Following a devastating loss to one’s home, as is the case throughout California due to recent fires and mudslides, the process of contacting your insurer to begin the rebuilding or repair can be complicated and daunting. Many are quick to begin the rebuilding and repairs immediately or as soon as possible. However, there are requirements in working with your insurer to properly rebuild or repair. If an insured fails to follow appropriate protocols, the insurer can not only deny coverage, but do so on the basis of fraud.

Here are a few helpful tips to avoid this pitfall. Foremost, if you hire a public adjuster be certain he or she is in good standing and licensed. Next, do not begin the repair or replacement process without first contacting your insurer. You often need approval from the insurer to perform such repairs and replacements. Additionally, the insurer will almost always conduct its own visual inspection to assess the damage, determine what is necessary to repair, and how to begin the process.

While you may have to hold off on beginning the repair or replacement process, it is important and helpful to begin documenting the loss through photographs, videos, inventory and any other effective method. Should the conditions change later —which they inevitably will—that documentation is important evidence of the conditions immediately following the loss. Similarly, when photographing the damage and loss, it is also important to take reasonable steps to protect your property from subsequent damage. If such damage was preventable, the insurer may not cover the repair.

Failing to adhere to the proper protocols during this complicated process can lead the insurer to deny coverage either partially or in full. It’s important to know your rights and duties when embarking on the rebuild or repair of your home. Should your insurance company treat you unfairly, contact an experienced insurance professional to answer questions regarding your claim.