Home Insurance Claims Guide: How To File & What To Expect

Having to file a homeowners insurance claim can be an intimidating and complicated process. Homeowners need to protect their homes and when filing a claim becomes an essential part of doing just that, it is important to understand how to submit your home insurance claims and what comes with the process. Your homeowners insurance covers a variety of perils that can require a claim should you suffer a loss including theft, a fire, windstorm/hail damage, lightning strikes, and more. Have you suffered a covered loss? Learn more about the claims process or proceed with filing your home insurance claim here.

How to File a Home Insurance Claim

If you can limit the damage you are suffering reasonably and safely, you should do so, but submitting a home insurance claim should begin with speaking with your home insurance agent. Your home insurance agent is a professional prepared to help you navigate your homeowners policy through difficult times with clarity and professionalism. Contacting your agent is also important because no two homes are alike which means no two home insurance policies are alike. With a variety of brands and coverage needs that are available, your agent is your greatest resource for navigating your policy.

Because your loss won’t be immediately remedied, limiting your loss is important as well as prompt communication with your agent. From here, you’ll be waiting on your home insurance provider to further instruct you on the steps your particular carrier will need you to take. In the meantime, you’ll want to document the damage as much as possible. The more information you can relay, the better, and it’s important to produce things such as proof of ownership and dates regarding your damaged property to your insurance company. Being prepared ahead of time can help you when disaster strikes and a great way to prepare is with a home inventory list. Take a look at these helpful hints for creating a comprehensive home inventory list here.

Remember, time is important when filing a homeowners insurance claim. Many companies offer around a month’s worth of grace to file your claim with others offering up to a year if there is a good enough reason for waiting, however, the more time between your loss and filing, the more complicated things can get. It is never recommended that homeowners wait and always recommended that you file your claim as soon as possible so long as it is safe to do so.

Here’s What You Need to do to File a Home Insurance Claim:

  1. File a police report. (If needed.) 
  2. Call your insurance company. (Have your policy number handy!) 
  3. Fill out any online claims forms as soon as possible.
  4. Document all of the damage with videos and pictures.
  5. Make any emergency repairs if needed. (Ex. if you’ve got a burst pipe turn off your water and drain all your pipes.) 
  6. Prepare for the insurance adjuster to come by. They’re simply coming by to assess and confirm the damage and speak with you regarding the claim. To make the process go smoother, provide the inspector with any and all documentation including photos, videos, receipts, and a home inventory. 
  7. Get quotes from local contractors or repairmen to double check the insurance company is giving you the proper payout. 
  8. Receive your payout and make your repairs. 

TIP: If you’re able to, check out your home insurance policy to see what your deductible is. The repair amount may not even be worth filing a claim and going on your claims history if you’re able to pay for the repair yourself. 

What Is Covered By Your Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Every homeowner will require a different amount of coverage because each home has different coverage needs. There are three typical homeowners insurance policy types each covering perils with varying degrees of coverage, HO2, HO3, and HO5 policies:

HO2:

A basic form of homeowners insurance coverage that will only protect homeowners against specifically named perils to your personal property (i.e. fire damage to specifically named property). If not explicitly named in your policy, you will not be covered.

HO3:

The most popular home insurance policy available to homeowners, HO3 policies protect against more and extend its coverage to you as well as your property. This is evident in the fact that HO3 policies also include liability and medical coverage should someone become injured while on your property. There are exclusions to be aware of such as flooding, and if it isn’t named on your policy you will be liable, but homeowners get more with HO3. Most homeowners insurance policies come with a 1% deductible for all covered perils, meaning the amount you pay before insurance kicks in. Be sure to check your endorsements page to see what’s covered, so you know what you’ve got coverage for before you file a claim. TGS Insurance even adds windstorm and hail coverage with a 2% deductible for all of our clients’ HO3 policies so that they are prepared for whatever comes their way. Liability for injury and accidental death may not be the leading claim home insurance companies see, however, it is an important coverage to have to protect you against medical bills and lawsuits. Take a closer look at the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths:

Graph of leading cause of accidental injury deaths provided by The Insurance Information Institute via The National Safety Council

(1) Inhalation and ingestion of food or other object that obstructs breathing.

*Image and Source: The Insurance Information Institute via The National Safety Council

HO5:

A more comprehensive form of home insurance policy that provides larger coverage limits than you will find with an HO3 policy and more coverages. The biggest advantage is that homeowners are protected against open perils including personal property. When you are covered against open perils, everything is covered except those listed specifically in the policy. Those exclusions will not be covered but everything else will. Because of this and the larger coverage limits/options, homeowners can expect to pay more money on their premiums than an HO3 policy.

Additional Resources for Coverages, Named Perils, Exclusions, and More

Here at TGS Insurance, we continue to work hard to be a resource for homeowners and as home insurance is a complex subject, we have plenty of informative articles that can help you better understand your policy. Take a look at some of our previous articles that will help further explain the characteristics surrounding your home insurance policy:

  • Learn more about the differences between an HO2 and HO3 insurance policy here.
  • Interested in seeing if an HO5 policy is right for you? See the differences between an HO3 and an HO5 policy for yourself here.
  • Confusing insurance terms, a variety of coverage options to choose from, and what in the world are declaration pages?! Demystify your homeowners insurance with this helpful guide to help get you through it.
  • If you still have questions, you can always check out our miscellaneous blog featuring a variety of FAQs featuring 50 popular questions answered about your homeowners insurance policy and the process at hand.

The Most Common Homeowners Insurance Claims

As we continue to see a rise in natural disasters ranging from wildfires to hurricanes to even destructive winter storms, homeowner insurance claims and premiums continue to rise. This is why it’s important to act as soon as possible to lock in your homeowners insurance rate instead of waiting. Your policy protects against many things, but some claims are more frequent than others. Take a closer look at the most common home insurance perils your policy protects you against:

Table with the most common home insurance claims provided by The Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

*Image and Source: The Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

A graph of the most common home insurance claims provided by he Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

*Image and Source: The Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

Here we can see that when it comes to wind and hail perils, these are the most prevalent over time. This is in part of the nature of such events. Beyond severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and gale-force winds, we have also seen a rise in destructive hurricanes and other tropical storm events in recent years across the United States.

But frequency is only one part of the equation. The severity of a homeowners insurance claim is also very important to consider. For example, while you are much more likely to file a claim for water damage or wind damage, fires are by far the most expensive claims a homeowner will usually face with average claims reaching nearly $80,000!

average cost of a home a home insurance claim. data provided by he Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

*Image and Source: The Insurance Information Institute via ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business

Average Homeowners Insurance Claim Payout

It can be difficult to identify how much homeowners can expect for their homeowners insurance claim to pay them because there are a lot of moving pieces. Each home is unique as is its coverage and this includes what you decide to cover, your coverage options, the value of the contents of your home, the cost to rebuild your home, and so much more. Payouts vary from state to state as the cost of construction and the disasters homeowners face will vary greatly depending on where you reside. For instance, the average home insurance claim payout is $400 or less in California whereas homeowners in Texas see an average payout between $601 and $700. Take a closer look at what your average will be below:

*Source: The Insurance Research Council (IRC)

Not all homeowners insurance claims are paid. Because what is covered will depend on a variety of variables but most notably the coverage you choose, every home and situation is different. If your claim is denied, it is important to speak with your agent, review your home insurance policy, and produce documentation showing that you are being unjustly denied a claim.

If you are unhappy with the amount your home insurance company is offering to pay for your claim, you’ll need to hire a public claims adjuster to review your claim. The major difference here is that while an insurance company will send an adjuster, this adjuster will work in the interests of your homeowners insurance company. The public adjuster you hire will work for your interests. You can also use a public adjuster in the event you are dissatisfied with your claim being denied and your insurance company’s adjuster will not revisit your claim.

Events Typically Not Covered By Your Homeowners Insurance

There are many perils your homeowners insurance has your back for but others your home may still have to face yet lack coverage with standard home insurance alone. Preparing for these perils can help you stay protected ahead of time and avoid footing the bill on your own. Get to know some of the most common perils homeowners may be surprised to learn they are not covered by their home insurance policy.

One of the biggest surprises homeowners may face is dealing with the aftermath of a flood. These events are powerful, destructive, and life-threatening, but they are not covered by your homeowners insurance. It’s clear to see that there are some events involving water damage in which your homeowners insurance will provide protection. For example, water damage caused by rain due to an exposed roof due to wind damage or accidental steam spilling from an appliance causing water damage to your home. Flood events that occur outside of your home but cause water damage inside of your home, including from an outdoor swimming pool, will require an additional flood insurance policy to avoid a gap in your coverage. It has been reported that as many as one-fourth (25%) of all flood insurance claims come from homes outside of flood zones making this an important coverage option for homes no matter where they are.

Other forms of water damage and plumbing may also not be covered by your homeowners insurance and even when it is, it can be complicated for homeowners. As many as 40% of all homeowners may deal with water damage in their lifetime. According to Home Advisor, when you consider pumping out water, repairing plumbing, and restoring what is lost, thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars can add up quickly.

Normal wear and tear to your appliances are not covered by your homeowners insurance policy. If an appliance were to become damaged or were to malfunction due to a peril that is sudden and accidental, your home insurance policy will cover it as appliances are considered personal property, however, most appliance breakdowns are considered normal wear and tear or fall within a warranty. Because of this, homeowners will need to rely on their appliance’s warranty, any extended warranties purchased, or a home warranty to cover the loss.

Termites and other infestations are preventable issues through routine maintenance including annual pest control and general cleaning. Because infestations can be prevented and eradicated by trained professionals on an ongoing basis, home insurance policies do not cover these events.

Sewer backup and sump pump failure perils are gross, costly, and unfortunately not covered by your standard homeowners insurance policy. If you are in a situation in which you require this type of repair, TGS Insurance can help. Offering our clients a unique coverage option, we provide protection for sewer backup and sump pump issues that can cover your home starting at $5,000 and offering coverage up to $25,000 for only $25 a month! According to Home Advisor, the average cost of fixing sewer backup is $2,556 with full replacements having the potential to cost the full $25,000. This is a wonderful option that is not available through all home insurance agencies, yet can be a lifesaver in your time of need.

Gain Better Understanding and Better Coverage With TGS Insurance

Working to find our clients the best possible home insurance coverage for the lowest price is only part of what we do. TGS Insurance helps our clients save money by comparison shopping among more than 35 top-rated insurance brands, but we are also there for our clients well beyond enrollment to assist when needed. Whether this means to better understand your policy, bundle your home with an auto or umbrella insurance policy for even more savings, help you file your claim, or guide you should a claim be denied, we are here for it all. Save money and receive unmatched customer service when you enroll with TGS Insurance.

About Buddy Blouin

Buddy is a content writer for TGS Insurance and has been with the company for a year. He works to create digestible content that provides value to the reader. When he is not writing articles, you'll find him watching sports, grilling, or hanging out with friends.