Home Insurance Claims 101
Earlier this year we went through the ins and outs of what to do when you get in a car accident. This month we’re going to discuss what to do if you have a home insurance claim, as well as some helpful tips to make the claims process go as smoothly as possible.
Water Damage Claims
Water damage accounts for 80% of all residential claims in Quebec, making it the most common type of claim to occur. A water damage claim is any kind of damage to your home or contents due to water. This could be a burst pipe, a leak in the roof, water coming in through a broken window, a sewer backup, or a flood.
The first thing you should do if you notice water where it’s not supposed to be is to try to find the source of the leak. Once you’ve located the source, try to see if there’s a way to stop the water from flowing or prevent it from spreading further. This could mean shutting off the water supply to a sink or toilet, placing a bucket under a leak in the roof, or even closing the main water valve of your home.
Once the water is contained, it’s a good idea to take pictures or videos of the damage, in order to be able to give your insurance company a visual of the damage. Then, you should call your insurance company to inform them that you have had water damage in your home. Most insurance companies have a 24/7 claims hotline, so you can call them any time to report the damage. If necessary, they may send a crew right away to make emergency repairs in order to prevent further damage. If you live in a condo or apartment, you should also call your landlord or syndicate to report the damage, as they will need to take the necessary action to repair damage to the building.
The first thing to do if a fire starts in your home is to try to put it out. If you can’t, your safety is the top priority so you and your loved ones need to make sure to exit the building as quickly as possible. Next, call 9-1-1 so that the fire department can be sent to your home. If you have a central fire alarm, they have likely already been called. Once the fire is out and it’s safe to enter the building, again it’s a good idea to take pictures and videos of the damage.
Once the immediate danger has passed, you should call your insurance company to report the claim. If any emergency repairs need to be made to make the building safe or prevent further damage, your insurance company will dispatch a crew. Once again, you’ll also want to report the incident to your landlord or condo syndicate if they are not already aware.
If you return home and notice that you have been the victim of a burglary, your first call should be to your local police department. You need to inform them as soon as possible of the break-in so that they can begin to locate the culprit. Next, you’ll want to call your insurance company. Both the police and your insurance company will require an inventory of what was stolen (along with receipts whenever possible), and pictures of any damage caused during the break-in.
It’s best to have any broken windows or locks repaired as soon as possible, but make sure you inform your insurance company that you are having the work done and keep your receipts so that you can have your expenses reimbursed.
Once the claim has started
Once you’ve opened your claim, whatever the cause, your insurance company will work with you to get the damage repaired and replace any damaged or stolen contents. You’ll be assigned a claims adjuster who will coordinate the claim process with you. Either they will send their own contractor or restoration company to perform the repairs, or will have you choose from their trusted network of partners and reimburse your expenses. In most cases, you will have to pay your deductible before the repairs can start.
If the damage is extensive and you can no longer live in your home while the repairs are being made, you will also have coverage for “Additional Living Expenses”. This will cover things like renting a hotel or apartment to live in, increased costs for food if you can’t cook in your temporary living situation, and increased transportation costs.
Now that we’ve discussed the claims process, here are a few general tips that will help the process go as smoothly as possible:
- Keep a rough inventory of your possessions: This is always a good idea for two reasons: First, if you have a list of everything you own and what it’s worth, you’ll be able to easily identify what has been damaged or stolen and pass the list along to your insurer. Second, this will help you to make sure that you have the right amount of coverage on your home insurance policy.
- Keep your receipts: For any larger purchase, make sure to keep a copy of your receipt, so that if ever the item is stolen or damaged, you’ll have proof of its value.
- Know where the main water shut-off valve for your home is located: If ever there is a leak within the plumbing of your home, you’ll need to shut off the water as soon as possible in order to stop the water from flowing through that pipe. You won’t want to waste time looking for the valve! It’s also good to make sure you have easy access to it if ever you need to reach it quickly.
- Have fire extinguishers in your home: Make sure to keep at least one fire extinguisher in your home, in case a fire starts. The most common room for a fire to start in is the kitchen, so that should be the first place to put one.
- Replace your hot water tank every 10 years: Like any appliance, your hot water tank can begin to leak as it gets older. Even if your hot water tank is working fine and shows no sign of leaking, you should replace it every 10-12 years as a preventative measure.
- Replace your roof every 20 years: Most homes have asphalt shingle roofs, which need to be replaced every 20 years or so. Insurance is not designed to be a maintenance package, and so they will not pay claims due to general wear and tear on your roof. Many companies will even exclude damage due to roof water once your roof has exceeded their recommended age.
- A break-in in your car is a home insurance claim: Many people don’t realise that if they have contents stolen out of their cars, that this would actually need to be claimed on your home insurance policy. Your car insurance policy would pay for any broken windows or damage to the car, but your home insurance policy would pay to replace the stolen goods. If you have both policies with the same company, usually you will only have one deductible to pay in this case, rather than two.
- Avoid making small claims: Any home insurance claim will affect your rate at renewal, and will stay on your file for five years. For a smaller claim like a broken window or a small leak, it’s best to pay the damage out of pocket whenever possible. Once your deductible is paid, the amount you’ll get back from the insurance company for a small claim will often be outweighed by the increased premiums you’ll have over the years following.
- Be patient: It can sometimes take several weeks for a home insurance claim to be settled. This is especially common in the winter and spring, when there are lots of claims due to melting snow and flooding. Your insurance company is doing its best to get all of its claims settled as quickly as possible, but it’s important to properly assess the damages and to have the repairs done properly.
- Your broker is on your side: Brokers like KBD don’t work for the insurance companies they represent, and so our job is to negotiate on your behalf and clarify any situation that might not be clear to you. While the amount paid out for the claim is out of our control, we are always happy to answer any questions you have about coverages, or to help you get more information from the insurance company about your ongoing claim.
If you aren’t sure if you have the right protections on your current policy, or if you’d like more information on our home insurance packages, give us a call today!