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About 5% of homeowners will have to file a homeowners insurance claim this year, according to calculations from the Insurance Information Institute. In the event you’re one of the unlucky few, understanding how the claims process works can make a stressful time a little easier — and help keep the process moving forward.
Here’s what you need to know about the home insurance claim process:
Home insurance claim process
Most insurance policies require that you file your homeowners insurance claim as soon as possible. Your insurance company might have a slightly different way of handling claims, but in general, these are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Document the damage or file a police report. You won’t need a complete list of damages or losses to initiate a claim, but your insurance company will want as much information as possible. Make a list of damaged/lost items, and take photos whenever possible. A home inventory, if you’ve created one, makes this work go faster. If you’re filing a claim for theft or vandalism, contact your police department for a copy of the police report.
- Gather your information. In addition to a list of damages, the insurance company will need your name and contact information as well as your homeowners insurance policy number, the date the damage occurred, and information about any injuries that occurred. Gather any receipts, appraisals, and other documentation to support the value of your damaged and lost property as well.
- Contact the insurance company. Call in your claim as soon as you can. Keep a notepad and pen handy so you can jot down your claim number and any other important information the insurance company provides, such as what will and won’t be covered and when to expect a visit from a claims adjuster to inspect the damage.
- Fill out the insurance claim form. The insurance will send you forms to fill out or instruct you to fill them out online. Complete and submit the forms promptly, and include any photos or documentation the insurance company requires.
- Make temporary repairs. To prevent any further damage, make any necessary repairs and keep any receipts for purchases made toward these repairs. You can request reimbursement from your insurer later on for all reasonable costs to protect your home. Don’t make any permanent repairs until the claims adjuster has inspected the property, and be cautious when making repairs of any kind.
- Meet with the claims adjuster. If your insurer sends an adjuster to examine the damage, you’ll need to meet with them at the appointed time. The insurance adjuster will have questions about the damage or loss and might need additional information, such as contact information for injured parties in the case of a liability claim. They’ll also discuss repair and/or replacement options with you.
- Wait for your claim check. Once the claim has been approved, your insurance company will send one or more checks to pay out the claim (less your deductible). For example, you might receive separate checks to cover damage to your home, damage to personal possessions, flood damage, and reimbursement for additional living expenses if you were displaced from your home.
Who receives the check for an insurance claim?
The insurer will send an initial check made out to you. If you have a mortgage, your insurer will make the check out to both you and the lender. In some cases, the home insurance company sends the check directly to the lender. The lender then holds the check in an escrow account until the funds are needed to pay for repairs.
When third parties are involved, such as with an injured party filing a liability claim, or when a contractor requests direct payment, the insurer might send checks directly to those people.
Can you cash an insurance claim check?
You can cash any insurance claim check that is made out to you alone.
However, if the claim is for a property you co-own — for instance, if you own your home with your partner — the check will list those individuals as payees as well. This includes your mortgage lender if you have a mortgage on the home. Any check made payable to you and the other co-owners must be endorsed by everyone listed on the check before it can be cashed.
How long does it take to get an insurance check?
How long it takes to get your claim payout depends on a number of factors, including your homeowners policy, the circumstances, and the extent of the damage. The claims adjuster may offer you an on-the-spot settlement — essentially a full payment for the damages — and you can accept the check right away. Otherwise, your first check might simply be an advance to hold you over until you negotiate a settlement.
Once your claim is approved, it could be days, weeks, or even longer before the final payment comes, especially if the laws in your state don’t set limits on how long insurance companies can take to send payments after they’ve approved a claim.
Can my mortgage company keep my insurance claim check?
If your mortgage company is listed as a payee on the claim check, or it receives the check directly, it can hold the funds to ensure the necessary repairs are made.
However, the claim is yours. Once the work is finished and the lender has inspected and signed off on it, it’ll release any remaining funds to you unless the insurance company requests the money back.
Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.