Insurance Claims Process: What You Should Know as a Homeowner

by | Oct 7, 2023 | Preparation

Homeowners insurance protects you from the financial loss of your home and the personal belongings within it. We all hope to never lose our home in a disaster or have it damaged by theft or an act of nature. But if disaster strikes, having the right homeowners’ insurance policy and understanding how to file an insurance claim will help return your home and belongings to pre-loss condition. 

Homeowners’ insurance policies vary, though some universal steps make the claims process straightforward. Take photos, and get a reputable contractor to evaluate the damage. Contact your insurance company immediately and list the damaged items and your losses. Lastly, pay any applicable deductibles before filing. 

This post will explain the homeowners’ insurance claims process in detail, from filing a claim and collecting evidence to dealing with adjusters. You’ll also learn how to negotiate for the total replacement value of your possessions and how long you can expect the process to take. 

What Is Homeowners Insurance and Its Significance?

We consider homeowners insurance a contractual agreement between the homeowner and an insurance company, where the homeowner pays regular premiums in exchange for coverage against various risks and perils. 

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It’s a type of property insurance that pays for losses and damage to your house and the children, possessions, guests, and pets within it.

The significance of homeowners insurance lies in its ability to provide financial security and peace of mind that you’ll be restored in case of unexpected property damage, theft, or liability claims. 

This coverage helps to restore you financially from unforeseen events and safeguard your most valuable asset, your home.

Different Types of Coverage

Homeowners insurance typically consists of several types of coverage, including:

1 Dwelling Coverage

This package covers damage to the main structure of your home, such as the walls, roof, attic, basement, foundation, and built-in appliances.

2 Personal Property Coverage

This package covers the loss or damage to your personal belongings, including furniture, electronics, and clothing, both inside and outside your home.

3 Liability Coverage

This insurance aspect protects you if someone or a pet gets injured on your property, and you’re legally responsible. It also covers the legal defense costs you’ll incur.

4 Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Coverage

If a covered peril makes your home uninhabitable, ALE coverage helps pay for temporary living expenses like hotel bills, food, and transportation.

5 Other Structures Coverage

This insurance package protects your pockets from the probability of damage to the structures on your property not attached to your main house, like a detached garage or shed.

6 Medical Payments Coverage

It covers medical expenses if a guest or a family member suffers injury on your property, regardless of who is at fault.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

It depends on the covered vs. excluded perils and the type of policy you purchase. Generally, a standard (HO-1 home insurance policy) only covers specific common risks, such as:

  • Fire and Smoke Damage
  • Wind and Hail Damage
  • Theft and Vandalism
  • Water Damage (depending on the cause)
  • Personal Liability
  • Medical Payments to Others
  • Other Named Perils (specific events listed in your policy)

However, most insurance companies won’t cover floods or earthquakes, which are excluded in standard homeowner’s insurance policies since they tend to cause significant damage across a wide area. 

HO-2 home insurance policies provide “broad form” coverage, which adds on top of the HO-1 perils and covers damage resulting from:

  • Falling objects (e.g., tree limbs.)
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet.
  • Freezing of plumbing/HVAC systems.
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water/steam.
  • Sudden and unintentional burning, cracking, tearing apart, or bulging. 

These policies typically also cover certain losses resulting from vandalism and malicious mischief.

HO-3 home insurance policies provide ‘special form’ coverage, which covers the dwelling itself and other structures like detached garages and fences, plus personal possessions against all risks unless expressly excluded. 

This type of policy also typically provides better liability coverage than the other policies, but the premiums tend to be more expensive. 

How Long Do Homeowners Insurance Claims Stay on Your Record?

Insurance claims could stain your record for several years, typically up to 5-7 years. The exact duration may vary by insurance company and the nature of the claim. 

Claims on your record can affect your future insurance premiums, potentially causing them to increase, especially if you have multiple claims within a short period. So, it’s essential to consider the potential long-term consequences before filing a claim for minor or non-urgent issues.

What Should You Do When Filing a Homeowners’ Insurance Claim?

So, tragedy strikes, and you must file a homeowners insurance claim. Knowing the best steps to take can help get your claim handled more efficiently so that you can get back on track. 

Remember, effective communication with your insurance company is essential throughout the process. Here are the steps to follow:

1 Report the Claim

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the incident.

2 Gather Evidence

Gather the necessary evidence and documentation, such as photos, videos, and receipts, to support your claim.

3. Cooperate with the Adjuster

An insurance adjuster should come and assess the damage to determine your claim’s validity and value. Be available for the adjuster’s inspection and provide the requested information.

4 Estimate and Settlement

Your insurance company will provide an estimate for repairs or replacement and then settle the claim based on your policy’s terms.

5 Payment

Once the claim is approved, you’ll receive a payment to cover the loss or damage minus any deductible.

6 Repair/Replacement

You can use the settlement to repair or replace the damaged property.

Will My Homeowners Insurance Drop Me if I Make a Claim?

A single claim may not lead to policy cancellation, but multiple claims within a short period could increase the risk of your insurer not renewing your policy. 

Insurance companies may drop policyholders under specific circumstances, such as a history of frequent claims or non-payment of premiums. It’s crucial to understand your policy’s terms and shop for coverage if needed.

As a rule of thumb, we advise our clients to engage one of our building consultants, and here’s how they’ll help you

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Homeowners Insurance Claims?

In most cases, homeowners insurance claims are not taxable income, as they aim to restore you to your pre-loss financial position. 

However, exceptions exist, such as if you receive a settlement for punitive damages or living expenses unrelated to property damage. Talk to a tax accounting consultant for guidance on your specific situation.

What to Do When Homeowners Insurance Denies a Claim?

If your homeowners’ insurance claim gets denied, remember that some denials may be due to misunderstandings or errors. Exploring your options before accepting a denial is essential, so consider the following steps:

1 Review the Denial Letter

Understand the reasons for the denial outlined in the letter.

2 Consult Your Policy

Refer to your policy to ensure the denial is justified or if there are grounds for an appeal.

3. Contact Your Insurer

Discuss the denial with your insurance company’s claims department and seek clarification.

4 File an Appeal

If necessary, file an appeal with supporting documentation and a strong case for reconsidering your claim.

5. Seek Legal Advice

If the appeal is unsuccessful, consult an attorney specializing in insurance law for further guidance.

Final Thoughts on the Homeowners’ Insurance Claims Process

The claims process for homeowners insurance can be intimidating, but understanding your policy and taking proactive steps to protect your interests is essential. If your claim is denied, don’t hesitate to contact your insurer or an attorney, if necessary, to ensure you receive a fair outcome.

Our building consultancy and large loss claims service can also assist you. We offer comprehensive assistance and advice to help you navigate the claims process, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help. With our expertise, we’ll ensure your homeowners’ insurance claim is handled properly from start to finish.

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