No one wants to file a claim on their homeowners insurance policy even though, that’s what the policy is there for! Since you probably don’t file claims on a regular basis, you might be confused about what you should do (and not do) in the event you need to start the process. Let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about filing a homeowners insurance claim.
When Should You File a Homeowners Claim?
If you incur significant damage to your home due to a major disaster like a tornado, flood, or fire, you will certainly want to file a claim on your homeowners policy. However, some instances of damage to your property may require a little more consideration. When you are thinking about filing a claim, it is important to ask yourself a few questions.
- What is my deductible? – If the cost to repair the damage is less than or slightly more than your deductible, it probably would not be worth it to file a claim. For example, if your deductible is $1000 and the expected repairs are $1200, it would be safe to say that the ramifications of filing will probably be more than $200 and filing would not be worth it.
- What is covered on my home insurance policy? – Not all causes of damage are covered by homeowners insurance, so go over your policy to determine if the incident will be covered.
- Is the event a maintenance issue, normal wear and tear, or malicious intent? – If there was something you could have done to prevent the damage, the insurance company will most likely not cover it.
- Have I filed claims before? – You want to limit the number of claims on your record, as it could cause the insurance company to not renew your policy and make it difficult for you to get insured elsewhere.
Your agent can help you with information you need to make decisions on whether filing a claim is right for the situation.
How Do I File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
1. File a Police Report, If Necessary
While this step is not necessary for all claims, if vandalism or theft has occurred, you will need to file a report with the local police. Many home insurance companies will require this to support your claim for these types of perils.
2. Contact Your Insurance Agent ASAP
Notice…I said contact your AGENT, not your insurance company 1-800 number.
Here is why…
When you call an insurance company 1-800 number to even ASK A QUESTION about filing a claim on your home insurance, they will mark it on your record as a claim, even if you never actually file that claim. This is called a “zero dollar claim”. And yes, that claim counts against you just as much as a paid claim.
Unless this has happened to you or someone you know, you probably didn’t know this little tidbit. I come across countless people on a weekly basis that deal with this problem and have to pay for it (literally) for many years.
Always call your agent first! That’s what we are here for. If you don’t have an agent…get one! Your insurance agent is the liaison between you and the insurance company. They are your advocate and should fight to make sure you are treated right throughout the claims process. Going through this process is the time when you wish you hadn’t purchased your policy from the internet.
If you decide with your agent that it is best to file a claim, they will help you gather all information necessary to start the claims process and get an adjuster to your home as soon as possible.
3. Prevent Further Damage
Do your best to conduct temporary repairs to protect your home from further damage, such as tarps (in the event of a roof leak) or shutting of water to your home (in the event of water damage caused by busted pipes). Keep receipts for any purchases made.
4. Document EVERYTHING
Make sure that you document the date, time, and details of everything that happened surrounding the claim event. Take pictures or video documenting the aftermath of property damage BEFORE you repair anything. Then, document the measures you took to prevent further damage. Keep all receipts to submit to the insurance company for reimbursement, including receipts for lodging or food if the home is uninhabitable.
How Long Do You Have to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
According to your insurance contract, it is your responsibility to contact your insurance company as soon as possible if you believe there is damage to your property that could result in a claim.
According to Wiseman Bray PLLC, while the normal statute of limitations of a contract claim is 6 years in Tennessee, your homeowners policy may include a much shorter “contractual statute of limitations”. Hidden in the fine print, this deadline may be only 1 year or sometimes shorter.
It is best to file a homeowners insurance claim as soon as possible.
Can I Withdraw a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
If the insurance company has not paid anything on the claim, you should be able to cancel the claim. However, the claim will still go on your record as a “zero dollar” claim which could affect your premium or ability to insure the property.
How Long Does a Homeowners Insurance Claim Stay on Your Record?
The insurance claim will usually stay on your record for 5-7 years. Some insurance companies will stop counting it against you at 3 years; while others will not count it after 5 years. For this reason, be sure to have your agent shop your rate each year if you have a claim on your record.
Will Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim Raise My Rates?
Yes, in most cases, your home insurance rate will increase at renewal if you file a claim during the prior policy term.
How Many Home Insurance Claims Can You File?
The average homeowner makes a claim every 9 years. You can technically file as many claims as you desire, but filing multiple claims in a short period can result in:
- Your rate increasing significantly at renewal
- The company voiding or not renewing your policy
- Difficulty in finding an insurance company that will insure the property
Most insurance companies will not accept you as a policyholder if you have been non-renewed by another company. It is best to not file more than one claim every three years if at all possible. Filing more often than this could result in difficulty securing affordable insurance.
Is it Worth Claiming on Home Insurance?
Taking all the factors above into consideration, it is up to you determine whether or not it is worth it to file a claim on your home insurance. It is important that you discuss with your agent any questions you may have.
If you need help with your homeowners insurance in Murfreesboro or anywhere in Tennessee, we are happy to help ensure you get the best policy for you!