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Insurance companies use your claims history as a rating factor to help determine how much you will pay for auto and home insurance. A Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report discloses any insurance claims made by a policyholder in recent years on your potential home or vehicle. For example, a CLUE report will show if a policyholder filed a claim for damage after a storm or fire, or if the car was involved in an accident. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team, consisting of four licensed property and casualty agents, has broken down the CLUE report and what it means for you.
What is a CLUE report and how does it work?
CLUE reports compile insurance history about a location or vehicle. The report will contain details about any reported insurance claims made over the past 5-7 years, no matter how small. There are two types of CLUE reports: one for home insurance claims and one for auto insurance claims.
Requesting a CLUE report before buying a home can help you know what to expect when applying for homeowners insurance. While the claims of prior owners should not affect your premium, knowing what claims were previously filed on the home can help you, as a potential buyer, determine if there might be hidden damage that needs to be addressed before closing on the purchase.
CLUE reports can be beneficial to buyers in helping to ensure that a particular home is the right choice. Claims with large payouts or repeated claims could be a red flag for prospective buyers, indicating that the property is prone to damage. However, CLUE reports can also provide positive news. If a claim payout funded new roofing or windows following a natural disaster, the prospective buyer may be reassured that those areas of the home are in good condition for years to come.
How is a CLUE report generated?
Only homeowners and insurance providers can officially request a CLUE report, but you can request a copy from the home seller to learn more about a property’s history. Most home insurance companies contribute claims history information to the CLUE database, which is maintained by research company LexisNexis. When a homeowner files an insurance claim for incidents such as water damage, fire damage or criminal activity on the property, for example, most insurance company reports are entered into the CLUE database.
Your insurance company uses the information from the CLUE report as guidance in setting rates for insuring your new home. While claims filed by prior owners of a home should not affect your insurance premium, claims that you have filed on your prior homes might. This is because, in the eyes of an insurance carrier, if you have filed a claim in the past, you are more likely to do so again in the future.
What’s in a CLUE report?
Whether it is pulled by an insurer as part of the underwriting process or you request your own CLUE report from the property owner, it should include the following for all home and auto claims the individual has filed:
- Name of the insurance company
- Date of any losses and claims
- The type of loss — fire, wind damage, etc.
- Whether or not the claim was denied
- If the claim was not denied, the amount that the insurer paid out
- Homeowner’s insurance policy number and claim number
The report will not include specifics, such as what part of the house was damaged — but if you are buying a house, it should give you enough information to ask the homeowner to explain the details. CLUE reports also typically include the property address as well as some information pertaining to the policyholder, including their name and policy number.
What if a CLUE report is blank?
CLUE reports typically provide home buyers with useful information regarding a property’s condition and claims history. However, you may find that a CLUE report is blank. Though a blank report may cause confusion or concern, it actually indicates one of two things:
- The homeowner did not make any insurance claims in the past several years.
- The individual home was covered by an insurance company that does not report claims to LexisNexis, so claims will not appear on CLUE reports.
Claims listed on CLUE reports generally cover the past 5-7 years. Occasionally, you will find that no claims have been made within that time frame. However, a blank CLUE report does not necessarily mean that no damage occurred at the location, simply that no insurance claim was filed. The owner may have taken care of the damages out of pocket rather than filing a claim. Additionally, not all insurance companies use the database required for CLUE reports. In these cases, a requested CLUE report may return blank.
How to get a copy of a CLUE report
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can get a free CLUE report for your home once a year from LexisNexis. To gain access to a CLUE report, you can:
- Request a CLUE report online
- Contact LexisNexis by calling 888-497-0011
- Request a report by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Request a copy from a homeowner (if you are a potential homebuyer)
If you are selling your home, it can be beneficial to have a CLUE report available to show potential buyers, especially if it is blank due to you not having filed any insurance claims in the past. Even if you are not in the market to sell your home, you may want to get a CLUE report to check for any inaccuracies, as the information can impact your insurance rate.
What to do with a CLUE report
Whether you are ordering a CLUE report for your current home or one that you’re thinking about buying, the first thing you should do when you receive your CLUE report is to read through it carefully. After you’ve read through your report, what you do with it depends on the situation.
- Before shopping for insurance: It can be helpful to have a CLUE report handy before shopping for insurance. Occasionally, a CLUE report may include inaccurate information, especially for people with common names. For instance, you may find a claim on your report that, in reality, should be listed on someone else’s report. Incorrectly listed claims can drastically impact your insurance rates, and ordering a CLUE ahead of time will allow you to dispute inaccuracies with LexisNexis before shopping.
- When assessing your own home: Showing a blank CLUE report to a potential buyer can be a powerful tool for making a sale. After all, a buyer may be more confident in the quality of your property if it is claims-free. If you aren’t selling your home, you could use your CLUE report to help you decide if you should purchase supplemental insurance. For instance, if a flood impacted your home in the past, you might consider adding a flood policy for the future.
- When shopping for a home: Repeat claims on a CLUE report could indicate future risk for similar claims. A house repeatedly hit by tornadoes might not be one you are interested in purchasing. You can also use the CLUE report to note any past damage caused by a claim.
It is important to note, however, that a recent claim on a home may not immediately be a dealbreaker. In fact, a property with a recent claim may have positive ramifications if the damage was addressed properly, said Michael Barry, senior vice president, head of media and public affairs, at the Insurance Information Institute.
How do CLUE reports affect your homeowners insurance
A CLUE report may have a positive or negative impact on your insurance premium. Because most insurance companies report to LexisNexis, you can be fairly certain that the report is a good indicator of the health of your home.
Each insurer will have its own methodology for determining rates, so it can help to know how different CLUE report outcomes can affect your premium. If you have made a claim for damage from a hurricane or windstorm, for example, insurers may assume there is a better-than-average chance that you will do so again. To account for that likelihood, they may increase your premium. Theft and vandalism claims that show up on your report can also negatively impact your rate.
CLUE reports can bring good news as well. Indications that losses were properly handled, like a new roof put on after a hailstorm, can offer peace of mind to potential buyers. Additionally, a claim-free CLUE report can be used as a positive marketing message if you are selling your home.
A CLUE report is not an inspection
With a CLUE report, home disasters or mishaps in the past could come to light, but the report should not be the only way you assess risk or damage. Potential buyers should use the CLUE report to let their home inspector know of any repairs that have been made, said Karl Newman, president of the NW Insurance Council in Seattle, so that the inspector can make sure the work was done correctly.
It is worth noting that a CLUE report does not take the place of a home inspection, as it lacks the details that allow you to pinpoint exactly where problems might arise. A home inspection is considerably more thorough and provides additional information beyond what a CLUE report offers.
A CLUE report does not give a score or recommendations, Newman pointed out. “It’s an additional tool to evaluate the home and the cost of homeowners insurance,” he said. It simply tells what insurance claims have been filed in recent years. It does not take the place of an inspection or disclosures from the seller.