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How to make a home insurance claim

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Taking stock of your belongings can make the claims process run smoothly.

Homeowners insurance can protect your home and its belongings from a range of potential risks, but how much you’ll get in the event of a claim can depend on your policy type and ability to prove the ownership and worth of any lost or damaged items.

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What kind of claim can I make with homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance can protect both your house and its belongings. Many policies can also protect you against liability if someone gets hurt while on your property.

Coverage type and what it coversPolicy compensation methods
  • Dwelling coverage. Also known as property or building coverage, this covers damage to your house, including the floors, walls and any built-in appliances. It may also cover any attached structures, such as a garage.
  • Replacement cost. This covers the total expense of restoring your home to its original state, and is often the most comprehensive policy type.
  • Market value. This covers what a potential buyer would pay for your home in current market conditions. This policy type is often less expensive, but may not pay out enough to fully repair your home after a major accident.
  • Contents coverage. Also known as personal property coverage, this covers financial losses due to the loss, theft or damage of possessions kept in your home such as vehicles, electronics, art or appliances.
  • Replacement cost. This coverage pays to repair or replace your lost or damaged possessions.
  • Actual cash value. This pays the current value of any items, factoring in depreciation.

How do I make a home insurance claim?

If something happens to your home or belongings, you can file a claim with your insurance company to help cover the cost.

  1. Call your insurer. Contact your insurance company by phone or online as soon as reasonably possible after the event occurs.
  2. Make your claim. You should receive a claim number once you submit your form.
  3. Get a repair estimate. The insurer will send an adjuster to your property to assess the damage and provide an estimate for repairs.
  4. Hire a contractor. The insurance company may send you a list of recommended contractors if there’s damage to the home. You can use a contractor on the list or hire one you prefer.
  5. Make repair payments. Once your claim has been processed, your insurer will notify you of the outcome and send you or your contractor a check. You may receive the full amount up front or you may get several checks.
  6. Complete repairs. Your chosen contractor will contact you directly and work will commence as soon as possible.

Why do I need an inventory of my possessions for a home insurance claim?

Creating an inventory of your home and contents is vital as many insurers require you to submit one if you place a claim, which means having an outdated and incomplete inventory, or none at all, can result in lengthy delays or lower-than-expected payouts.

The most straightforward method of putting one together is to go through your property room by room and make a record of your possessions and their approximate value. You can keep track of everything online, in a hard copy or through a computer or smartphone app. To create a thorough inventory:

  • Keep receipts for any expensive items.
  • Take photographs of your belongings to provide additional evidence of ownership.
  • If you aren’t sure of the value of more expensive items, such as jewelry and art, consider having them professionally appraised.
  • Remember that some items, such as antiques, may increase in value over time, so make sure to have them reappraised every few years.
  • Make an effort to regularly update your inventory as you replace old items or buy new ones. Keep your photo inventory up-to-date as well.
  • Upload a copy of your inventory online or to the cloud and/or keep a hard copy outside the home.

What are the most common home insurance claims?

While homeowners insurance is there to safeguard you against the unplanned and unexpected, there are some simple precautions you can take to avoid some of the most common causes of claims.

How can I avoid home insurance claims?

To give yourself the best possible coverage and ensure that your claims are processed quickly and successfully, remember to:

  • Equip your home with safety and security devices approved by your insurer such as alarms, cameras and ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Add coverage for any natural disasters that occur in your state.
  • Avoid making small claims you could easily pay yourself, as these can push your premiums up.
  • Don’t leave your home unoccupied for more than 60 days, as it may not be covered by your insurance.
  • Always file your claim as soon as possible, as further damage due to delays may not be covered.
  • Always have any temporary or emergency repairs approved by your insurer or they may not be covered.

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Bottom line

Taking steps as soon as you get your homeowners policy, like photographing your belongings and having expensive items appraised, can make things a lot easier when you need to file a claim. You can also compare homeowners insurance policies to find a company with a reputation for an easy claims process.

Frequently asked questions about home insurance claims

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