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How to make a home insurance claim

If your home floods, there’s a fire, or if your laptop’s stolen from your house, you may need to make a home insurance claim.

Here are steps to take to claim for damage, theft, or loss of your contents or to your property. 

A normal sized British house

When should I contact my home insurer?

Before you hit the home insurance claims line, have a quick think and consider whether you should make a claim.

We don’t want to hold you back but some claims, for example modest breakages, might be too small to bother with.

A claim could hit your home insurance excess or see your costs rise the following year, which isn’t what most of us want.

Your claim might get rejected if you make a buildings insurance claim for a worn roof and there’s been storm damage, for example.

But, if you can’t stay at the property or your home security is in a bad way then let your insurer know immediately.

Especially if another party’s involved or there’s a risk of further damage.

With those caveats out of the way, most insurers work hard to make the insurance claim process as easy and stress-free as possible. The Association of British Insurers' (ABI) found 81% of domestic property claims were accepted in 2019-2020.

Here’s a quick checklist to get you started.


Your home insurance claim checklist

  • If there's been a burglary, contact the police.

  • Check your home insurance documents or the company’s website to find the claims phone number.

  • Make a list of what you feel are the most important facts. In the stress of the moment, it can be easy to forget details like the time and weather.

  • Contact your insurer to tell them you want to make a home insurance claim. It may need details including your policy number, address, and full name. You may also need to give as much information as possible about what's happened.

  • Take photos for evidence. In a genuine emergency hang onto all receipts. If you’re worried about losing any, use your phone camera for a digital copy.

  • Don't throw away damaged items - your home insurer may want to asses the contents.

  • Keep track of all communications between your insurer and anyone else, like the police or witnesses.

  • Ask your insurer to approve any work that needs doing. Resist the temptation to get any repairs done until your insurer agrees.

  • Complete a new insurance claim. Your insurer should tell you how to do this.


What happens when you make a claim on your home insurance?

When you call your insurer, they may ask you questions about the claim. That's why before calling, make sure you've made a note of all the important details that can affect the claim.

Have evidence at hand if they ask you to send any.

Your home insurer should process the claim and get in contact to discuss how it's progressing. Depending on the claim, some could take months to resolve.


How soon can you claim on home insurance?

There may be a limit on the number of days after an incident where you can make a claim on your home insurance. So don't put it off.

The sooner you make the claim, the sooner it can be resolved and any money can be paid out.

If it’s an incident like burglary, make sure you call the police first.


How long do home insurance claims take?

The average time for a home insurance claim varies depending on how complex the claim is and who's dealing with it.

Because of the range of claims, there’s no agreed period or guarantee to settle claims.

Most insurers don’t want a stressful claims process so they should be prompt in turning around claims.

Some buildings insurance cases are complex. If there’s water or fire damage, some house insurance claims could take several months.

If the claim is going to be big, then you may need a loss adjuster involved.

If you’re claiming on your contents insurance, though, it tends to be simpler.

A claims team might write, email or phone you after you’ve been in touch and take things from there. They should also confirm the excess involved.

Ultimately, short claim times save an insurer money. And reputable insurers should uphold a genuine claim.

So it’s in everyone's interest to act on the claims in good time.


Do I need evidence to support my home insurance claim?

Yes, you do.

What you might need to support your home insurance claim is:

  • Receipts for any of your stolen or damaged valuables
  • Any credit card or bank statements that shows a history of buying these valuables
  • Photos of any damages caused or photos of your belongings

If you’ve got CCTV footage of the incident, make sure the data is safe and reliable.

You may also record your items on online property databases such as:

  • Immobilise
  • NMPR
  • Report My Loss
  • CheckMEND

Recording your items this way means there’s a permanent record the police could check against. Some registers are free to use.


What's covered in my home insurance policy?

There are 2 types of insurance here: buildings and contents cover.

Some insurers sell cover for both your building and your contents. It’s up to you whether you feel this is better value or not.

Some might find a combined policy is less expensive and more convenient than separate policies. Others might not.

A good contents policy protects you from theft and damage to most of your valuables.

It’s a smart idea to work out exactly how much contents protection you might need. You can do this by using our contents calculator.

All claim circumstances vary, but they usually include protection from:

  • Fire, lighting, flooding and storms - not to mention explosions and theft.
  • If your fridge or freezer breaks down, you should have cover for spoiled or contaminated food
  • The theft of any cash (though watch for limits or any small print exclusions)

Some insurers may have legal liability protection attached should you have an injured friend or visitor and you’re at fault.

It’s sensible to list high-value items individually. These can be: watches, cameras, jewellery, and sports equipment over £1,000 in value.

Don’t forget musical instruments and bicycles. An expensive musical instrument, for example, might need an agreed valuation.

Pricey electric bicycles are getting popular too. They can be prone to theft without good security. You could also look at getting bicycle insurance for these items.

A good buildings policy should cover:

  • The building
  • Roof
  • Walls
  • Any other permanent fixtures of your home such as the bathroom and kitchen

The cost of the cover should usually include damage from:

  • Fire, smoke and explosions
  • Flood and natural disasters, including storms
  • Fallen trees, lamp posts, aerials, or satellite dishes
  • Vandalism and malicious damage
  • Subsidence
  • Car and plane collisions

Accidental damage, for example fire damage from leaving a kitchen gas hob on, might be optional. It depends on the policy.

Some buildings insurance policies might give garages and outbuildings protection as well.


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Can I pay to repair any damage myself?

In a home emergency, you might not have any choice but to shell out for emergency help straight away.

But try and talk to your insurer beforehand. Almost all insurers have a 24/7 claims helpline.

A home emergency is usually something that’s thought as:

  • Bad for your health
  • Risks damaging your home
  • Compromises your home's security

You might also have home emergency cover bolted to your buildings policy already. If you’re not sure, check. It might cover the cost of burst pipes, pest infestation or blocked drains.

Be careful, there could be some policy overlap. For example, your home content policy might cover a burst pipe situation. So check your policy terms and conditions.


How can I help speed up my insurance claim?

Preparation is key. Be sure you have all relevant information and evidence to hand whenever you deal with your home insurance company.

If you’ve recently moved or changed your mobile number or email address, let them know. It could help the claims process to have reliable personal details in place.


Is it worth claiming on my home insurance?

That depends on the size of the claim.

Think about what value your item or building issue is. If you claim now, your future claims may become more expensive.

Your no claims discount could be affected when you make a claim. And your home insurance excess may be deducted from any payout you make.

So, for small-value claims, it may be better for your wallet to pay the cost of repairs or replacement yourself.

But don’t forget that home insurance is there to act as a safeguard for when you need it.


Does your home insurance premium increase after a claim?

There's no guarantee this will happen. If you have home insurance, claiming may be the best option for you given the situation.

But, since insurance prices are based on risk, after a claim you could be seen as a higher risk of claiming again. This could push up your insurance costs.

Remember, if you can afford the cost of repairing or replacing the items yourself then this might be a better option.


Do home insurance claims follow you?

When you apply for a home insurance policy you’re asked if you've made a claim in the last 5 years. You should be honest as lying to an insurer can invalidate your claim.

Insurers are also able to see what previous claims you've made. They can check by looking at the Claims and Underwriting Exchange (CUE). This is a database where all claims are reported to insurance companies.

This can be the case even if a claim hasn’t been made. If an incident is reported to CUE, your home insurance claim can follow you for 6 years after it's been closed.


How do I complain about my home insurance provider?

When you’ve had a stressful experience, you don't want the insurance claim to be hard going.

There may be some scenarios or disagreements that you feel aren't sorted.

For example:

  • Your insurer might say they’ll repair an item but you think it should be replaced.
  • An insurer could say you didn’t tell them the full replacement cost of your home contents. Or even the full rebuild cost of your home, and the policy has been cancelled.
  • You’ve been offered a settlement deal but it’s not enough to cover or replace the damaged goods.

If there's a problem, talk about it with your insurer first and ask the insurer how they came to the decision.

Give your insurer a chance to put things right - you legally have to allow them 8 weeks to respond to a complaint. If you’re still unhappy you could complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Get in touch with the FOS within 6 months of getting your insurer’s final response to your complaint.

FOS is a free service and they should talk to both parties before coming back to you with a response. Their helpline is 0800 023 4567. Or you can make your complaint online at the FOS website.