Six Do's and Don'ts of filing a home insurance claim

 
By Carley Lintz
CTW Features
Updated 7/18/2016 7:03 AM
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  • An insurance claim is filed by owners of about one in 15 insured homes each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

    An insurance claim is filed by owners of about one in 15 insured homes each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. CTW Features

  • The most common home insurance claims are related to hail or wind damage. Storms can damage shingles and cause roof leaks.

    The most common home insurance claims are related to hail or wind damage. Storms can damage shingles and cause roof leaks. CTW Features

Your home exterior's No. 1 enemy: Mother Nature. From summer storms to freezing winters, extreme weather can hit during any season and wreak havoc on your home's windows, siding and roof.

That's why you have home insurance, right? Yes and no.

An insurance policy can cover you for damage caused by natural forces like wind, water or hail. About one in 15 insured homes has a claim each year, the most common related to hail or wind damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. And with premiums on the rise (the 2013 average premium was $1,096 nationally), homeowners want to avoid any costly mistakes when filing a claim.

Here are six do's and don'ts to keep in mind when filing your home insurance claim.

1. DO know where to check for damage after extreme weather.

You can't file a claim if you can't find the damage. You should routinely check your home's exterior from top to bottom for wear and tear, but it's especially important to give everything a thorough once over after a storm. Be sure to look for any missing shingles or cracks, dents or chips in your siding, gutters, roof and awning. And don't forget to take pictures of damages!

2. DON'T wait to file a claim.

Once you've discovered damage, it's imperative you file your claim immediately. Most insurance policies only have a short window of time after damage occurs for you to file your claim. If you wait too long, you risk being denied coverage and having to cover repair or replacement costs out of pocket.

3. DO read your policy carefully -- multiple times.

Always do your homework before filing your claim. No two home insurance policies are exactly alike, so review what kinds of damages you're covered for and what you're not.

4. DO consult contractors before filing your claim.

Have a few reputable contractors inspect your entire property -- roof, siding, windows, etc. -- and draw up an estimate of repair or replacement costs. You'll want to have at least three written proposals to present to your insurance company when you call.

5. DON'T file a claim if the costs are less than your deductible.

Every time you file a claim with your homeowners insurance, it's recorded in a widely used industry database called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange), regardless of if it's approved or not. The number of claims in this database can affect whether you can get insurance in the future, how much coverage you can get and your premium rate.

Therefore, it's often unwise to report claims that your insurance won't cover, like damages that cost less than your deductible (what you're required to pay out of pocket).

6. DON'T panic if your claim is denied.

If for some reason your claim is rejected, you're entitled to meet with three insurance adjusters for clarification. Be sure to read over the reasons for denial and compare it to your policy. If you believe the damages should be covered, you can appeal the decision. You may also want to consult an attorney before filing an appeal.

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