When you’re abruptly faced with unexpected damage to your home after a severe weather event or due to any other reason, filing a homeowners insurance claim is often the first step toward recovery – if you can get the financial support you need for your repairs.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are great at making promises they don’t really want to keep, and they’ll look for any excuse to deny or devalue a claim. That makes it critically important to understand your duty to mitigate your losses.
What’s the duty to mitigate?
When your home sustains damage from a storm, a fire, a burst pipe or some other issue, you are generally required to protect your property from further harm. That helps control the costs the insurance company faces. For example:
- A pipe bursts: You would likely be expected to turn off the water supply to the pipe to stop further leaking and clean up the water to limit mold, stop wood floors from warping and so on.
- A broken window: A neighbor’s tree breaks in the wind and a limb shatters your living room window. You might be expected to get the tree limb out of the way (if possible) and cover your damaged window with plywood to prevent additional damage from the elements and thefts.
- A damaged roof: Maybe a storm comes through and tears a small hole in your roof. You would probably be expected to cover the damaged area with tarps to prevent water and animals from getting in before repairs can be made.
In addition to doing what you can to mitigate your losses, it’s important to document every step. Take photos of the scene both before and after you undertake any efforts at mitigation.
Insurance companies won’t hesitate to deny a claim or reduce the compensation they are willing to offer because they don’t think you did enough. If that happens, it may be time to find out more about your legal options.