By Kimberly Lankford

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

When you file a claim that involves damage to your home, an adjuster usually comes to inspect within 24 to 48 hours. If you can, have your contractor at your house when you meet with the adjuster so they’re both on the same page. The insurer may adjust the payout if the contractor finds more problems after starting the work.

Keep your inventory up to date

Keeping an updated inventory isn’t the tedious hassle that it used to be. Many insurers have home inventory apps you can use, or you can go to www.knowyourstuff.org. “Take pictures of your rooms, closets, attic and your backyard,” says John Doak, Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner. Open drawers and cupboards so that the photos show all your possessions. Keep the photos and copies of receipts for valuable items outside of your home, with your insurance agent or online. If possible, have your insurance agent visit your home, take pictures and let you know if you’ve reached your policy limits, says Doak.

Know what’s covered

Most homeowners policies pay for additional living expenses — including rent, food and other costs — for up to a year while you’re unable to live in your home. Keep the receipts for reimbursement; some insurers provide debit cards for these expenses. Periodically review your policy or ask your agent what is and isn’t covered and how to fill the gaps.

Flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, but you can get a policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov;) your home-insurance agent may sell those policies. Sewage and drain backups usually aren’t covered automatically, but it may cost just $50 to add about $10,000 in coverage, says Rene Hernandez, an independent agent in Oklahoma City. Most policies cover only about $5,000 worth of jewelry, but you can add a rider to provide coverage at the items’ appraised value.

How to fight back

If your insurer drags its feet or you don’t think you’re getting adequate reimbursement, you can get help from your state insurance department (find yours at www.naic.org/map.) class="Apple-converted-space"> “If there’s an impasse, the insurance department can step in and speed things up,” says Doak, whose office fielded about 30,000 calls to help policyholders last year. The Oklahoma Insurance Department, like departments in many states, sets up a mobile office to answer consumers’ questions about their coverage and rights after a major disaster. It also offers a mediation program to help resolve disputes between homeowners and their insurance companies, an option that several state insurance departments offer.

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