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Homeowners insurance can pay for repairs or replace damaged or stolen property, but that doesn’t mean you should file a claim for every loss. The insurer could raise your rates or cancel your policy, even if it denied the claim, and you could have a hard time getting coverage from another company.

Would the Insurer Pay the Claim?
Before you file a claim, make sure it would be approved. Read through your policy, focusing on the exclusions and declarations. A homeowners insurance policy will pay to repair damage to your house caused by a covered peril, such as a storm, if the house was well maintained. If years of neglect made the structure weak before the storm hit, a claim would most likely be denied, but it would still be reported to the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, which most carriers review when making coverage decisions and setting rates.

You can ask your agent if a claim would be covered and if it might affect your rates or coverage, but phrase it as a hypothetical question so the agent doesn’t feel obligated to initiate a claim. You can also contact your state insurance regulator’s office or talk to someone you know who has worked in the insurance industry.

How Much Would You Receive?
A private adjuster can help you figure out how much repairs would cost and whether you should file a claim. Your homeowners insurance policy has a deductible, or an amount that you must pay out of pocket before the insurer will pay. If the amount of damaged, destroyed or stolen property is less than the deductible, it doesn’t make sense to file a claim.

How Many Claims Have You Already Filed?
Even if the amount of the loss exceeds your deductible, you shouldn’t necessarily file a claim. In most states, an insurance company can penalize a policyholder who submits too many claims in a short period of time. If you filed two claims in three years, the company would most likely raise your rates and might even cancel your policy. If your current company canceled your coverage because of too many claims, another insurance company could see that information in CLUE and hold it against you. The other company could charge you higher rates or deny coverage altogether.

Is Filing a Claim a Good Idea?
Many homeowners think that since they pay for insurance, they should be able to use it whenever they suffer a loss, but insurers don’t see things the same way. Before you file a claim, confirm that the company would cover the loss, find out how much repairs would cost, think about how many other claims you have filed, and ask yourself whether it would be worthwhile to submit a claim or whether you would be better off paying the bill yourself.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice.

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