One of the most daunting tasks required in the claim process after losing your home to a fire is properly documenting your personal property to ensure you’re compensated fully for what you’ve lost. Completing a total loss inventory list is a high-stress task, but it must be done correctly so as not to risk leaving settlement dollars on the table. Know going in it will be messy, time-consuming, and require a lot of patience as you meticulously document the many possessions you’ve accumulated over a lifetime.
Make Sure it’s Safe
Before entering your home, get explicit permission from the fire department that it’s safe to do so. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rugged close-toed shoes or boots, work gloves, safety glasses or goggles, a certified face mask/respirator (marked NIOSH, N95, or P100) to prevent inhaling of smoke or soot and other toxic materials, and a hard hat.
Creating a total loss inventory list of your possessions requires going through the entire dwelling, room by room, taking multiple photos/videos, then creating a list of your items, their age, condition, and replacement cost values.
One Room at a Time
- Make a diagram of the house, labeling all the rooms. This will help jumpstart your memory about the contents of each room. Draw in large items like furniture and electronic items.
- Start in one room, place several smaller items on a flat surface like a tabletop and photograph them. (Smartphone cameras work well for this.) Repeat the process until completed, then move on to the other rooms and do likewise until you’ve gone through the entire home.
- Once all photographs have been taken, you can begin the arduous process of going through them and listing every item shown, making sure to include brand, age, quantity, cost, condition—be as specific as possible. (There are sample spreadsheets available online from many sources that will help you with this process.)
- If you can, include all receipts. If you don’t have receipts or they were destroyed, consult the places your items were purchased. You can also search for items on the Internet. Note the price you paid for each item on your inventory.
Another helpful idea is to visit a department store such as Target and use its wedding registry tool to recreate a list of items you lost in the fire. If not available, list similar ones. You can also use a price-scanning app for your smartphone, scan the items that you lost or were damaged to create a list of items and prices.
Assign Replacement Cost Values to Your Personal Items
As there are literally thousands of personal property items to be replaced, you need to be meticulous and organized as you create your total loss inventory list. Most policies sold today provide Replacement Cost Value (RCV) coverage for damaged personal property, but they make insureds jump through a few hoops to get fully reimbursed. While confusing to many policyholders, the process ensures your items are replaced in a way that protects the insurance company from overpaying.
As you conduct your inventory, go into as much detail as you can, using receipts and photos if possible. assigning RCV to each item. Note that the insurance adjuster will depreciate each item based on age, condition, and wear & tear, then give everything an Actual Cash Value (ACV). Recoverable depreciation is the dollar amount the insurance company withholds until you prove you purchased or replace a given item.
Save all invoices and receipts so you can submit them with the claim and be fully reimbursed. If an older item is in excellent condition, you can argue for decreased depreciation so the ACV is higher.
We Can Help
Creating a total loss inventory list is a lot to handle and can be overwhelming. Miller Public Adjusters has extensive experience inventorying damaged/destroyed personal property that will save you time, hassle, and best of all, be done correctly to make sure your assets are replaced. We will be your advocate and guide through the aftermath of a house fire ensure you get every penny you’re entitled to under the provisions of your policy claim.
Not sure where to start? Schedule a free consultation with our experienced public adjusters today, or call us toll-free at 800-958-4829.
DOWNLOAD OUR DIY GUIDE TO RECOVERING FROM A FIRE
Decisions made and actions taken during the first six months after a fire will largely determine what kind of claim settlement you’ll receive from your insurance company.