More on Home Insurance
More on Home Insurance
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With homeowners insurance, you pay your insurance premium on a monthly or annual basis to keep your policy active and your home and assets covered. While you shouldn’t hesitate to put that homeowners insurance to use in the event of storm damage or a break-in, it’s important to understand that filing a homeowners insurance claim can increase your premiums — in some cases significantly.
But when is filing a homeowners insurance claim the right move and when should you just cut your losses and pay for that new roof or laptop on your own? It really depends on both the claim type and claim amount. You’ll also want to consider your policy deductible — the amount you pay out of pocket before the insurance company reimburses you for the remainder of the loss.
For example, homeowners insurance companies view certain types of claims less favorably than others; property theft and water damage are probably viewed as risks that are more likely to happen again than, say, a one-off windstorm that caused a tree to collapse onto your house. Personal liability claims are also considered red flags for insurance companies — having one of those in your claims history not only means your premiums will be higher, but it can also make it difficult to get coverage going forward.
It’s common for homeowners insurance to go up after theft, vandalism, water damage, and liability claims — weather-related claims aren’t as likely to result in rate increases
A single claim can cause your home insurance to go up as much as 7–10%
State insurance departments have protections in place that limit when insurers can increase insurance premiums and cancel or nonrenew policies
You can check your claim history by requesting a copy of your CLUE report
Liability claims can certainly have a significant impact (on your rates and coverage). Up to the point where many insurers simply won’t insure someone with a prior liability claim.”
Filing a homeowners insurance claim can cause your premiums to go up by a little bit or a lot — it really depends on the type of claim you’re filing. But proportionate to your current home insurance premium, you’re likely looking at a 7–10% increase on average for a first claim, according to Fabio Faschi, Property and Casualty Lead at Policygenius. That means if your premium is $500, you could expect as much as a $50 increase after that first claim, but again, it’ll depend on the claim type and payout.
In terms of rate-setting, insurance companies are more likely to increase rates or target policies for cancellation or nonrenewal after non-weather related claims like theft, vandalism and internal water damage. Personal liability claims — which often result in the biggest insurance payouts due to enormous legal fees and settlements — could also cause your premiums to go up significantly. Liability claims may even make you uninsurable to some companies going forward.
“Liability claims can certainly have a significant impact (on your rates and coverage),” Faschi said. “Up to the point where many insurers simply won’t insure someone with a prior liability claim.”
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t file a personal liability claim or a theft claim if you’re sued or your stuff is burglarized — you unquestionably should if the insurance payout outweighs any uptick in insurance premiums. Just be mindful that certain claims impact your rates more than others.
Depending on the insurance company, homeowners insurance claims will stay on your record anywhere between five and seven years. But some companies, like Swyfft, stop considering prior insurance claims after three years.
Most companies can access your claims history through national databases that track claims up to a certain number of years. The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, is probably the most common customer claims record database — generally claims will stay on your CLUE report for up to five years. Companies may increase your rates or deny you coverage based on information they find in your CLUE report.
Keep in mind that these databases also include claims from past owners. That means if the past homeowner filed three theft claims within a five year span, your insurer may consider the area at high risk of theft and charge you higher premiums. But adding certain safety features, like deadbolts and security cameras, can cancel out any claim-related premium increase.
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Insurance companies are regulated on the state level, so that’s going to depend on the consumer protections that your state’s insurance department has in place. But most states have at least some consumer protections that restrict companies from taking action on your policy after claims.
Certain states prohibit rate increases or nonrenewal after basic claim inquiries, zero-dollar claims (claims that didn’t result in a reimbursement), and single claims. There are also a handful of states that prohibit companies from using weather or natural disaster claims as a reason for premium increases or nonrenewal.
For a complete list of homeowners insurance customer protections, contact your state’s department of insurance or visit their website.
The truth is that not all claims are viewed as equal in your insurance company’s eyes — certain types of damage or loss are more likely to happen again than other types of damage or loss. If you file a claim for the following perils, it may trigger a rate increase and potentially a nonrenewal if it’s your second or third claim within five years.
If you’re filing a claim related to any of these hazards, you’ll want to pay special attention to your policy deductible. It may not be worth it to file a claim that isn’t even twice your deductible amount.
For instance, if $1,700 worth of stuff was stolen from your home and you have a $500 deductible, that’s probably a claim worth filing; your rates may go up depending on your loss history, but you’ll still be reimbursed $1,200 to help replace your stolen property. However, it may not be as worth it to file that theft claim if your deductible is $1,000. You’d still get a decent $700 payout, but that may be a small enough amount to try and cover out of pocket and prevent a rate increase — but it’s also going to depend on your financial situation and level of urgency to replace the stolen property.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your homeowners insurance company from jacking up your rates after a claim:
One way to prevent your home insurance rates from going up and potentially get a claim-free discount on your policy is to be choosy about submitting insurance claims. If your home sustains minor damage and it’s something you can easily pay for with your own money, that may be your best course of action. Save home insurance claims for weather catastrophes or significant property loss.
Be sure to request a copy of your CLUE report to get both your personal 5-year loss history and the loss history of the property. If you’re considering buying a property or just now moving in, you’ll want to check the home’s loss history. If there isn’t a loss history, great, you may have nothing to worry about there. But if the home has a history of mold growth or water damage, you may want to think twice about living there to begin with. You can also use the information contained in the CLUE report for negotiation leverage with the seller, or add a repair or mold remediation contingency clause to your offer.
As we just touched on, try and avoid filing claims that are less than twice your insurance deductible.
From an underwriting and rate-setting standpoint, most insurance companies will be cool with one claim within three or five years — it’s when the claims start piling up that companies consider a rate increase or policy nonrenewal. Before filing that second or even third claim within a five-year span, think about whether doing so will make the home too expensive to insure.
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
Fabio Faschi is the property and casualty team lead at Policygenius in New York City. He's worked in the insurance and real estate industry for more than six years as an independent agent and broker representing more than 40 carriers in property and casualty products, and previously worked in real estate settlements and title insurance negotiating insurance requirements with banks, realtors, and new home buyers. Fabio's expertise on home & auto insurance has been featured on Forbes, Consumer Affairs, Realtor.com, Apartment Therapy, The Simple Dollar, SFGATE, Bankrate, and Lifehacker.
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