Can you keep the money from a homeowners insurance claim?

Any excess home insurance claim money that you end up with is legally yours as long as your insurer doesn’t ask for it back or you didn’t commit insurance fraud for the additional amount.

Pat Howard 1600

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Updated|3 min read

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Key takeaways

  • It’s possible that you’ll end up with leftover money from a home insurance claim payout if a house repair came in under budget.

  • If you have leftover claim money after the designated repair work is completed, you’re technically entitled to keep that money if your insurer doesn’t ask for it back.

  • However, your mortgage lender or contractor typically control how your claim payout is used — not you.

Can you keep the money from an insurance claim?

Technically, any leftover home insurance claim money is yours as long as the payout was used for its intended purpose, your insurance company doesn't ask for it back, and you didn’t do something shady like submit a false claim.

If your insurance company pays you directly after a loss and nothing is written into your policy about returning leftover claim money then yes, you may very well be able to keep the excess amount.

If the settlement amount is significant or used for, say, a complete rebuild of your home, your insurance company may request an inspection of the premises to ensure claim funds were used for the required repairs. If the settlement was used appropriately and you have leftover money, your insurer may let you pocket the remaining amount, assuming you don’t have an exclusion in your policy that forbids you from doing so.

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How does the home insurance claim payment process work?

The homeowners insurance claim payment process will look a little different from company to company, but you can generally expect the following:

1. A damage assessment and estimate

Once you file a homeowners insurance claim, your insurer may send an adjuster to your home to inspect the damage and make sure everything on your claim is covered by your policy. Once the damage is assessed, the insurance company will send over a damage estimate.

You can either approve of the settlement amount or dispute it if you suspect that they underestimated the damage. If you feel you’re being lowballed by your insurer, having a separate damage estimate from a licensed contractor will improve your chances of increasing your claim payout.

2. Your initial claim payment isn’t final

Once you’ve agreed to a settlement amount, your insurance company will send the payout to either you, your mortgage company, or your contractor (more on this below). There’s a chance your insurer will only pay out a portion of the claim initially, as an advance against the total settlement. Oftentimes, this amount is made for temporary repairs or cleanup before the larger repairs or rebuild process begins.

3. You’ll receive multiple checks for claims involving different parts of your policy

You’ll often receive multiple settlement checks for different parts of your policy for which you’re filing a claim.

Let's take a look at an example.

For claims involving the structure of your home, you’ll receive a separate check for repairs or a rebuild up to the dwelling coverage limit in your policy.

If the same claim involves damage to your personal belongings and additional living expenses, you’ll receive two more separate checks under the personal property and loss of use provisions in your policy.

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Can I get a home insurance payout instead of making repairs?

You might be able to get a home insurance payout for a total loss instead of rebuilding your home — it all depends on your insurance company. Chubb, for example, gives policyholders the option of cash settlements after a total loss. That means if your home is completely lost in a fire or similarly grave disaster and you decide not to rebuild or rebuild at another location, they’ll give you the cash value of the rebuild instead — up to your policy limit.

Who gets the money from a homeowners insurance claim?

Insurance checks for losses involving your personal belongings and additional living expenses are typically made out to you, but claim payouts involving your home work a little differently.

In many cases, your mortgage lender or repairs company will be the recipient of your home insurance claim money — not you. This will depend on the insurance requirements in your mortgage contract and the details of your policy regarding how claims are paid out.

Many lenders will actually require that they be named as a loss payee on the insurance policy. If that’s the case, your lender will generally place any claim money into an escrow account and pay the contractor as repairs are completed.

Your insurance company may also pay the contractor directly after a homeowners insurance claim. Some builders and repairs companies may ask you to sign what is called a “direction to pay” form that allows your insurance company to pay them directly, according to the Insurance Information Institute. [1]

If you’re asked to sign something of that nature, make sure you’re not handing control of the entire claim over to your contractor.

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Frequently asked questions

Can I do my own insurance repairs?

In most cases, it's up to your home insurance company and mortgage lender if you're allowed to make insurance repairs yourself instead of hiring a licensed company.

Can I keep insurance money for my roof?

You might be able to keep insurance money for your roof if your claim payout was more than the cost of your roof repairs — it all depends on your insurer's policies. Just keep in mind that many home insurance companies pay your contractor or builder directly for repairs covered by your claims payout, so you might not have access to the money yourself.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

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  1. Insurance Information Institute

    . "

    Understanding the insurance claims payment process

    ." Accessed July 12, 2022.

Author

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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