How to claim on your home insurance: a first-time claimants guide

Everything you need to know about making a claim on your home insurance to help it go smoothly, including the steps to take and how the process works

If disaster strikes and you need to claim on your home insurance it’s important to act quickly but if you’ve never had to claim before you might be unsure what to do. This could add to the stress you’re already feeling about what’s happened, whether it’s a burglary or flood, so it helps to fully understand what’s involved before you go ahead.

The good news is that the majority of home insurance claims are accepted – 81% in 2019/20 according to the most recent figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) – so, if you do what your insurer requires, you have a good chance of success. If it’s already been rejected, however, read our guide to what to do if your home insurance claim is denied.

Before you contact your insurer, you should first dig out your insurance documents. These may have been sent to you by post or email, or be accessible online. Make sure you’re actually covered for whatever you want to claim for. If your policy doesn’t include cover for accidental damage, for example, you won’t be able to claim for a water leak that was caused by you drilling into a pipe.

Also check the excess you’ll have to pay. This is the amount of any claim you have to pay yourself and may affect whether you decide to claim at all.

Making a claim on your home insurance: step-by-step

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(Image credit: Future PLC/Nick Pope)

1. Report theft to the police

If you’re claiming because of theft or vandalism, report it to the police straight away. You’ll be given a crime reference number, which you’ll need to give the insurer in order to claim.

2. Contact your insurer

Let your insurer know you want to claim. You can do this over the phone or, depending on the insurer, online or by logging into your account. Consult your insurance documents or the insurer’s website to find out how you can contact it to make a claim.

It may be a condition of your policy that you have to tell it about the incident you want to claim for within 48 hours or a certain number of days. The sooner you can get the ball rolling the sooner your claim can be dealt with, however.

‘A general rule is to contact your insurer as quickly as possible' says senior policy adviser for general insurance at the ABI, Sarah Brodie. 'And have your policy number, details of any other parties involved, and a crime reference number, if applicable, readily available.’

You’ll also need to provide the insurer with your personal details. So the date and time the incident happened, details of the loss or damage and of anyone else affected by the incident, including witnesses, and information about the structure of your property if relevant. The more information you can provide at this stage the quicker the claims process is likely to be.

3. Gather evidence to support your claim

Take photographs of any damage and collect samples of things like carpets if they’ve been affected. Do this in case you need to provide these to the insurer as evidence. You should also keep damaged items in case it wants to assess them. Also avoid redecorating or making repairs without discussing it with your insurer first.

4. Provide further information

Be ready to give the insurer anything else it asks for to help settle your claim. This could include receipts or instruction manuals for items that have been stolen or damaged, invoices for work that has been carried out on your property or information about when and where you bought something.

Not providing everything that’s needed could mean your claim is rejected or the amount you can claim for is reduced.

What happens next: after an insurance claim

As every claim is different, how long it will take and the process involved will vary according to the nature of your claim and how complex it is. It could be settled in a matter of days or take many months.

Your insurer should aim to do as much as they can as quickly as possible though. ‘For example, if you have been badly affected by flooding, insurers can provide emergency payments and arrange for temporary accommodation or cars where necessary,’ says Sarah Brodie.

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(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

If you’re making a buildings insurance claim the insurer may send a surveyor to assess the damage. Depending on the size of your claim, the insurer may also appoint a loss adjuster to investigate on its behalf. They will visit your property as soon as possible after you’ve kicked off your claim to assess whether it’s valid and its value.

Although loss adjusters are supposed to be impartial, as they work for the insurer you may want to employ a loss assessor to act for you. This could be helpful if you’re making a large claim and your insurer disputes it.

You will need to have complied with any conditions of your policy to claim. Adam Holland, head of technical and underwriting development at AXA Retail, says: ‘AXA, along with most insurers, require homeowners to keep their properties well maintained. Any loss or damage caused gradually by wear and tear would also not be covered.’

You may have to send a quote for the work needed to repair your property to the insurer for approval or use one of its approved suppliers.

The insurer can resolve your claim in a number of ways. ‘Insurers may repair or replace any lost or damaged property as part of settling a claim,’ says Adam Holland. ‘If we can’t replace or repair the property we may pay for the loss or damage in cash or a cash alternative.’

Will your premium go up after a claim?

It’s likely that you’ll have to pay more for your insurance when the time comes to renew your policy if you’ve made a claim on your home insurance. But there are other things that can affect the price too.

‘Making a claim under your previous policy is only one of many factors used to calculate renewal premiums. Prices vary depending on the insured risk details and the cost of inflation year on year,’ says Adam Holland.

You’ll have time to shop around for a cheaper policy before accepting the renewal price. Just make sure any new policy meets your needs. Answer any questions honestly otherwise your policy could be invalidated.