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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 might need to make a home insurance claim.

But how do you make a claim? What happens next? Do you have to pay anything, and does it increase the price of your home insurance next year? Is it even worth claiming at all? 

A normal sized British house
 

When should I contact my home insurer?

If you can’t stay at the property or your home security is in a bad way you should always contact your home insurance provider immediately.

This is especially true if another party’s involved or there’s a risk of further damage.

But before you call the home insurance claims department, 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. This is because you normally have to pay a home insurance excess when you make a claim.

Small items are often below this limit and you won't be paid anything by the insurer. Making a claim could also see the cost of your home insurance rise next year.

You can also make sure that your policy will cover you for what's happened. Check your policy details for any special conditions that might mean your claim gets rejected. For example, if you make a buildings insurance claim for storm damage, and it turns out that your roof was in a bad state of repair before the storm.

With those caveats out of the way, most insurers work hard to make the insurance claim process as easy and stress-free as possible.

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 relevant details like the time of day and weather conditions.
  • 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. Give as much information as possible about what's happened.
  • Take photos for evidence, and hang onto all receipts. If you’re worried about losing any, take a photo of them 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 you and your insurer, 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, as you might not be able to claim for the costs.
  • 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 home insurance provider, they should ask you questions about the claim. This might be easier if you've got all of the important details written down.

Have evidence ready in case they ask you to send any.

Your home insurer should process the claim and update you regularly to discuss how it's progressing. How long the claim takes to settle depends on how complicated the claim is. Some can 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. Your insurer will need the crime number as soon as possible.

 

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. For example, 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. But if you’re claiming for smaller items 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, which you need to pay.

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 claims in good time.

 

Do I need evidence to support my home insurance claim?

Yes, you're normally expected to give the insurer any evidence it asks for - this sometimes includes any broken items.

You might need to support your home insurance claim with evidence such as:

  • Receipts for any of your stolen or damaged valuables
  • Any credit card or bank statements that show proof of buying the items
  • Photos of any damages caused and 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 stolen 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 home insurance: 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.

Sometimes a combined policy can be less expensive and more convenient than separate buildings and contents policies.

Contents insurance

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 contents policies vary, but they usually include protection from:

  • Damage caused by fire, lightning, flooding and storms - as well as explosions
     
  • If your fridge or freezer breaks down, you could have cover for spoiled or contaminated food
  • Theft of cash or items from your home (though watch for limits or any exclusions)

Some insurers may also offer legal liability protection attached should a friend or visitor be injured and you’re at fault.

It’s sensible to list high-value items individually. These might include 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.

Expensive e-bikes are getting popular too, which can be prone to theft without good security. You could also look at getting bicycle insurance if the cover on your home insurance isn't enough.

Buildings insurance

A good buildings policy should cover:

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

The cover usually insures against damage caused by:

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

Accidental damage is usually an optional add-on. It covers things like damage from leaving a kitchen gas hob on.

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

Compare home insurance quotes

 

Can I pay to repair any damage myself?

In a home emergency, you might not have any choice but to pay out for help straight away. In these cases you should try to stop any further damage happening, but try to talk to your insurer before doing anything else. 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 have home emergency cover bolted to your buildings policy. Or you can pay a bit extra to include it with your home insurance policy if it doesn't come as standard.

It might cover the cost of burst pipes, pest infestation or blocked drains.

 

How can I help speed up my insurance claim?

Preparation is key. Make 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?

You might not want to claim on your home insurance for several reasons:

  • If you claim now, your future policies may become more expensive
  • Your no-claims discount could be affected when you make a claim
  • Your home insurance excess is deducted from any payout you get

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.

To give you an example here we'll look at 2 claims.

Claim 1: Your keys get stuck in the lock and you can't get them out. You need a locksmith to visit your home to remove the sticky key.

Claim 2: Your new washing machine has flooded your kitchen floor. It need extensive repair work before you can use the room again.

Before reaching for your insurer's phone number, have a think about the following questions:

Question to ask yourself Claim 1 Claim 2
What's the reason for claiming?
To use the lock again
To remove flood water and repair kitchen floor
How much will it cost?
Under £100
Between £500-£1000
How much is your excess?
£200
£200
Can you fix it yourself?
You could try - but if not compare costs of a locksmith
No (unless you're a builder)
Can you live with the problem?
No
No
Is it worth claiming?
No - the cost to repair it is probably more than your excess
Yes - even with the excess and a potential higher insurance costs you still save money claiming
 

Do your home insurance costs increase after a claim?

There's no guarantee that a claim will increase the price of your home insurance.

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

 

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 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 stays on the database 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.

You might not agree with your insurers decision, or be unhappy with the way the claim is handled

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 correct rebuild cost of your home.
  • You’ve been offered a settlement deal but it’s not enough to cover or replace the damaged goods.

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

Give your insurer a chance to put things right - they have 8 weeks to resolve your complaint.

Then, if you’re still unhappy you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). You have 6 months following the insurer’s final response to your complaint to get in touch with the FOS

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.