Imagine a freak storm that causes a large branch from an oak tree outside to snap and damage part of your roof. Your homeowners insurance policy, a coverage designed to step in financially to back you up in these cases, will cover the cost of repairing the roof damage. Your insurance provider will send out a “preferred contractor” to handle the repair. You may think they’re doing you a great favor, but in many cases, these contractors are looking out for the insurance company’s best interests — and not yours, seeking to do the job as inexpensively as possible. 

The low-cost approach may be acceptable for some types of damages such as replacing a few roof shingles, but as for other situations such as damage to your gorgeous granite countertops in your kitchen or replacing your custom closet cabinets, do you want the cheapest fix available?

David Miller of Miller Public Adjusters works with homeowners to help them get a fair deal from their home insurance company in case of a claim. According to Miller, “You are not required to work with the contractor the insurance company sent out.” You may prefer to find your own quality contractor or choose from the ones HomeAdvisor has to offer.

[Read: The Best Homeowners Insurance Companies ]

What is HomeAdvisor?

HomeAdvisor is an online company that matches homeowners with contractors to handle nearly any type of build, remodel or repair, taking some of the guesswork out of choosing the right person for the job. 

The HomeAdvisor process aims to eliminate “nightmare contractor” scenarios such as  paying for work that was badly done or never completed, or even having a lien placed on your home from a less-than-reputable contractor. Regardless of whether the contractor you’re hiring through HomeAdvisor is doing some lawn maintenance or completely upgrading your home’s electrical system, all prospective pros are pre-screened. 

HomeAdvisor conducts a criminal background check, as well as verifies that the contractor is licensed at the state and local level according to their trade. In addition, contractors are rated by previous customers, so you know that any references and reviews are legitimate.

As you can imagine, HomeAdvisor seems to do a great job of pre-selecting the best tradespeople in your area. The process is pretty quick, too. Let’s go back to the opening scenario. The oak tree branch that has damaged your roof is causing a leak from the continuing rain from the storm. Doing a search for a roofing contractor in your area on HomeAdvisor returns several bids in minutes. In some cases, it’s faster than your insurance company. You can check the website’s TrueCost Guides to compare the cost of the bids you’re getting to what other HomeAdvisor contractors charged for the same job. All in all, you may be able to get the damage repaired before the night is over — as long as your insurance company is on board.

Are HomeAdvisor Repairs Covered by Your Homeowners Insurance?

Insurance broker Jade Plummer of Unity One Insurance says that homeowners can usually “choose to get repairs done with any contractor they find as long as the contractor is properly licensed and insured.” HomeAdvisor repairs may likely be covered by your homeowners insurance. But before you hire a contractor, it’s important to go through your insurance company first, even if it’s raining in your living room from the roof damage a tree branch has caused.

Steps to File a Homeowners Claim

The very first step to take is to notify your insurance company about the damage or loss. If the damage is an emergency, most insurance companies have an 800-number with claims agents on standby 24 hours per day. If it’s not as serious, you could file a claim through your insurance company’s mobile app or website. 

In case of emergency, the agent will make a decision on the spot on whether to approve a certain amount of money as a stopgap, such as paying for someone to come out and put plywood and tarps on your roof to stop the water damage. Once the emergency is solved, the claims process begins. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), you can expect the following:

  • Your insurance company will send out a claims adjuster to inspect the loss or damage.
  • You may receive an on-the-spot settlement check from the claims adjuster for the repair. This is where having your HomeAdvisor quote comes in handy. You may be able to negotiate a higher amount if you can show the adjuster the bids for repair you were provided with. 
  • You accept the check, or accept the insurance company’s suggestion to send out a preferred contractor, and order the repairs to start. 
  • According to the III, the first check isn’t the last. It’s typically “an advance against the total settlement amount.” You may need to request additional funds. If your contractor finds additional damage, the III says “you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount.” 

[ Read: Homeowners Insurance Buyer’s Guide ]

Insurance Claims Payments When You Have a Mortgage

If you have a mortgage on your home, you may notice that the check the adjuster writes out is in your name and your lender’s. Your lender is named in the insurance policy and has an interest in making sure the home is maintained in good condition. In this case, you’ll need to deposit the check into an escrow account through your lender. They’ll need to release the funds to you to pay out the repairs — and they typically pay it out in increments. 

But first, you’ll need to show them proof of the repairs you’re about to do. Show the mortgage lender your HomeAdvisor bid from the contractor of choice, as well as the amount the contractor requires to get started. Your lender will then release the deposit. They may also want to inspect the completed job before they release the final payment. Although this sounds like a lot of work, it’s in your best interest. Your lender will make sure the job was completed properly before the contractor gets paid in full.

The Bottom Line

If you have damages or losses to your property, your homeowners insurance is there to cover them. The insurance company may offer to send out their own contractors or you can use your own, as long as they are licensed and insured. HomeAdvisor takes the guesswork out of finding contractors that are licensed by performing background checks and verifications on all their professionals. The website may be a great resource for finding trade experts if you need home repairs.

Photo by John Fedele / GettyImages

About the Authors

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a home and personal finance writer with a degree in International Business and Journalism from American University. She’s written about internet and TV for MYMOVE, Freshome and Safety.com.