Many factors go into purchasing a home — location, square footage and cost among them — and it can be easy to fall in love at first sight. However, there are several other important factors that can heavily impact whether a home is the right fit for you, and they might not all be immediately noticeable. Just because a home looks cared for does not mean that issues do not exist.
For this reason, it is beneficial to request a CLUE report before closing on a home purchase. A Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report discloses any insurance claims made by a policyholder in recent years on your potential home. For example, a CLUE report will show if a policyholder filed a claim for damage after a storm or fire.
CLUE reports can be requested for free once a year and you can get one online. Keep reading to learn more about CLUE reports, how they affect your home insurance and how you can get one.
What is a CLUE report and how does it work?
CLUE reports compile insurance history about a location. The report will contain any 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 home 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 the deal.
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 can 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 go onto the CLUE database.
Your insurance company then uses the information from the LexisNexis CLUE report as guidance in setting rates for your insurance. While claims filed by prior owners of a home should not affect your insurance premium, claims that you have filed on your own prior addresses 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 includes the following for all home and auto claims the individual has filed:
- The name of the insurance company
- The 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
- The 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 will give you enough information to ask the homeowner to explain the details. CLUE reports 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 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, and so claims will not appear on CLUE reports.
Claims listed on CLUE reports generally extend back 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
- Call 888-497-0011
- Email email@example.com
- 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, 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
Once you have a CLUE report in hand, the first thing you should do is read it through carefully. This goes for your own home’s CLUE report and reports for homes that you are thinking about buying. Past claims, especially multiple ones, might indicate that a home has the potential for future claims. Claims may also be used to evaluate how the physical location of the property can affect premiums. For example, if the home is close to the water or known to flood frequently, insurance can cost more or indicate the need for supplemental flood insurance.
However, a recent claim on a home should not immediately be a dealbreaker. In fact, a property with a recent claim can have positive ramifications if the damage was addressed properly, says Michael Barry, vice president at the Insurance Information Institute.
Ultimately, it can pay to look at your CLUE report before you shop for insurance. If you find any inaccurate information on it, it would be beneficial to correct it. Incorrect information about a past claim can make you appear riskier to insurers, thereby increasing your insurance rates. If you find any inaccuracies on your home’s CLUE report, you can dispute the information with LexisNexis by using the contact information listed above.
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. Generally, recent claims indicate to insurers that they can expect new or similar ones in the future. If you have made a claim for damage from a hurricane or wind storm, for example, insurers may assume there is a better-than-average chance that you will do so again. To make up 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 hail storm, can offer peace of mind to potential buyers. Additionally, a claim-free CLUE report might be able to be used as a selling point if you are selling your home.
A CLUE report is not an inspection
With a CLUE report, home disasters or mishaps in the past can come to light, but that is not the only way you can assess the damage. Potential buyers should use the CLUE report to let their home inspector know of any repairs that have been made, says 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, and 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 does.
A CLUE report does not give a score or recommendations, Newman points out. “It’s an additional tool to evaluate the home and the cost of homeowners insurance,” he says. 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.
Frequently asked questions
How long do claims stay on a CLUE report?
Claims generally stay on a CLUE report 5-7 years from the date filed.
Can a CLUE report help a seller?
Yes, a seller with a blank CLUE report indicates that no insurance claims were filed and can give a buyer confidence.
What are some things not on a CLUE report?
A CLUE report does not include credit reports, civil records, criminal records or eviction notices.
Can I dispute what’s on a CLUE report?
LexisNexis has a dispute resolution process if you need to dispute something on your CLUE report. To file a dispute, call 888-497-0011 or write to LexisNexis Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105108, Atlanta, GA 30348.
Can I view my CLUE report online?
Yes, but only after receiving a letter via the U.S. Mail from LexisNexis with the information that you will need to access the online report. You can submit your application for a CLUE report electronically, but to view the report online, you need to wait for the letter from the company.