How does a homeowners insurance claim work?

When you file a homeowners insurance claim, your responsibility is to promptly report the loss to your insurance company or agent and provide the documentation they need to evaluate your claim. If the damage to your property is due to a crime, you'll also need to file a police report. In some cases you may need to make emergency repairs prior to filing a claim to prevent further damage to your property.

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Steps to take before you file a homeowners insurance claim

For any event where you consider filing a home insurance claim, consult your homeowners insurance policy, which lists specific expectations for you and your insurer. Each home insurance claim process is unique, but there are general recommendations that will apply in many situations:

  1. Be safe:

    Make sure you and anyone else in or around your home are out of any potential danger before taking further action.

  2. When appropriate, call the police:

    Burglary and vandalism, for example, are crimes where the police need to be involved. If you have reason to believe a crime was committed, call the police right away.

  3. Call your insurance company or agent:

    Simply calling doesn't mean you file a claim. But if you do end up filing a claim, you need to let your insurance company or agent know details about the incident as soon as you're able.

  4. Protect your home from further damage:

    You may need to make emergency repairs to prevent things from getting worse.

  5. Don't throw anything away:

    Even if an item is damaged beyond repair, you may need to hang onto it while the claim is open. If a claims adjuster is assigned to your claim, they may want to have a look at the damage in person.

Learn more about homeowners insurance coverages and the different types of homeowners insurance policies.

What documentation do you need to file a property insurance claim?

When filing a home insurance claim, you'll need to "substantiate your loss" — a term you may hear that means establishing what was lost, stolen, or damaged, including its worth. The most common kinds of documentation include:

  • Photos and videos of the damage: Make a record of the damage to your home and any damaged items in your home. Be as thorough as possible.
  • A complete list of all lost, damaged, or stolen items: It's especially helpful if you have receipts to document the value of those items.
  • Estimates for select repairs, if requested: Some insurance companies may ask you to get an estimate for larger repair costs. Your insurer may want you to include those estimates with your claim filing.
  • Receipts for emergency repairs, if applicable: These are any repairs you had to make so there wouldn't be further or additional damage to your home or belongings.
  • A copy of the police report, if applicable: If the loss is due to an alleged crime like burglary or vandalism, you'll have to provide your insurance company with a copy of the police report.
  • Receipts for loss-of-use expenses, if applicable: If your home is damaged due to a covered loss, and you can't stay there while it's being fixed, loss of use coverage may pay for your living expenses over and above what you'd normally pay.

How to file a home insurance claim

If you decide to file a homeowners insurance claim, simply let your insurance company know. They will either mail forms for you to complete or have you complete the forms online or through an app. You should complete these property insurance claim forms as quickly as you're able, and provide your photos, videos, and list of claimed items on request.

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