How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

This comprehensive guide offers an in-depth overview of the homeowners insurance claim procedure, outlining all the crucial information required to file a claim, the stages involved in the process, and the anticipated waiting time for receiving payment. It explains the appropriate time to file a claim, the importance of documenting the claim, and the type of information that the insurance company would require. Additionally, the guide highlights common mistakes to steer clear of during the process and the necessary steps to take for immediate repairs, such as fixing a damaged roof.

How Do I File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

After a devastating event like a fire, flood, theft, or other home incidents, the last thing you may think of is calling your homeowners insurance company. However, it is crucial to do so promptly, both for safety reasons and to initiate the claim procedure. In this section, we'll guide you through the steps involved in filing a claim:

1. Report to the Police: In case an unlawful act such as theft or destruction of property has taken place, it is imperative to file a police report before taking any further action. Document the names of the law enforcement officials you interact with during this process.

2. Inform your Home Insurance Company: After reporting to the police, your subsequent step should be to contact your homeowners insurance company or agent. It is generally necessary to promptly inform the insurance company of any damage, theft, or injury that is likely to result in a claim, although the exact reporting requirements may differ between insurance companies and situations. To be certain, consult your policy and supporting documentation. Some insurance companies also provide the option of making a claim through their online portal.

3. Conduct Necessary Emergency Repairs: Finally, make any reasonable emergency repairs necessary to prevent further damage, while ensuring your safety. Most homeowners insurance policies permit this, and some even mandate it. Be sure to keep receipts for any expenses incurred and take clear photos of the damage before making any repairs.

4. Document the claim: Document all damage, stolen items, and anything else that will form the basis of the claim. Take lots of photos or a video detailing the damage, going room to room if necessary. This is especially important if immediate repairs are necessary to make the structure safe and habitable. Compile a list of damaged, stolen, or destroyed possessions, along with their approximate value. This will be a lot faster if you've made a detailed home inventory of your possessions ahead of time. The insurance company will schedule an appointment for an appraiser to interview you and assess the damage to determine how much compensation you can expect. Make sure to accompany the appraiser during the inspection and point out any structural damage or areas of concern.

Filing a Police Report

It may only sometimes be necessary to inform local law enforcement about every instance of damage covered by your homeowners insurance. For example, a leaky roof or harm caused by wind wouldn't typically require police involvement. However, if a crime has taken place like vandalism or burglary, or in the case of a fire, it's essential to immediately contact the authorities. The same goes if someone is hurt while on your property. Ensure to provide all relevant information to the authorities and retain copies of their reports, as they will be necessary when making your insurance claim.

It's not necessary to dial emergency services unless a fire has broken out, a potential intruder is suspected, a severe injury has occurred, or another critical situation has arisen. Usually, law enforcement agencies prefer that non-urgent reports are made through their designated non-emergency phone number. Discovering instances of theft or vandalism at a later time is typically not viewed as an emergency.

In certain neighborhoods, reporting criminal activity through the internet and self-filing police reports is permitted and promoted. By providing personal details, the location, and the details of the event, a case number will be assigned, and a printed version of the report can be obtained. Further communication from an official may occur as deemed necessary.

When a law enforcement officer arrives at your residence, offer a thorough account of the occurrence, including a description of any harm to your property and an enumeration of damaged or absent belongings. Respond to all inquiries made by the officer and thoroughly examine the affected area to ensure no details have been overlooked.

Notifying Your Insurance Company

Notifying Your Insurance Company
Notifying Your Insurance Company

To fulfill the requirements of most homeowners insurance policies, it is necessary to inform your insurance provider swiftly after an occurrence such as a storm, theft, fire, injury, or other event that may result in a claim, even if you have no plans to seek compensation. Your policy will indicate the necessary steps and what is required.

In addition to directly contacting your insurance company or agent, certain insurance providers offer the option of reaching them online or through a mobile application. For anything other than minor claims, it is recommended to communicate directly with a representative of the company or an agent.

Before contacting your insurance provider, it is wise to thoroughly review your policy to familiarize yourself with what is and isn't covered, including any restrictions or limits that may apply. It may also be helpful to take note of any additional coverage you may have forgotten about. If it has been some time since you last checked your policy, this would be a good opportunity to refresh your memory. Compile a list of questions as you review the policy.

If the damages sustained are minor and the cost of repairs is less than your deductible, you may want to consider not making a claim. Paying out-of-pocket in this case could be a better option as it may help to avoid a potential increase in rates. Jay Feinman, an insurance expert and law professor at Rutgers University, says, "If the loss is within the deductible or even close, it is advisable to reconsider filing a claim.

Determining the cost of repairs can be a challenge without obtaining a professional assessment. In that situation, it is advisable to reach out to your insurance provider. Your insurance agent or representative may be able to assist in estimating expenses, or you can seek advice from a local contractor. It is crucial to inform and file a claim within the specified timeframe stated in your policy.

When notifying your insurance company of the damage, ensure that you have your policy and questions at hand. Provide a detailed description of the damage and clarify whether you are covered or not. Don't hesitate to ask questions, and strive to understand the process completely. Inquire about the time required to obtain the claim documents and when they need to be completed. Find out if obtaining estimates for major repairs are mandatory and if an insurance adjuster will be sent to inspect the damage and when.

To ensure a smoother process in the future, it is important to be as detailed as possible during your initial call to your insurance company. While you may not need to provide all the information about the loss or a detailed list of affected items immediately, promptness is crucial. If the damage was caused by a widespread event like a storm, it's best to reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible to get in line for an appraisal and repairs. Provide the best description of the damage you can and inquire about your coverage and the required information from you. Determine the deadline for filing a claim and begin your preparations accordingly.

Documenting Your Homeowners Insurance Claim

Completing a home insurance claim process can be both laborious and demanding. Nonetheless, a comprehensive approach increases the likelihood of a quicker resolution.

Maintain a record of all telephonic conversations and interactions that you have, beginning from the occurrence that led to the claim. The documentation should encompass the date of the conversations, and the identities of the individuals you converse with, ranging from police officers to insurance company agents to contractors supplying estimations.

To support your insurance claim, it's important to document the damage with photos or videos that capture as much detail as possible. This may require you to take images of each room if necessary. If you have a household inventory, now is the time to use it by including photographs of items prior to the damage, along with their estimated value. This information, along with images or videos of the damage, will help your insurance company more accurately assess what has been lost. If you don't have prior visual records, make sure to create a record of the damage and make a list of damaged or stolen items.

In the case of a break-in, vandalism, or any other criminal activity, make sure to include a copy of the police report and the names of the officers you spoke with. If someone has been injured on your property, be prepared to provide information about medical expenses and any other out-of-pocket costs.

Include all details requested by your insurance provider and provide any supporting documentation they may require. The more information you supply, the more advantageous it will be in the long run.

Moreover, if the damage to your home renders it unsafe or unlivable, keep records of all expenses incurred such as hotels, meals, etc. so you can be reimbursed. This is typically covered under the "loss-of-use" section of homeowners insurance policies.

Making Urgent Repairs

Making Urgent Repairs
Making Urgent Repairs

It is not advisable to postpone making temporary repairs to your home if it will result in additional harm. Although you should not undertake repairs that are beyond your capacity or pose a threat to your safety, it is acceptable to take swift action, like covering a damaged roof with a tarp to prevent rain from entering. These interim fixes will secure your property and make it more livable until professional help arrives. Such actions may even be demanded by your insurance firm. According to Feinman, "Insurance policies generally require policyholders to take measures to prevent further damage, as it is in both their and the policyholder's best interest."

Retain receipts for all the supplies you acquire for immediate repair work, like tarps, lumber, and hardware. Incorporate the receipts with the documents you send to the insurance firm when filing for reimbursement. Prior to starting the repairs, capture images or videos of the damage to establish a record of the appearance of the damaged areas soon after the event. You should submit these records when making the claim.

It's important to remember that not all damage is worth reporting, and involving the insurance company could lead to a rise in your rates, especially if the damage is minor and can be repaired by yourself or with the help of a contractor for an amount close to or lower than your deductible.

Determining the extent of damage without expert assistance can be challenging. In such situations, it's advisable to seek an estimate from a nearby contractor or inform your insurance agent/company. The only method to confirm if you'll receive compensation and to what extent is by allowing your insurance company to carry out an assessment. This step could also uncover any unseen damage. Any minor damage that appears insignificant now could escalate into more significant issues later, so it's crucial to document it.

Your insurance company will provide you with necessary claim forms that need to be filled and submitted, as per legal requirements. It's essential to complete these forms promptly to keep the process moving smoothly. Devote some time to fill them out with precision and comprehensiveness, and don't hesitate to ask for clarification if needed.

When Should I File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

As a homeowner, it is advisable to file a claim promptly when feasible. This is typically after an insurance adjuster has conducted an assessment of the property and submitted a report, if necessary. You should then proceed to coordinate with contractors for repairs or reconstruction. Although the deadline for filing claims may differ by state, most insurance policies require claims to be filed within a year of the incident.

Before filing a claim, it's crucial to assess the cost of repairs and compare it with your deductible. If the repair expenses are close to or less than your deductible, it may be more cost-effective to pay for the repairs yourself or through a contractor, even if it exceeds your deductible slightly.

Filing a claim may result in a higher insurance premium or even policy termination. Moreover, the record of your claim can follow you to other insurance companies, as they share a database known as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). This database includes information about past claims, including claimant names, ages, addresses, types of claims, and settlement amounts. Every time you file a claim, it is documented on your CLUE profile and can remain in the database for up to seven years.

It's worth noting that the mere act of inquiring about a claim with your insurance company can result in an update of your CLUE profile. Although, the decision to raise or decrease your insurance rate is not solely based on your claims history, but rather a combination of various factors like your credit score, how long you have been with the same insurance company, and the number of claims in your area. However, if you have a pattern of frequent claims, it may be wise to reconsider filing a claim for minor damages.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim?


  • Facilitates prompt and professional repairs
  • Ensures replacement of damaged or lost items
  • Preserves and potentially increases home value


  • May lead to a rise in rates
  • Waiting time for an insurance adjuster can be extended

By filing a claim with your insurance company, you can be sure that the necessary repairs will be carried out quickly and professionally, and any damaged or destroyed possessions will be replaced. This process can also aid in maintaining the value of your home and even enhance it over time by updating older items.

However, there is a possibility that filing a claim will cause a rate increase that will remain with you even if you change insurance providers or move to a new residence in the future. The insurance companies consult a shared database that comprises a history of all claims, including your personal information, the location, date, and details of the claims, and the type and amount of settlements.

Additionally, the process of filing a claim involves waiting for an insurance adjuster to inspect the damage and finding a contractor who will carry out the repairs for the amount offered by the insurance company. The wait time may be prolonged, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and others. The longer you wait to make a claim, the longer it may take to receive the necessary repairs.

Alternatively, choosing not to file a claim can save you time and allow you to make repairs on your own schedule, as well as avoid potential disagreements with your insurance company over the settlement offer provided.

How Can Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim Impact My Rates?

It's no secret that submitting a claim to your homeowners insurance provider can lead to a higher premium, one that could linger for some time. This is particularly true if you have a long record of claims. In extreme cases, you may even run the risk of being dropped by your insurer. This is because insurance companies use a database called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) that contains claim information to determine and adjust rates. Each claim you file is documented and kept on record for years. Simply making an inquiry about a potential claim can raise a red flag in the CLUE system, designating you as a higher risk. This record will follow you, even if you switch to a different insurance company.

While it's important to be aware of CLUE, it shouldn't prevent you from making a claim if it's necessary. If your house burns down, it's imperative to contact your insurance company. But if you accidentally hit your fence with your car, it may be worth considering before making a claim. It's essential to balance the extent of the damage against the potential drawbacks, without worrying too much about premium hikes or losing your insurer.

"The insurance company wants to keep you as a customer," says Feinman. "Acquiring a customer can be quite costly." He advises homeowners to take a step back and ask themselves some questions for perspective. "Do you have a lot of complaints? The expensive ones are what they will be worried about," he says.

How Are Homeowners Insurance Claims Paid?

Typically, insurance firms disburse claims through electronic funds transfer or via check, though more intricate claims might necessitate multiple payments being issued as the repair work progresses and costs are accumulated.

Based on the extent of the damage, you may receive the first payment shortly after filing your claim, to cover immediate expenses or to reimburse you for temporary lodging and food, as well as pay for any necessary preliminary repairs. In some cases, such as smaller claims, the first payment may be a full and immediate settlement. If you accept this payment, you have the option of making another claim later on in the event of further damage being discovered. You may also challenge the settlement if you feel it is inadequate and seek the advice of a public insurance adjuster for a second evaluation if you are not satisfied with the offer from your insurance company.

In the event that both the structure and your belongings are damaged or destroyed, you might receive individual payments for each. You may also receive separate payments for living expenses or alternative lodging, and another payment if part of the damage was caused by a flood and is covered under a separate policy.

In case you have a mortgage on your home, the checks are typically made out to both you and your lender. Banks and mortgage companies typically require that they are listed on a homeowner's policy and are party to any insurance payments. This also holds true if you own a condo or co-op. Your lender may require that all repair funds be held in an escrow account and released directly to your contractor as the work progresses. A final inspection of the work may be necessary before the final payment is disbursed.

What Are Mistakes to Avoid in Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

What Are Mistakes to Avoid in Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
What Are Mistakes to Avoid in Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

To ensure a smooth claims process, it is crucial to immediately inform your insurance company of the event that is causing the claim. Then, complete and submit the required claim forms within the specified deadline. Make sure to provide a detailed account of the loss by documenting it with photographs, videos, and a list of affected items and their estimated value.

It is essential to abide by your insurance company's guidelines and state regulations regarding the deadline for making a claim. On the other hand, avoid filing a claim if it is not necessary. If the damage is minor or the repair costs are lower than your deductible, it may be more advantageous not to file a claim as it may increase your insurance premiums or even result in your policy being cancelled.

Pay close attention to the details of your claim as anything left out will not be reimbursed. The more extensive the claim, the more significant this aspect becomes. Documenting a loss such as a fallen tree on a fence due to a wind storm is relatively straightforward, whereas reporting the loss from a fire that destroyed a home can be more complex. Hence, it is advisable to keep a photographic or video record of the contents of your home and to maintain an inventory of your possessions.

Another common mistake in purchasing homeowner insurance is neglecting to purchase adequate coverage. Shopping for the cheapest policy is not always the best option, as Janet Ruiz of the Insurance Information Institute advises. Instead, consider the cost of rebuilding your home. When applying for insurance, provide all relevant information about your home, such as the type of flooring and countertops, and update your coverage as necessary when making any changes.

Finally, do not blindly accept your insurance company's offer. Do not hesitate to contest a claim and to pursue the maximum reimbursement possible. Your insurance company may not be acting maliciously, but they may be inclined to pay as little as possible.

How Long Does It Take to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

The time it takes to file a home insurance claim varies and could range from a few days to several months. The complexity of the claim and the amount of preparation you do beforehand can impact the duration.

For simple claims, such as a flooded basement or fallen tree, the process can be straightforward. However, when multiple factors are involved, the process may be more time-consuming.

It's convenient to fill out an online claim form on your computer, but it's essential to weigh the cost of making a claim against your deductible. Filing claims, even minor ones like fence damage, can increase your insurance rates, so it's crucial to determine if the claim is worth making.

Most insurance companies will send an adjuster to inspect the damage and assess repair costs, which can take some time, especially after a storm when many people in the area are filing claims.

In the case of hurricane damage, which often involves both wind and flooding, you may have to file claims with two separate insurance companies. This could result in a longer claim filing process.

Your insurance policy will outline the time frame for filing claims, and state regulations and time limits apply to both you and your insurer. It's crucial to provide all necessary documentation, including photos, an itemized list of lost items, and estimated values, in a timely manner to keep the process moving smoothly. The more detail you provide, the better.

How Long Does It Take to Pay Out a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

How Long Does It Take to Pay Out a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

The settlement of a homeowners insurance claim can range from a few weeks to several years. The duration is determined by the type and complexity of the claim, the extent of the damage, and how efficiently you handle the filing process. Claims that are straightforward are typically settled more quickly than more extensive claims, such as a total loss from a fire. In such cases, the process of gathering information about the loss and processing the claim may take longer, with rebuilding a home after a total loss taking up to two years, according to United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.

To expedite the payment process, it's important to provide as much detail as possible in your claim, including police and fire reports, photos or videos of the damage, and an inventory and estimated value of lost items. You should also make sure to submit all necessary paperwork within the time limit set by your insurance policy and state regulations.

Disputes can slow down the process, such as disagreements over the settlement amount or which insurance company should be responsible for the claim if multiple insurers are involved. For instance, it can be challenging to determine if storm damage was caused by wind or water, and therefore, who should cover the damage. Wind damage is usually covered by homeowners insurance, while flooding requires a separate policy.

Delays can also occur due to disruptions such as roadblocks to accessing your area during a major storm, difficulty obtaining supplies, or prolonged wait times for contractors. Additionally, if contractors perform poor work that requires redoing, the payment timeline could be extended.

Homeowners Insurance Companies: 


American Family


Auto-Owners Insurance

Chubb Insurance

Erie Insurance

Farmers Insurance

The Hartford


Liberty Mutual



State Farm


The information about insurance providers included here is intended for informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement of any particular company or product. The writers of this content and the website itself are not authorized to sell or provide insurance advice. Not all coverage options, discounts, and features may be available in every state. To learn more about any of the companies mentioned or to get a quote, please reach out to an insurance company, agent, or financial advisor directly. The content is not a general recommendation for homeowners insurance products or a specific endorsement of a particular insurer or product. Any rates listed are provided as examples only. You should reach out to the insurance provider or agent directly to get applicable quotes.