely be paid the actual cash value (depreciated) amount for it.
- Another important thing to keep in mind: The payout of a covered loss will be the amount you’re owed minus the deductible. Using the above example with replacement cost value coverage, your fire-damaged couch is valued at $3,000 and you have a $500 deductible. Your insurance company will cover $2,500 to replace it, and you’ll be responsible for the other $500. Your deductible applies each time you file a claim.
- To be fully reimbursed for damaged or stolen items, most insurance companies require you to actually replace them. Your insurer may ask for copies of receipts as proof of purchase, then pay the difference between the actual cash value you initially received and the full cost of the replacement. You’ll generally have several months from the date of the actual cash value payment to purchase replacements. Be sure to confirm the time frame with the representative handling your claim.
Call one of Amica’s insurance professionals to ask about coverage types and your level of risk. Our team will walk you through all of your options, and help you customize a policy that fits your budget and protects you on the road.