How To File A Renters Claim After A Burglary

Renters insurance is an easy and inexpensive way to protect your valuables should anything happen to them in your apartment or rental house. However, most people just pay the yearly premium and then forget all about the rental insurance unless they need it. If you haven’t given any thought to how to prepare for and file a renters claim in the event of a burglary or unexpected damage, now is the time to take a few minutes and think about the “what if’s.”

Prepare For A Renters Claim Now

When you move in, or add a renters insurance policy, there are some steps you need to take now to prepare for a potential claim in the future.

Take Photos Of All Your Valuables

The first step is to take photos of all your valuables, and your smartphone is the best tool for the job. Items like electronics, low-end jewelry, art, musical instruments, record / DVD / Blu-Ray collections, household appliances you own, and more are all worth photographing. Note that very expensive items like high-end jewelry may need their own separate insurance policies. Take photos of everything valuable on your phone, but don’t just leave them on the photo roll and call it good. Upload those photos to your email account and keep them stored there as a backup. You never know, your phone might be one of the items that is stolen in the break in. Don’t forget to snap photos of items in places other than your house or apartment like the garage, yard, shed or whatever. Alternatively, taking short videos of your valuables works as well.

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TV, stereo, Playstation or anything valuable – document it all now.

Take Notes

Once the photos or videos are uploaded to your email account or cloud storage, take some notes on each expensive or unique item. You should try to describe what makes an item unique and/or write down serial numbers and similar identifying characteristics.

Keep Receipts

Finally, if you end up buying new items or can dig up the old receipts from expensive items, they will help with a potential claim too. Take photos of each receipt and upload them to your email account or cloud storage. Next, store the physical receipts in a safe place, off-site if you can, and keep track of them should you ever need to prove purchases in a claim.

What To Do After A Break In

If you return to your apartment or house to find that there has been a break in, don’t just rush in to look at what is gone. Instead you should exercise caution and make sure everyone is gone before you head inside. Don’t touch anything once you get inside, just look around to make sure there was indeed a break in and then vacate the property immediately.

Call The Police

Once you’ve established that there was a break in at your apartment or house, your first step is to call the police to report the burglary. As we said, it’s best to leave the scene untouched and be out of the apartment or house if possible as you wait for the police to arrive. Once they arrive, describe the situation and let them investigate the scene. The police will likely ask your neighbors if they saw anything, and you should accompany them if they allow to gather information. Talking to your neighbors may be the best way to get some clues as to who perpetuated the robbery.

Call Your Landlord

Once you’ve had a chance to talk to the police, or in some cases if you’ve waiting for them to arrive, you should call your landlord to report the burglary next. Depending on the damage to the property, they may need to file an insurance claim of their own. Most leases require you to contact your landlord in the event of any emergency or break in, and you won’t want to skip this step.

File An Insurance Claim

Once you’ve received a police report and notified your landlord, you’ll want to file the renters insurance claim. Any theft or damage over $500 is worthy of a claim. There is a deadline for filing a renters claim, usually within 2-3 days max. Do yourself a favor and contact your agent when you can to get more information on the filing window. You’ll need to inform the insurance company of your policy number, when the event occurred, and the details of the event. This is where the police report comes in handy and can help facilitate the claims process.

Document The Damage

One other thing, once the police have left and you’ve informed your landlord and your insurance company, you’ll want to document the damage with photos and video before you begin the clean up. Remember, as in any insurance claim, the more photos and video evidence, the better.

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Document all the damage you can after the break in or other event.

Other Renters Claims

Vehicle And Personal Theft

Don’t forget that renters insurance doesn’t just cover your apartment or house. Valuables stolen from your bag or from your vehicle also qualify for renters insurance protection. Follow the steps above and notify the police if needed.

Fire And Other Damage

A fire, water damage, or negligence of your neighbors could prompt a renters claim as well. The process is essentially the same with one exception, certain circumstances like water damage won’t require a police visit, and you should avoid calling the police unless it is necessary. A fire will naturally require an emergency call if it is still burning. Acts of god like earthquakes, floods and other events aren’t typically covered by renters policies.

Next Steps

Over the next few days, monitor online sales listings and visit pawn shops to look for your valuables. Pawn shops will return any item that is proven to be yours (a police report is again important to facilitate this process), and you can contact the police to investigate any online classifieds of items you believe to be yours.

It is important to stay calm throughout this process, and even though it is a stressful ordeal to go through, keeping a cool head and following these steps will ensure you get the most out of your renters insurance claim.

Images one, thumb and three courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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