How to make a home insurance claim

Last updated: 12 December 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Making a home insurance claim often comes at a stressful time, but the claims process doesn't have to add to the stress.

If we're making a claim on our home insurance, it's important to contact them as soon as possible after an incident happens.

Keeping all evidence of the incident and taking photographs can be crucial to the success of our home insurance claim.

However, 17% of home insurance claims aren't successful, so maximise your chances of success by checking policy exclusions now.

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Making a claim on your home insurance

Claiming on our home insurance is usually the last thing we want to do but understanding how making a claim works can make the process a little less daunting.

These are the general steps we should follow when making a home insurance claim.

Step 1 - Before you claim

Sometimes there may be steps to take before we can claim on our home insurance.

For instance, if there has been a burglary, the first step is to call the police. This isn't just to alert them to a crime - home insurers will need a crime reference number in burglary cases to process the claim.

Taking action on repairs before we make a claim can jeopardise the success of our claim, so be sure to make contacting your insurer the priority whenever something goes wrong.

Step 2 - Contact your insurer

Our home insurance company should be our first port of call (after the police, if necessary).

An insurer's contact telephone number will be on our insurance claims documentation. It will often be called a claims helpline to set it apart from a general query helpline.

Insurers will also have their claims helpline number prominently displayed on their website.

Before calling the helpline, make sure the following information is at hand:

  • Home insurance policy number
  • A brief description of what has happened (cause of problem, damage, what was stolen etc)
  • Crime reference number (if applicable)

Although some insurance companies will allow customers to make claims up to 180 days after an incident, it's always better to contact them as soon as possible.

Delaying a claim may mean some evidence is lost or the insurer may question why the claim was not made sooner.

Obviously, some delays are inevitable if a customer has returned from a holiday to find their home has been burgled or their property has been damaged in a storm. As a general rule, though, get in touch with an insurer as quickly as you can.

Insurance companies will have a dedicated claims form that can usually be downloaded from their website or sent out in the post. Once we've downloaded or received this, we can move on to the second step - actually making our claim using evidence.

Step 3 - Present evidence

Gathering the right evidence can make a home insurance claim proceed more smoothly.

When we fill in the claim form provided by our insurer, we'll be asked to provide evidence to back up our claim. This evidence will vary depending on the type of claim we're making.

Customers who have been burgled should provide the following:

  • The crime reference number provided by the police
  • Information about the items stolen including proof of purchase - this could be in the form of receipts or bank statements that prove the items exist
  • Pictures of any entry points such as broken windows or doors
  • CCTV footage (if applicable)

If there has been flood damage or storm damage to a property, we'll still need proof of purchases as much as possible, although insurers are likely to accept it might not be possible to gathered everything together.

In the case of building damage, clear photographs are essential to help insurance companies quantify the claim - in such cases, a loss adjuster will probably be appointed (more on this below).

The golden rule for making a home insurance claim is to provide as much evidence as possible. This will ensure the company has enough information to make a decision as quickly as they can.

If the house is damaged, it's important to remember that you shouldn't do a complete clean-up of the property until the home insurance company says you can. This includes keeping damaged or destroyed contents and, in the case of flooding, waiting until the house dries out.

Step 4 - Consider a loss assessor

As we mentioned above, insurance companies will sometimes send a loss adjuster to the property to assess the damage caused.

This usually occurs if it's a large or complex claim, and the loss adjuster is independent to the insurer, so they look at the claim impartially and report back to the insurer. Even so, adjusters aren't on the claimant's side - they want to act in the best interests of the insurance company if there's a chance of settling the claim more cheaply.

That's why appointing a loss assessor might be worthwhile for customers who are making extremely large claims after, for example, storm damage or a house fire.

A loss assessor is a claims specialist who is focused on the interests of the customer rather than the company. It can help to have a second set of eyes on the claim, especially if you believe the insurance company is trying to lower the settlement costs.

However, loss assessors must be paid for by the customer, so think carefully before appointing one.

Depending on the size of the claim, a loss adjuster may charge an hourly rate, or they may charge a percentage of the final settlement figure. In the latter case, the potential reward gives them an extra incentive to work hard for the customer.

Step 5 - Success

In an ideal world, the claim will be settled and the insurance customer will receive a settlement.

Customers often want a specific time frame for a claim to be settled, but the unfortunate fact is that it depends on the claim.

Settlements can take anything from 48 hours up to a year, and it gets more complicated when the claim is a large one and a loss adjuster is involved.

How long it takes to process and settle a home insurance claim depends on the following:

  • Type of damage being claimed for
  • Complexity of restoring a property or repairing and replacing contents
  • Number of people involved - potentially including a loss adjuster, loss assessor, surveyors, builders and removal companies

If the insurance company believes further investigations are needed into the validity of the claim (or whether it's covered under the policy), this could further delay the outcome.

What if a home insurance claim isn't straightforward?

Delays to a home insurance settlement are frustrating for the customer, but it's important to remain polite and calm throughout the process. While your attitude shouldn't affect the insurance claim itself, it can certainly affect the company's willingness to help as quickly as they can.

The company may request more evidence about the claim. If it's possible to supply it, do so. If it isn't possible for whatever reason (if evidence was lost in a fire or flood, for example), explain why and see if there's an alternative route to finding the evidence.

If there's an insurmountable obstacle to the claim, however, it might be rejected by the insurer - and this happens more for home insurance claims than other types of insurance.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) publishes annual figures on the number of insurance claims accepted. In 2017/18, the number of domestic property claims accepted was 82.8%.

While this was a slight rise on the previous year, it still means over 17% of claims were rejected by insurance companies.

Why might a claim be rejected?

Home insurance claims can be rejected for a variety of reasons. While fraudulent claims are obviously a small part of this, there are several reasons why a claim made in good faith may be rejected by an insurance company:

  • Lack of cover - So, the insurance policy doesn't actually cover what is being claimed for. A common problem is that a policy doesn't cover accidental damage, which isn't usually included as standard.
  • Wear and tear - If an insurer can argue a property wasn't maintained, they may have grounds to reject a claim. For example, if a poorly maintained window frame was a factor in the window's collapse during a storm, the insurer could legitimately refuse to pay out.
  • Lack of due care - Customers are expected to take care of their home and property to the best of their abilities, so if they are burgled after leaving a window open or the door unlocked, the insurance company can say the customer was neglectful.
  • Supplying incorrect information - Any inaccurate information on the claims assessment form could result in the claim being rejected. Even if you think you won't be found out, be completely accurate and honest on the claims form.
  • Failing to disclose facts - This is similar to the point above but could include failing to tell an insurer of a change of circumstances (such as changing job, getting married, taking in a lodger) or attempting to hide previous claims to try to maintain a no-claims discount.
  • Delayed claim for too long - We've already mentioned insurers generally have claim limits of 180 days or less. It's unlikely you'd delay that long to make a claim but be aware these limits exist.

Most of these can be averted by understanding your policy and preparing in case you need to make a claim.

Read our guide to contents insurance to understand the different types of cover and to work out what might be right for your household.

How to challenge an insurance rejection

If our home insurance company rejects our claim, we can challenge the decision.

The first step of this process is to contact the insurer informally via phone, email or webchat to find out why your claim was rejected and politely contest the decision.

Ask if more evidence is needed or whether there is a specific clause in the insurance policy they have used to deny the claim - you may have interpreted it differently, adding to the confusion around the claim.

If this informal contact doesn't work, we can make a more formal complaint

How to complain about your insurance provider

Along with making informal contact with an insurer to challenge the rejection of a home insurance claim, there are other steps customers can follow to complain about how their claim was handled:

  1. A formal written complaint to the insurer
  2. Taking the case to the Financial Ombudsman Service
  3. Taking the case to the same complaints court

For more information on making a complaint about an insurer, read our dedicated guide.

Why do people claim on their home insurance?

Thanks to the ABI, we have information about the reasons people are most likely to claim on their home insurance and how much their claims are.

These are the figures showing the value of gross claims in 2018:

Type of claim Percentage
Escape of water 27%
Weather 18%
Fire and explosion 16%
Theft 13%
Other domestic claims 11%
Accidental damage 10%
Domestic subsidence 6%

As we can see, escape of water accounts for the largest percentage of claims. This normally includes:

  • Leaks from fixed pipes, tanks and other equipment
  • Water overflowing from fixed pipes, tanks and other equipment
  • Water escaping from baths, showers, built-in fish tanks, washing machine, dishwashers and any other plumbed-in home appliance

The distinction between escape of water and flooding is that escape of water covers problems caused by internal water issues. Flooding cover refers to water entering the home from outside via a flooded river, burst water main or other source.

We've got a full guide to flood risks and home insurance, plus details of a 2020 review of flooding in South Yorkshire that found 6% of policies explicitly excluded flooding risks.

Bear in mind these are only the percentage of claims made, not the percentage of incidents. It's possible that accidental damage claims, for example, were too close to the excess amount to make it worthwhile for a customer to claim.

Is it worth making a home insurance claim?

Many customers ask whether it's worth making a claim on their home insurance, especially if the excess they have to pay (their contribution towards the claim) is not far under their claim amount.

If the excess on your home insurance is £100 and you've had items of £120 stolen, it's unlikely to be worth claiming just to receive a £20 pay out.

As well as the administrative aspects of claiming, it's important to remember making a claim will likely increase home insurance premiums at renewal time.

Even if you switch home insurance providers, your quote will likely be affected by recent claims on your existing policy.

In some cases, claiming may well not be worth it.

Conclusion: be prepared

The key to a successful home insurance claim is presenting all the evidence to your insurer and being completely honest throughout the process.

As the figures show, up to 17% of home insurance claims are rejected by insurers, so it pays to be certain when you sign up to a policy that it covers everything you think it does. No one likes reading the small print, but it can prevent a nasty shock later on.

Check these three things about your home insurance policy to see how well protected your household is:

  1. Does it cover accidental damage?
  2. Does it include flood risk cover?
  3. What is the excess?

Plus, be sure to keep your policy number nearby in case of emergency - no one wants to claim on their home insurance, but we can be prepared just in case.


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