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How to make a property insurance claim

The real test of your home insurance comes when you have to make an insurance claim. Quite often you have to make a claim as a result of a stressful event, such as an escape of water or burglary, so you need a swift and efficient response from your insurer.  So it’s important that you file your claim correctly, to minimise the risk of delays and problems.

So here is a guide to making a property insurance claim, with some simple points to make your claims process as smooth as possible:

Make sure you are covered for the damage or loss you have suffered, often not all perils are covered. Always check the terms of your policy for time limits within which claims must be reported, or insurance claim forms completed, and make sure you comply with them.

Check the excess and consider whether it’s worth making the insurance claim. Excesses of £500 are not uncommon these days.

Check whether you have emergency cover as well as home insurance. And don’t forget the buildings insurance may be with a completely separate insurer to your contents insurance.

And check the small print. Your policy won’t cover you if you haven’t maintained your property well. Roof damage insurance claims are often declined on the basis that the roof has not been maintained; if the roof had been well-maintained then it would not have been damaged by the storm event.

Emergency?

If there is an emergency and you have emergency cover then call your emergency insurer immediately. They should be able to appoint an emergency plumber and/or electrician, or give you the authority to sort it out yourself and claim the costs back (less policy excess).

Even if you don’t have emergency cover you will need to stop any further damage from being done and you should get an emergency plumber and/or electrician out immediately. Your insurer will expect you to fix the problem before they repair the property for you.

Make a claim

Once the emergency is over you need to call your insurance company to start your property and/or contents insurance claim.

Get the policy number and call the claims helpline phone number that will be clearly shown within your policy documents. Don’t worry too much if you can’t find your documents (e.g. if your house is flooded) as the insurer should be able to find your details using your address and postcode.

You can then talk to a customer service adviser, and plan your next step. Before you ring, make sure you have your policy number handy, and a crime reference number if, say, you have suffered a burglary.

Don’t instruct builders or start patching up the damage yourself until the insurer has had time to assess it, and given its approval to pay for any work that needs to be done.

Tips for getting your claim accepted:

  • File your insurance claim as soon as possible. Your policy may have a time limit for making insurance claims – and even if you’ve got plenty of time, it’s best to file while the information is fresh in your mind.
  • Give the details clearly. The easier you make things for your insurance company, the fewer hold-ups there will be when they’re processing your insurance claim.
  • Don’t exaggerate. Never try to overplay the value of your insurance claim. Stick to the facts.  Insurers are used to seeing claims that don’t stack up. Ask for too much and you could invalidate your insurance claim.
  • Document the damage. Take photos and videos of damaged possessions and rooms as soon as the damage occurs. Make lists of lost and damaged property and items and find the receipts if you have them – the more solid evidence you have, the quicker it is for an insurance company to process your insurance claim.
  • Document the insurance claim process. Any time you talk to your insurance company, note down the date and time, the name of the person you spoke to and what was said. Keep any letters you’ve received, and copies of letters you send.

Depending on the size of your insurance claim, the insurer will take three possible routes to settling your claim:

Cash settlement

If it’s a small claim, and you are happy to arrange the repairs yourself, the insurer may offer you a cash settlement. However you will have to provide evidence yourself to support your claim. Usually you will need to:

  • Complete a claim form with full details of the damage and reasons;
  • Take photographs of the damage;
  • Get two quotes for the repairs.

Once you have provided this information to the insurer’s satisfaction they will send you a cheque. The better the information and evidence you can provide first time, the quicker the settlement will be.

Loss adjuster/surveyor

If your insurance claim is a larger or more complicated claim (e.g. more than two rooms are affected, or it’s a flood or serious fire) then the insurer will probably instruct a loss adjuster or surveyor to assess the extent of the damage.

They will prepare an estimate for the repair works for the insurer. It’s important to remember that the insurer will only pay to reinstate your property back to the state it was before the claim; so don’t expect a brand new kitchen or some new expensive wall paper. The repairs will be done on a like for like basis.

Once the insurer has received the estimate they will either offer you a cash settlement or appoint a builder to fix your property.

Reinstatement

If the insurer and you agree that a builder will repair, or reinstate, your property then the insurer will often appoint a claims handling company such as MA Assist. Such companies are specialists in managing property insurance claims and a network of builders who specialise in insurance repairs.

At this stage you may decide to make improvements to your property while you have builders on site. Any improvements, or “betterments”, would be a private contract between you and the builder.

At any time during the claims process do not be afraid to call your insurer and/or the claims handling company for advice or clarification.

The quality of the service you receive will vary from insurer to insurer, and will depend on the nature of the insurance claim and the builders and individuals involved. Check back periodically with your insurer to check the progress of the claim. Some home insurance policyholders find themselves waiting a long time for responses to their claims. Be proactive about handling your claim to get it resolved quicker.

So if you’re not happy with the service complain!

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