Don't let your claim get rejected
If you need to make a claim on your home insurance policy, start by reading your policy booklet and making sure you are covered for the loss or damage you have suffered. You should also check whether the claim comes under your buildings or contents insurance – if you are not sure, contact your insurer for advice. As a rule of thumb, if you turned your house upside down and shook it, anything falling out is covered under your contents insurance and all that remains fixed are cover by your buildings policy.
You can then go about making your claim - here are a few tips to ensure your claim is a successful one:
Most insurers have a limited period in which you can make your claim – this is usually around 30 days, but the sooner you act the better. You need to request a claim form from your insurance company. This form will need to be completed with estimates for repairs or replacements and returned as quickly as possible.
If anything has been stolen from your home, inform the police within 24 hours. You will be given a crime reference number which your insurer will need. You will also typically need to contact the police if the item you're claiming for has been lost – ask for a lost property reference number in this situation.
Work out exactly what you are claiming for
If you have a 'new for old' insurance policy, you will be able to claim for the full cost of most damaged or stolen items. But if you opted for a basic indemnity policy, an amount for 'wear and tear' will be deducted from any payout. In other words, older items won't be covered at their full replacement cost. Wear and tear is also applied to linens and clothes under a new for old policy.
If emergency repairs need to be carried out to prevent further damage to your home, inform your insurer immediately and arrange for the repair work to start. Some insurers will require you to use particular tradesmen so don't go ahead and book anything before you've spoken to your insurer. Remember to keep hold of the bills as evidence of the repair costs.
Get all the details together
When you make your claim you will need to have your policy number ready as well as details of the incident. Having these to hand will help to speed up the process of claiming. Gather together receipts and recent valuations for any expensive items you're claiming for. Some insurers will need these for proof of purchase or to assess how much the item is worth.
If you can take photos of what has happened – for example, if your house has flooded - this will help your claim go through more smoothly. And if you have photos of any expensive items you own, this will prove that you own them.
Don't exaggerate a claim in an effort to get more money out of your insurer. Lying about the circumstances in which a break-in happened, for example, or making out you have lost more belongings than you actually have, could result in a hefty penalty from your insurance provider or your claim could simply be turned down. This is fraud and in extreme circumstances you could be prosecuted and put in jail for this crime.
Stay up to date
Once your insurance company receives your claim with all the sufficient information, they will either:
- pay out compensation,
- arrange for a claims inspector to visit your home, or
- send a loss adjuster to assess the claim and advise the insurance company on how to settle the case.
Be sure you know exactly what is going on and make copies of any paperwork you receive and make a note of any calls you have received. Ask your insurer how long the claim is likely to take and chase it up if necessary.
Why your claim could be rejected
Your claim is unlikely to be successful if you have broken the terms and conditions on your policy. For example, if your policy says you can only leave your home unoccupied for 30 consecutive days and you've been away for 31, your claim will be rejected or you will receive a reduced payout – even if the break-in happened within the 30-day period.
Similarly, if you are under-insured, your insurer may refuse to pay out or may reduce how much you receive. So ensure you have covered absolutely everything of value in your home – this includes everything from clothes to jewellery to items in the shed or garden. If you have an item worth more than the single item limit on your policy (usually around £1,500) make sure it is named separately or it won't be covered.
Your claim could also be turned down if your insurer believes you have not looked after your items well enough – for example, if you have left a door key under the door mat, allowing a burglar to easily gain entry to your home. Or if you have a leak in the ceiling and it turns out you have not maintained the roof or drainpipes properly.
Finally, do consider whether it is definitely worth making a claim. If your claim is low and your excess is high, it could be worth simply footing the bill yourself. Be aware your premiums are likely to go up every time you make a claim and if you make three or more claims in three years, you could struggle to get home insurance at all in the future. Some insurers will also penalise you for simply enquiring about making a claim.