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HOME SAFETY : Complete Inventory of Possessions Is Essential

January 01, 1994| From Associated Press

Making an inventory of your home's contents may seem like an unnecessary expenditure of energy, but it can be invaluable if disaster strikes.

An inventory will be a great help if you are ever faced with filing insurance claims for losses because of fire, flood or theft. If you live in an area that may suffer damage from earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding or brush fires, it's especially important to keep an up-to-date inventory. Furthermore, an accurate inventory will help you offer proof to the Internal Revenue Service if you claim a tax deduction for the losses.

An inventory can also help you monitor the number, age and condition of your belongings. This will be useful if you move and decide to rent or sublet your home furnished.

Here are some tips about taking a household inventory:

* To start, contact your insurance company or agent. They may have a free booklet in which you can list your possessions.

* Inventory everything covered by your homeowner's policy. Go through your home room by room. Open every drawer and cabinet and carefully list anything of value. Write down the name, quantity and description of each item (including its serial number and brand name), date of purchase, the cost when new and, if possible, its current value. Keep receipts. Newspaper ads and store catalogues can help you determine current value.

* Keep separate inventories of valuable clothing, furs, jewelry, silverware and works of art. Many homeowner policies have coverage limitations for valuables. Hire a professional appraiser to determine the worth of jewelry, antiques, works of art and historical and irreplaceable items. An appraiser charges a daily or hourly rate or a percentage of your property's appraised value.

* While you're creating a home inventory, take the time to make a list of all credit cards, including account numbers, expiration dates, charge limits and phone numbers to call in case of loss. Note your checkbook account number, any overdraft allowance and the phone number for reporting a loss.

* Photograph each room. Take close-ups of valuable items. Or have someone videotape you while you walk through your home describing and valuing your belongings as best you can. Make note of any identifying features, such as silver or gold content and the trademark of the manufacturer. But remember that pictures don't replace lists because small items may be overlooked and details such as carvings may not show up.

* Store the photos, videotape and the written list in a safe-deposit box, but keep a copy of the list in a separate place.

* Update the inventory annually. Review a new or updated inventory with your insurance company to be sure that you have adequate coverage. If necessary, get a replacement-cost rider on your policy so that you will be reimbursed at full value in case of loss.

After you've taken an inventory, mark your valuables with your Social Security or driver's license number so they may be identified if they are stolen. Use waterproof paint on the bottom of ceramic or wooden pieces. On metal or glass, use an etching tool or carbide-tip inscriber. These are available at hardware and art supply stores, or you may be able to borrow one from your local police station.

If you do experience a loss, phone your insurer right away, then follow up with a letter. If the loss is the result of crime, report it immediately to the police to validate your claim.

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