When disaster strikes

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Dave Jenkins

Break-ins, fires and freak weather cause untold damage every year. Home insurance can help you recover from such disasters. If you need to make a claim, here's how to make it as quick and efficient as possible.

Take control

Don’t disturb anything. In the case of burglary, call the police – a crime reference number is essential when making a successful claim. Unless you suspect an intruder is still in your house, don’t call 999. It’s urgent to you, but not the emergency services. Call 101 or visit the Police's website for your local station number.

Take stock

List all losses and take pictures of the immediate damage. Many insurers advise you to maintain a list in case of this very situation. “It’s crucial to do a regularly inventory of what’s in your home to make sure everything is adequately insured,” says Asia Yasir, spokeswoman for esure and Sheila’s Wheels. “This could lead to householders receiving insurance payouts that are less than half the value of their possessions, or in some instances an insurer may refuse to pay out on a claim and also cancel the homeowner’s policy.” Be sure to check your personal documents such as passport and driver’s license aren’t astray, as your identity can be more valuable than your flat-screen TV.

Make the call

Check your documents and understand exactly what you are covered for beforehand. “Observe any minimum security requirements in your policy,” says Malcolm Tarling of the Association Of British Insurers (ABI). “If your insurer requires you to fit a specified type of lock or burglar alarm, make sure that you do.” If you haven’t lived up to your side of the deal, it’s likely that your insurers won’t either. Also bear in mind the excess on the policy. If the loss or damage is less than your excess, then you might be better off settling the situation yourself. In cases when the damage is severe, arrange repair to prevent things from getting worse. Keep receipts, as this will add to the final insurer’s settlement. Don’t try and fix it yourself, and don’t start throwing things away until you’re instructed, as some things can be repaired or salvaged.

Take stock (again)

Gather any receipts you have. These are essential for insurers to understand what they need to replace. “Most people keep the receipts for the length of the guarantee anyway,” says Malcolm. “And if you haven’t got them then try to supply photos. If items have been taken then obviously you can’t take photos, so try and find some. No matter how mundane you think they are, if it helps you confirm what you’ve lost then it helps the insurers.” Instruction manuals and valuations are also invaluable in these circumstances.

Make a claim

By now you should know your coverage and the value of your claim. If your policy offers ‘new for old’ replacement cover, remember to evaluate your claim for the actual price and not what you paid for them originally. “Don’t automatically accept the insurer’s first settlement offer,” advises Ben Wilson. “It can pay to compare other valuations, especially from local businesses.”

Policy of truth

It’s too easy to start elaborating on what you’ve truly lost at this stage. Trust us, it doesn’t pay; recent ABI figures state the average false claim can add up to £60 to an insurance premium at renewal. A Lloyds TSB review in 2008 revealed past claimants providing receipts for loss of sex toys, and Sheila’s Wheels have heard the excuse of “kamikaze pigeons” for damage of a chimney stack. Funny? Yes. But it’s fraudulent, too... “We won’t spell out how insurers catch fraudulent claims – they’re trade secrets,” says ABI’s Malcolm.  They're secrets which are shared amongst all insurance companies on a fraud database, so use the insurance policy for its purpose, and don’t consider it a chance to upgrade your TV, stereo or adult toys!

Now wait...

It’s impossible to tell how long it will take to recover your costs and repair any damage. Just remember that the insurance company wants to settle the situation as quickly as you do. “Give as much information around the claim as possible and be as clear as possible as to what the circumstances were surrounding the claim,” says Asia. “This will prevent any delays from occurring later on during the claims process.” And finally, be sure to maintain your payments on your policy while the claim is being processed... As we’ve already said, if you don’t keep your side of the bargain, why should your insurer?