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How to File a Home Insurance Claim

Your guide to filing an insurance claim

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Written by Joel Kranc

Home insurance claims

For most Canadians, the purchase of their home is the largest investment they will ever make. Naturally, protecting that investment is particularly important to them. Purchasing homeowners' insurance is one way to protect that investment.

In many cases weather-related damage, and/or break-ins are the most common causes for home insurance claims. For example, damage to your home can be caused by:

  • Wind
  • Hail
  • Fire
  • Water/Rain/Leaks
  • Theft

But what if something goes wrong and you need to file a claim with your insurance provider?

A home insurance claim is a formal request by you, the policyholder, to your insurance company for compensation for a covered loss of a policy event. Your insurance company will validate, or deny, the claim and if approved, will provide payment for the specified loss.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, insurers paid out $41.5 billion in claims in 2019.

Breaking that out into categories:

Net Claims Incurred (Total claims cost incurred in the period, less any share paid by reinsurers)
Category Paid
Auto $17,816 B
Personal $7,197 B
Commercial $5,026 B
Liability $3,559 B
Other $2,150 B
TOTAL: $35,748 B

Claim history and premium

Simply making an insurance claim will not necessarily affect your current premium. However, the frequency of claims will affect your score and likely increase your insurance premiums. Too many claims might also result in reduced benefits, your policy being canceled and having difficulty finding a new insurer. The more claims you file, the more your risk factor increases.

 You may want to consider filing claims for larger, more expensive incidents and leaving lower-cost damage to be covered out of pocket. For example, it may not be worth your or your insurance provider’s time to make a claim on an item that is only slightly higher than your deductible amount.

This avoids having to pay a deductible and face a possible premium hike. It really depends on your provider. Some feel one to two claims every decade is appropriate whereas others have are slightly more forgiving. Talk to your provider before making a claim to see how it will affect your premiums and risk scores.

When should you or should you not file a home insurance claim

There are certain times when filing a claim makes sense, as long as the repair costs aren’t too close to the deductible costs. For example:

  • Roof damage
  • Water pipe damage
  • Fire damage
  • Window damage from hail
  • Theft resulting in losses well above your deductible
  • Substantial damage to furniture and belongings

However, there are also scenarios you might want to think twice before filing a home insurance claim. For example:

  • Damages that cost less than your deductible or if the cost is only slightly above the deductible
  • You’ve filed a claim in the last 7-10 years
  • If poor maintenance was the reason for the cause of damage
  • The cause of the claim isn’t covered in your policy

How to file a home insurance claim in Canada

If you choose to file a claim to your insurance provider, it’s important to understand the process.

First, assess the damage yourself as best as you can. Make sure there is nothing occurring that can make the damage even worse. Second, document everything by listing it but also by taking photos of everything. Next, confirm your policy’s deductible and coverage to make sure it makes sense to make the claim.

Talk to your broker. Some insurance providers can file a claim by phone, others require paperwork, photos and other documentation. It’s also possible you may have to replace damaged items first and submit receipts for reimbursement.

Why a home insurance claim might be denied

Not all claims are approved by your insurance provider. Insurance providers will send out claims adjusters to assess damages and the validity of your claim.

Claims might be denied if:

  • If you claim is deemed “suspicious”
  • The claim is excluded within your policy
  • Your insurance company cannot determine the cause of the loss

Making home insurance claims filing easier

There are steps you can take to make the claim filing process easier.

First and foremost, know your policy, its exclusions, deductibles, and limits. Also, maintain an itemized list of your possessions with value, which will make it easier to assess damages if/when items are lost or damaged. Keep receipts if you have them for larger, expensive items. It’s also important to document your interactions with claims adjusters. Ask for paper or electronic copies of any reports or statements your adjuster makes.

Frequently asked questions about claims

Do premiums go up if I make a home insurance claim?

Premiums are based on several factors. One single can affect premiums and a history of repeated claims in a brief period can significantly affect your risk factor and premiums. In the most extreme cases your insurance provider may cancel your policy if you are deemed too high a risk.

Should I make a claim for all damages?

No. If your damage costs are lower than your deductible it is wise to pay out of pocket and retain your good standing with your insurance provider. It’s also important to check your policy to understand what damages are covered and at what limits.

Can my claim be rejected?

Yes. Not all claims are approved. There are many factors such as the size of the damage, the ability of an adjuster to assess the validity of the claim, and the amounts covered in your policy that can affect your claims.

How can I make the claims process go more smoothly?

It’s best to keep an inventory of your home possessions so that you can better assess damage. Also, be mindful of your deductible and if a claim is even warranted. Talk to your broker and keep a record of your interactions with an insurance adjuster.

Can I choose my own contractor to repair the damage to my home?

Yes. It’s your home and you can choose the people you trust to build it back should that be necessary. Your insurance provider can provide a list of recommendations from their own networks of preferred contractors.

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