2008 Insurance Guide
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Claims that boost your insurance rates

Also, most insurers say homeowner claims related to the weather or other catastrophes typically do not result in higher rates.

So, which claims do pose a potential risk to your insurance rates or coverage?

Dog bites. Sorry, Rover -- dog bites are the largest single cause of home policy claims, according to Robert P. Hartwig, president and chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute.

Many insurance companies keep a list of dog breeds most likely to attack, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. If the homeowner owns that breed, it may be difficult to obtain insurance.

A single attack is often likely to result in higher premiums. However, homeowners may be able to keep their rates from escalating by remedying the situation to the insurance company's satisfaction.

This may involve getting rid of the dog, or taking the dog to a "psychologist" or animal trainer. Sometimes, the homeowner's rates will then depend upon passing a probationary period, such as six months without an attack.

Water damage. Water damage tends to set off a barrage of red lights for insurers, largely because of the costs of eliminating mold. The biggest controversy over CLUE reports has been over water damage and its effect on real estate sales.

Homebuyers cannot obtain CLUE reports on homes they are considering purchasing. However, the homebuyer's insurance company can obtain the report in deciding whether to insure the home.

If the insurance company finds a history of mold or water damage, the new buyer may have problems getting home insurance, according to Liz Pulliam Weston, author of "Easy Money" and columnist for MSN Money.

"Be careful with a water claim," she says. "Insurance companies aren't as paranoid as they used to be a few years ago, but many have begun to exclude mold coverage from their policies."

Plumbing problems that cause damage inside a property also can be red flags to insurance companies, particularly if the repairs -- or lack thereof -- result in another, similar claim.

You might be better solving the water damage issues yourself, especially if the damage is minor and involves broken pipes or leaks in window wells, walls and seams.

Some home sellers may actually use CLUE reports to their advantage, McCaul says.

"Home sellers can use their CLUE report as a marketing tool to demonstrate to potential buyers that their home has not had a loss claim or, if it has, to show that repairs were done properly," she says. "Homebuyers can make the purchase contingent upon the seller providing a copy of the CLUE report."

Slip-and-fall claims. A slip-and-fall injury is a generic term used to describe an injury that happens when someone trips, slips or falls as a result of a hazardous or dangerous condition on someone's property.

Slip-and-fall injuries, according to the National Safety Council, are the single largest cause of emergency room visits. If someone hurts themselves on your property and files a claim with their insurance company, your rates may rise.

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