Norton Seal Couple sitting on couch filing a home insurance claim.

Understanding Insurance

How Does A Homeowners Insurance Claim Work?

A fire, theft, storm damage, someone getting injured on your property — these are all unfortunate situations you hope to never deal with. But in the event you do, you’ll be able to rely on your homeowners insurance to help get things back to normal.

If the unexpected happens, you might need to file a claim with your insurance company. When should you file a homeowners claim and what happens after you do? We’re here to provide you with tips on how the homeowners insurance claims process works, so you know the right steps to take to keep your life on track.

When to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim

Yes, your home insurance is there to protect you when your home is damaged, and you might think, “Well, I pay for home insurance so I’m going to use it.” But that may not always be the best mindset. Remember that insurance is best used to bring you back on track for large and unexpected events, but there may be times when you’d simply be better off paying out of pocket. Talk with your agent to understand what the next steps would be if you did decide to file a claim.

Of course, there are many instances where you’ll need to file a claim — why have insurance otherwise, right? The point of your insurance is to make good on a loss and make you whole again. So when should you file a claim? Typically, you’ll file a claim for events that would otherwise cost you more out of pocket than your deductible. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible and you have $5,000 of damage to your home, you’ll want to file a claim. You may also want to make a claim if the cause of the damage or loss is from a criminal act, like theft or vandalism. Making a homeowners insurance theft claim can help later if the thief is caught and you go to court.

Want to make sure you have the proper coverage in place in case you do have to file a claim? That’s where a Personal Insurance Review comes into play. Taking the time to sit down with an agent to go over your coverages can give you peace of mind that you’ll be properly protected in the event of the unexpected. They’ll help determine if there are any important coverages you’re missing and make sure your limits are adequate.

How Long Do You Have to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

The time limit for filing a homeowners insurance claim varies from company to company and state to state, even policy to policy. Most policies list a requirement that a claim be filed as promptly as possible. File your claim as soon as possible after the damage occurs and you’ve decided to report a claim.

How Does Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim Work?

Familiarizing yourself with the claims process will help everything run smoother if you have to file a claim. Here’s how the claims process works:

Take pictures of the damage. First, you’ll want to be sure to document any damage done to your home by taking video and pictures. These will come in handy when you share them with your insurance company.

Report your claim as soon as possible. Contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible after you discover the damage. Your personal claims representative will go over your claim with you, discuss if the damage will be covered and what you can expect for next steps.

Fill out the claims forms promptly. Your insurance company will send you the necessary claims forms for completion. Make sure to note any deadlines and return the forms right away.

Document everything. Hopefully, you’ve already taken pictures and/or recorded the damage done to your home, but don’t let the documentation stop there. Save any receipts for costs you incurred as a result of the loss, including any materials you purchased for temporary repairs, or a hotel stay as a result of your home being uninhabitable. This will help determine the total cost of the claim.

Be present for the adjuster. Once you file your homeowner’s insurance claim, an adjuster will be assigned to your claim. The adjuster will make arrangements with you to inspect the damages and complete a repair estimate for the damages that are covered under your policy.

Receive a settlement. The adjuster will issue payment(s) for the damages that are covered under your policy. If you have a mortgage on your home, the mortgage company will also be named on the check for damages to the structure of your home.

Homeowners Insurance Claims Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve highlighted some commonly asked questions to help you better understand what happens when you file a claim.

  1. What happens after you file a claim? Do homeowners insurance claims follow you? Sure, you’re able to get things back in order, but how will that claim affect your homeowners insurance premium? There’s not one set percentage that determines how much your premium may increase after filing a claim. That amount is situational and will depend on the claim filed, your history of claims and a variety of other factors. In addition, many homeowners receive a discount for having a clean claim history, and if you file a claim, that discount may be removed and you’ll see a raise in your premium.

  2. If you have a mortgage and you receive money for a home insurance claim, often times, your check will be made out to the mortgage company. You can choose to send the check with the contractor to go to the mortgage company, or, more commonly, you can contact your mortgage company and let them know you have an insurance check and the contractor needs to be paid. Depending on your mortgage company and the amount of the settlement, they may send an inspector to make sure the work is done properly, or they may just have you send the check to them to sign off.

  3. You’re allowed to complete repairs yourself, but if you have a mortgage, you’ll need approval from your lender. While most mortgage companies require that repairs be done by a qualified contractor, some may allow for the homeowners to do the labor themselves. Again, this depends on the lender. In most cases, if the loss is a larger job that requires a building permit, you’ll need a general contractor. But losses with simple repairs that don’t require a permit, such as drywall, baseboards, painting, etc., can be done by you or someone you find.

    If you have a contractor do the work, your insurance company may make the check out to both you and the contractor. This way, the insured has control over the funds to ensure that the repairs are done correctly.

  4. The average homeowner makes a claim about once every 10 years. Making more than one or two claims in that time period can cause your insurance company to reevaluate your policy, either raising your premiums or cancelling it altogether. You should only file a claim if you feel the reward will outweigh the cost.
  5. Your home insurance policy is there to protect you, so don’t hesitate to file a claim when you need to. At American Family Insurance, our trusted claims professionals will help make your entire experience reassuring and convenient.

    Need to file a claim? There are a few ways to do that.

Review Your Homeowners Coverage With Your Local Agent Today

We want to make sure you understand how your home insurance best protects you. If you have more questions about filing a claim, your agent is your advocate — connect with yours today and they’ll guide you through the entire process.

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Related Topics: At Home , Home Insurance