Most people don’t enjoy paying for homeowner’s insurance—that is, until they have a claim. Where I live, in the Northeast, we had brutal weather over the past year and cause to be thankful for insurance. We had severe flooding from rainstorms, an earthquake and a hurricane in one week, and snow in the fall, and the weather affected many homeowners in the region.

Unfortunately flooding and earth movement are specifically excluded from homeowner’s insurance, but it’s always a good time for a refresher on the best ways to document damage and file a claim when necessary.

Steps to take when filing a weather-related insurance claim

Step 1: Document everything with photo and video. I cannot emphasize this enough. Your insurance carrier isn’t going to take your word for it that there have been damages—it is going to want to see photos for proof. Your carrier might want to see before and after comparisons as well, so you should consider taking a photo inventory of your home now and keeping the pictures in a safe deposit box or fireproof lock box.

Tip: You know that date stamp that’s so annoying on your family photos? Did you ever figure out how to turn it off? Turn it back on. Having the date stamp on your photos will help strengthen your claim.

Step 2: Talk to your insurance agent. We get so many calls from people who have started to repair damage to their home and then call to ask, “Is this covered?” Unfortunately, sometimes their homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover the damage or the way they’ve started the repairs.

For this reason, it’s important to talk to your agent as quickly as possible so you can start repairs. Sometimes repairs are needed to prevent further damage, which is your responsibility as both a policyholder and a homeowner.

Step 3: Document the repairs. Your insurance company will be less likely to question the charges for repairs if you document the process along the way. Take photos and keep all of your receipts to substantiate the repair costs. Any repairs not reimbursable by insurance can be written off on your taxes the following year.

Remember, when in doubt about anything regarding your insurance, please call your agent. Let him or her help you navigate through the process. This will save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation down the road.

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Linda Rey is a licensed insurance agent at Rey Insurance with a broad spectrum of expertise in life, accident, health, property and casualty insurance as well as retirement planning and college funding strategies.

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