If you need to make a home insurance claim, it can be hard to know where to start. Read our guide to find out what to do if you're burgled or your property is damaged.
- If you're burgled, first call the police for a crime reference number
- You should ring your insurer's hotline to submit a claim
- Collect receipts and photographs as evidence of your claim
- If repairs aren't urgent, make sure your insurer agrees to any work before getting it done
Claiming on your home insurance policy often comes at an already stressful time, so the last thing you need is a difficult claims process.
You may have been burgled, or been the victim of flooding or subsidence – if there’s damage to your home you’ll want to contact your insurers as soon as possible.
What steps do you need to take next and how do you make sure your claim goes smoothly?
Submitting a home insurance claim
If your home has been burgled, the first thing to do is phone the police, who'll issue you with a crime reference number which you can give to your insurer.
If your home needs repairs, you need your insurer to agree to the work before proceeding, so unless it’s an emergency, don't do anything without consulting your insurer first.
If your home has been seriously damaged, insurers are usually understanding and should reimburse you the cost after the event if you have to go ahead and make emergency repairs.
To submit your claim, dig out your policy documents and find your policy reference number – all insurers have a hotline you can ring to register your claim and discuss what to do next.
After you’ve let the insurance company know you want to make a claim, you’ll have to fill out a claim form which it'll send you.
Be prepared to provide the insurer with receipts or evidence to prove you really own what you’re claiming for – if you can’t find receipts, then credit card or debit cards statements may be an alternative.
Take photos of any damage to send to the insurer as well.
Be prepared to provide the insurer with receipts or evidence to prove you really own what you’re claiming for
If you’re making a large claim, be aware that the insurer may decide to send out a loss adjuster.
The loss adjuster is an investigator who confirms any damage or loss and assesses what repairs need to be carried out.
Loss adjusters are hired to investigate and advise on an insurer's behalf.
This can be a nerve-wracking experience, but if you’ve been honest and forthcoming you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
The insurer will then either organise the necessary repairs through its preferred provider or send you a cheque for the amount you've claimed.
If the insurer leaves it to you to organise the repairs, it may ask for quotes from several tradespeople.
The cost of making a claim
Before making a claim, remember that you’ll be liable to pay the excess stipulated under your premium. The excess is the amount you'll have to pay to make a claim on your home insurance policy.
This cost can sometimes mean that it’s not worthwhile to claim on your insurance.
For example, if you’re claiming for a damaged gadget that’s worth less than your excess, you’d be better off just replacing it yourself.
As well as paying the excess, making a claim can end up costing
you more in the future as your premium may go up.
Insurers use your claim history to assess risk and how much you could cost them, so any claims you’ve made will have an impact on the future cost of your policy.
“Customers need to consider their excess when they weigh up making a claim," said Gocompare.com's Ben Wilson.
"Most insurance companies have a compulsory excess which you must pay towards the cost of repairs and replacement before your insurance kicks in.
“The next time you renew home insurance, you could save money by opting for a voluntary excess, which comes on top of a basic premium.”
A voluntary excess tops up your compulsory excess, which may bring down the cost of your annual premium. Only opt for a high voluntary excess if you’re certain that you could afford to pay that amount if you had to make a claim.
A high excess also means that you’ll be unlikely to want to claim for small amounts.
Are you covered for ‘new for old’, or merely for replacement of items in their current state?
You’re unlikely to pay much attention to your home insurance until you need to make a claim, by which time it could be too late if you haven’t got the right level of cover.
Always read the policy document thoroughly when you take out your insurance and make sure you’re covered for everything you think you're covered for.
If something’s wrong or missing, tell your insurer immediately. For example, are you covered for ‘new for old’, or merely for replacement of items in their current state?
Find out all this before approaching your insurers and the claims process should run smoothly.
Accurately calculating how much contents insurance you need and the estimated house rebuild cost when taking out your insurance will also make filing a future claim much simpler.
Don’t forget to update your policy if you buy any new gadgets or jewellery, or if you’ve recently carried out any home improvements .
If you've paid extra for accidental damage then you may able to claim for incidents like a broken window or stained carpet, but otherwise you’ll only be covered as standard for certain eventualities, such as fire and theft.
Make sure then that any security measures you say you have are correct and are used in the way required by your policy – having a certain lock is no good unless you use it correctly and diligently.
Don’t know what types of lock you have. Find out with our guide.
As with all insurance, honesty is the best policy and you don’t want to risk invalidating your insurance by being less than truthful.
It's also worth considering how you'd get hold of your insurance documents in the event of an incident at your home.
Think about storing essential contact details and policy numbers in your mobile phone and/or in online cloud storage facilities.
How to complain about a claim
If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your claim or the way it’s handled, write to your insurer explaining why you’re unhappy.
If your claim has been rejected and you believe this to be the wrong outcome, highlight to your provider why you think this is incorrect.
If the amount you’ve been offered is less than the claim, provide your insurer with evidence why the value of the claim is higher than its figure.
If you've gone through the company’s complaint procedure and you’re not satisfied, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. †