Home insurance claim mistakes

Home insurance claim mistakes

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

Filing a home insurance claim can be daunting, particularly if there is extensive damage or the claim is complex.

If you suffer a loss and need to file a claim, there are certain things you can – and shouldn’t - do to help the process run as smoothly as possible.

Must do

Most claim mistakes are made long before you suffer any damages. However, to avoid problems, be sure to take the following steps:

  • Read your policy. Insurance policies are lengthy documents because they have to cover all possible aspects of the events for which you are insured. This makes them difficult and time-consuming to read, so many people may be tempted to sign each page after hearing what the broker has to say. This is not advisable. Apart from the fact that you should never sign any document which you haven’t read and understood perfectly, your policy may contain exclusions that you need to be aware of, particularly if you live in an area that’s affected by natural disasters. If you don’t know the details of your policy, you won’t know under what circumstances your claim might be declined. At the very least, you need to understand what the coverages in your policy mean.
  • The right cover. If you don’t have proper insurance coverage, you could find yourself in significant financial difficulties. A standard home insurance policy may exclude or limit claims in the event of flood damage, for instance. A consultation with a reliable insurance broker can help you put the matter straight.
  • Inventory. A complete list of your possessions will make any claim easier and faster, particularly if you suffer extensive damage. If you only work from memory, you’re sure to leave off some items when you fill in your claim.
  • Maintenance. Home insurance covers unexpected damage but does not compensate you for problems you could have avoided with regular upkeep. Neglecting routine home maintenance can lead to problems that home insurance won’t cover. For example, damage from a water pipe that suddenly bursts is covered. But a claim for a roof leak that you didn’t fix could be declined because you didn’t take action to stop any damage.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Poor communication. When filing a claim, you must clearly describe the damage to your property. Poorly communicated claims usually result in delays, which can slow down the entire process.
  • Waiting. Your policy may specify that you have several months to file a claim, but there’s seldom any benefit to waiting. Any delay in filing a claim may also result in more damage to your home. Reporting a claim as soon as possible can help get repairs started sooner, lessening the time you have to deal with the repair process.
  • Not documenting the damage. Failing to document damage is one of the most frequent mistakes resulting in declined or delayed claims. You need to take photos the moment the damage is discovered. Ideally, you’ll have ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos that show the extent of the damage to your home.
  • Cleaning up too soon. When your home is flooded, you will almost certainly be in a hurry to clean up the mess. But cleaning up too soon can be a big financial mistake. Never throw away items damaged by fire or flood before the total damage is documented.
  • No paper trail. Don’t discard receipts that you need to support a claim. When you’re filing a claim for a damaged item, keep all receipts until you have sufficient documentation that it’s been damaged, such as photos or repair estimates.

Too many claims

Insurers will look at your claims history when calculating your premiums. The more home insurance claims in your history, the more expensive your home insurance premiums are likely to be.

This is because insurers will consider there is a higher risk of you filing more claims in the future, and riskier customers pay higher premiums. So, if possible, it may be better, in the long run, to pay for minor repairs yourself rather than filing an insurance claim.

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