Six Steps to Take When a Business Loss Occurs: The Self-Storage Operator’s Role in the Insurance-Claims Process

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Photos. Pictures are beneficial. Take them before you start any cleanup or repairs. Photos taken prior to a loss also may be helpful when there’s a fire in the apartment or office. Pictures can help you with documenting what’s been damaged or destroyed, and also can serve as a refresher to what you had before the loss.

Historical records. If your claim includes loss of rent, historical records will be needed to document your loss of income. Your facility may have certain times during the year when rental rates go up. It may be necessary to look at prior years’ records to identify your loss if the incident occurs during a peak period of renting.

If a fire destroys one of your buildings right before your busy season, your rents immediately before the loss will be lower than if you could have rented the damaged building during the upcoming busy season. In that case, the insurance carrier would want to look at the same time period for prior years to verify the increased rent loss.

Tenant leases or lien documentation. If the event involves a potential liability claim related to a tenant’s stored property, good documentation is critical. The insurer will want a copy of the tenant’s lease. If it’s a sale and disposal claim, the carrier also will want documentation of the lien procedure.

Obtain the tenant’s current address and phone number, if not already on file. You may not be negligent or liable for his goods, but you must work with your insurance carrier to document the claim. This type of documentation is also one of the best ways to protect your business from customer claims.

4. Work With Your Adjustor

Find out what else the insurer needs to move forward with your claim. Your carrier should contact you with details on what it may need. An adjuster may come to your facility to inspect the damages and work with you to settle the claim. Repair estimates may be needed, so the carrier may ask you to obtain an estimate or two bids. Working closely with your carrier or adjuster will help get your claim approved and your check in the mail quickly.

5. Keep Records

Keep records of your costs, including invoices for repairs and additional expenses used to protect your property and reduce the claim. Make copies of everything before you send it on to your insurance carrier. Make a folder and organize copies of your loss documentation. This will make discussions with your carrier easier and help avoid conflicts.

6. Prevent Further Loss

Do everything possible to prevent additional loss from occurring. Whether filing a property or liability claim, it’s in your best interest to do anything reasonable to prevent another. Most insurance policies include a section addressing your duties after an incident and will tell you how to protect your property from further loss. Make any temporary repairs necessary to protect against greater damage.  If in doubt, check with your insurance carrier about what’s reasonable.

Expect a phone call or visit from your insurer within a couple of days of filing your claim. If the loss is due to a catastrophe such as a tornado, there may be a delay due to the number of claims being made at the time.

Have your notes ready and complete any forms requested as quickly as possible, and your claim should be handled smoothly and quickly. By knowing what to expect from your insurance carrier when filing, you’ll be prepared to handle the unthinkable if it occurs.

Kay Schaefer is an employee of Deans & Homer, an insurance managing underwriter providing specialized coverage for the self-storage industry since 1974. Schaefer has more than 30 years of experience writing unique insurance coverage. For more information, call 800.847.9999; visit www.deanshomer.com .

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