How to file a home insurance claim

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Whether you live in your first house or you have been a homeowner for decades, you likely hope that nothing will happen to your home. Unfortunately though, part of owning a home is recognizing that, at some point, your home will likely sustain damage. In 2018, 5.7% of insured homeowners filed a claim.

Homeowners insurance is designed to protect your finances should your home be damaged by covered losses. Although you likely hope that you never have to file a claim, knowing how to make a home insurance claim is important. Understanding the steps to take to file a claim may help you to feel more confident in doing so when disaster strikes.

Home insurance claims

When you buy a homeowners insurance policy, your home’s structure and contents are insured up to a certain amount for covered perils. In addition, legal or medical fees are covered, up to your policy limits, if a guest is injured on your property. If something goes wrong, filing a claim is the first step to get the restoration process started.

Once you file a claim, your case will be assigned to an insurance adjuster who will investigate what happened and how much the insurance company should pay. There are several steps within the claims process. Your adjuster will serve as your main point of contact, so it is important to stay in touch.

How to file a home insurance claim

Depending on the home insurance company you choose, you may be able to file a claim through a website or mobile app. For urgent or more complicated claims, it may be better to call your carrier or local agent. Nearly all insurance companies have a 24-hour claims hotline to help you get your homeowners insurance claim started.

1. Decide if the claim makes financial sense

Depending on what kind of damage occurred, your loss could range from minimal to severe. Your home insurance policy has a deductible, which is the amount of money you are responsible for when you file a claim. If your damage is under your deductible, it may not make financial sense to file a claim. Any amount of damage under your deductible will have to be paid out of pocket. Additionally, filing a claim may cause your insurance premiums to increase.

Before you file, weigh the pros and cons carefully. However, if your home or personal property is significantly damaged, filing a claim is often the best way to avoid financial stress or devastation. And that is, after all, why you carry an insurance policy.

2. Collect evidence

Collecting documentation and details about your damages might help your case proceed faster. For damage to your home, taking photos or notes about what is damaged, what kind of damage it is (water, fire, etc.) and when it occurred could be useful. If theft or vandalism was involved, filing a police report might be helpful. You may also want to make a list of any items that were damaged or stolen. If someone was injured on your property, record the details of the accident.

3. File the claim

Whether you are filing a claim over the phone, in person, online or through an app, you will likely have to provide some general information. You will need to provide your policy number and address, the time and date of the incident and details surrounding the event. You may be asked to upload, fax or email your supporting documents and the evidence you collected to a claims department or a specific adjuster.

4. Make time-sensitive repairs

If you have damages such as a broken window or door, a hole in your roof or other conditions requiring immediate attention, make the temporary repairs as soon as possible. Keep receipts or invoices for the repairs so you can submit them for reimbursement later.

5. Temporarily move

Damages to your property that make it uninhabitable, such as smoke or flooding, might require you to find alternative housing until your home is restored. Your insurance policy may include additional living expenses, which is designed to pay for substitute housing and other expenses that arise from you being displaced. If you are not sure what your policy limit is, ask your carrier or review your declarations page.

6. Work with your claims adjuster

After filing a claim, you should receive a phone call or email from a claims adjuster who will handle your claim. Keeping in close contact with your claims adjuster could make your claims process more efficient.

Bear in mind that adjusters often handle several claims at once. If the loss in your area was catastrophic, adjusters may be handling an especially heavy workload. Leaving a message or sending an email to stay in contact can be helpful. Staying organized, especially when adjusters are handling multiple claims, may help move your process along.

7. Receive the payout and make the repairs

Depending on the severity of your claim, you may receive just one check or you may receive several. If you are unsure about your claim payout, talk to your adjuster. They will be able to let you know how the payment is going to be made — in one or multiple checks — and why. There may be steps you have to take before a payment will be released, such as submitting a quote from a contractor or agreement for the repairs to be made.

Frequently asked questions

How long does a home insurance claim take to resolve?

The claims process can vary in length depending on how quickly you filed the loss, how complicated the investigative process is and how long the negotiations over the settlement amount take. Simple claims may be resolved in a matter of days. Claims that involve severe damage and numerous coverage types will likely take longer.

Will my home insurance go up if I file a claim?

Your premium might go up after a claim, depending on the type of claim and the cost. Filing a claim indicates to your insurance company that you may be more likely to file more claims in the future. To make up for this increased risk, your premium may be surcharged for several years.

Who do I pay my deductible to?

Your deductible is the amount of a loss that you agree to pay when you take out a policy. You will not need to pay your deductible to the insurance company. Instead, your deductible amount will simply be deducted from your claim settlement and you will be responsible for paying your deductible to the appropriate party. If your home’s roof is damaged, for example, you would pay your deductible to the roofing company who is handling the repairs.

Written by
Cynthia Paez Bowman
Personal Finance Contributor
Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Besides Bankrate.com, her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Freshome.com and SimpleDollar.com. She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development.
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