How to make a home insurance claim
If you need to file a home insurance claim, something has gone wrong: your home has sustained damage in a fire, a natural disaster, some other accident, or has been targeted by criminals. Your life and living situation may be in upheaval depending on how severe the crisis has been. You’ll want to receive compensation or replacement items owed to your through your home insurance policy as quickly, and with as little hassle as possible.
Hopefully, your insurer will handle any claims efficiently. But you can smooth the process yourself by ensuring you file the claim correctly. Here’s how.
In This Guide:
- Deal with the emergency
- Contact your insurer
- What evidence do you need to file a home insurance claim?
- Should you always file a claim?
Deal with the emergency
Before you can think about submitting a home insurance claim, you should ensure the emergency is adequately contained - that the fire has been extinguished or the leaking pipe is no longer gushing. While insurers typically need to approve any repair work in advance, they’re understanding in the case of ongoing destruction and should reimburse you for repairs necessary to contain a crisis and limit damage to your property and possessions. Keep any receipts from this work, as you’ll need to submit these to your insurers.
However, once the immediate crisis has passed, don’t undertake any further work until filing a claim and receiving approval from your insurance company.
If your home has been burgled or vandalised, your first step should be to contact the police. They’ll issue you with a crime reference number which you’ll need to file an insurance claim.
Contact your insurer
When the immediate crisis has passed and the relevant authorities have been contacted, you’re ready to proceed with any claim. Your first step should be to locate your policy documents and booklet, which will detail how you file a claim, including any contact numbers for your insurer.
Typically, you’ll be directed to a telephone claims number. Before you ring, make sure you have your policy number and any crime reference number handy.
Most home insurance providers will give you 180 days to file a claim after an insurable event occurs, so you shouldn’t feel rushed. But it’s better to start the process as soon as possible after the incident, so you can make the repairs you need.
What evidence do you need to file a home insurance claim?
Your insurer will then ask you to supply evidence of the damage for which you’re claiming. You should take photos of any damaged structures and items as soon as possible. And although it might be tempting to bin items damaged in a fire or flood, you should hang onto them until your claim has been processed and paid. Your insurer may ask to see them as part of their investigation of your claim.
If you’re suffered building damage, you may need to submit estimates from builders or tradespeople for the work required.
If you’re claiming for damaged possessions, you may need to submit receipts for high-value items. It’s a good idea to store these receipts along with your policy documents in a safe and easily accessible place in your home. If you can’t locate these receipts, or they were lost in the disaster that destroyed your home, you may be able to provide similar proof with credit or debit card statements showing the purchase of these items.
For large claims, your insurer will want to dispatch a loss adjustor to the property, to assess the damage and what repairs are needed. In the event of burglary, the loss adjustor will want to see evidence of forced entry and confirm that you had industry-approved locks on your doors and windows as specified in your policy documents. Without this evidence, they will likely reject your claim.
In the event of a large claim, such as following the total destruction of your home, you may want to engage the services of a loss assessor, a claims specialist who can help you collect evidence.
In general, the more evidence you can provide, the more quickly and easily the claims process will be.
Should you always file a claim?
While it doesn’t cost to file a claim, all home insurance policies will have excesses - the amount you are personally responsible for paying toward any repairs or replacement items. You’ll be required to pay the compulsory excess specified by the policy and any voluntary excess you negotiated. Cheap home insurance policies will come with higher voluntary excesses. You’ll pay lower premiums but will need to personally contribute more money toward any claim.
If the damage to your home or contents is minor and the repairs don’t cost much, you might want to simply pay for them yourself rather than making a claim. Any claim you make will annul your no-claims bonus - the discount given after you’ve racked up years without making a claim - meaning your premiums will rise when your policy comes up for renewal. In some cases, it may make more sense to preserve your no-claims bonus than to file a claim, especially if you’re unlikely to receive much compensation above the excess. Sometimes, the claim value will even be below your excess - a circumstance which will lead to the rejection of your claim.
Home insurance claims are the most likely insurance claims to be rejected. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), just 79% of home insurance claims are accepted, compared to 99% of auto insurance claims. All insurance policies will come with exclusions - events and items which are not covered. It’s important to read your policy documents before filing a claim, to avoid making claims that will be denied. For instance, damage caused by wear and tear and lack of upkeep of a property aren’t insurable and are common reasons for claims being denied. When you compare home insurance policies, read their terms and conditions carefully before committing to a deal to ensure they’re offering the coverage you need.