Returning Home: Record-Keeping

Taking pictures is a very effective way of showing the damage to your property. If you need a camera, remember the disposable cameras you can buy in a grocery or drug store.


After an emergency, if you have had to leave your home or your home was damaged in any way, it is important to document all of the costs you have had.

Your first contact should be your insurance agent. Keep complete records of losses and disaster-related expenses. These will help you in filing your claim. If additional aid is available, or if you are not insured, these records will also help you in applying for State or federal aid that may become available and for allowable income tax deductions. Most disaster losses are also deductible for income tax purposes.

Always take pictures of any damages. Photographs of damaged homes or objects are excellent evidence of the impact on your home or possessions.

Include records on the following:

  • All actual losses, including furniture, clothes, paintings, artifacts, food, and equipment, even if you don't intend to replace them;
  • All disaster-related expenses. This includes the additional cost of living, if any, for your family and you, such as motel and restaurant bills, temporary rental of cars or home rental;
  • Clean-up expenses, rented equipment, and depreciation of equipment purchases;
  • Restoration expenses, including all labor and material purchased and other costs to return your home to its prior condition.
  • After completing your list of losses, have two or three of your neighbors sign the list as witnesses. Make sure they inspect all damaged material, so they can vouch for the list's accuracy.
  • Try to document the value of each object lost. Include bills of sale, cancelled checks, charge account records or prior insurance evaluations. If you don't have these, estimate the value, purchase place, and date of purchase. Include this information with your list.
  • After the clean up, make an inventory of your household and document it with pictures or receipts. Keep it in a safe deposit box or in another safe place away from the area.

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