Although filing a renters insurance claim isn't difficult, going about it the wrong way can result in wasted time, a lower payment, or even a denial. Here's what you need to do to successfully file a claim on your renters insurance policy.
There are a number of reasons it's good to know as much as you can about filing a renters insurance claim before you actually go ahead and do it.
One reason is it gives you the best chance of having a smooth experience. Another reason is it'll likely keep you from receiving a denial notice from your insurer.
It also ensures you'll be in the best position to receive full compensation for whatever loss pushed you to file a claim on your renters policy.
Now that it's clear why you want to approach the claim-filing process as prepared as possible, what else do you need to know? Here are some of the all-important details that will be discussed in this article:
A few of the things you can do to get yourself ready to file a renters insurance claim:
Although filing a renters insurance claim isn't all that difficult, there are a number of steps you need to take if the process is to end smoothly and successfully.
If you've never before filed a renters insurance claim--or a homeowners or auto insurance claim, for that matter--you may be wondering, Why should I worry about when I should or shouldn't file a claim? Shouldn't I be able to file a claim whenever my property is damaged, destroyed, or stolen?
You can do that, of course. Nothing is stopping you. Or at least nothing like the law is stopping you.
The insurance company that sold you your renters insurance policy may stop you, though. How so? One example is it may increase your premium--potentially dramatically. Another example is it may decide to cancel your policy altogether.
Admittedly, most insurers won't take either of those steps if you file just a single claim, but they could. And seeing at least a modest premium bump is a real possibility even if you've never before filed a claim.
To avoid those scenarios, think twice about filing a renters insurance claim unless:
This will be the first claim you've ever filed on your renters insurance policy. People who have never "used" their plans are in the best position to file a claim for a loss and not be hit with a premium hike or a policy cancelation. Even then, you shouldn't file your first claim flippantly. Insurers expect policyholders to only rarely file claims. Specifically, most of them react negatively to anyone who files more than one claim every 10 years. Given that, pick your battles. If you suffer a big loss and you've never filed a claim, this may be the perfect time to do so. If you suffer a fairly small loss, though, you might want to cover it yourself if you think it's possible you'll need to call on your renters policy at some other point in the next decade.
The amount of your loss far exceeds your plan's deductible. You've already heard (and you'll hear it again in a minute) that you shouldn't file a claim if the amount of your loss is less than your deductible. But you also probably shouldn't file a claim if the amount of your loss is only slightly more than your deductible. Why? Consider this: say the total of your loss is $2,000 and your deductible is $1,000. Sure, filing a claim may save you $1,000 right now, but it may cost you down the road if the insurance company hikes your premium enough. And it could cost you even more should you suffer another incident in the next couple of years that destroys or damages your belongings. Will you file a claim then, too, and risk an even higher premium (or, worse, a policy cancelation), or will you repair or recover your possessions using all of your own money?
A key takeaway related to the above: think of your renters insurance policy as being only for catastrophes--major incidents that would cost you many thousands of dollars if you had to pay for it out of your own pocket. Pretend it doesn't exist whenever you suffer relatively small losses.
To be sure, a lot of the advice shared below is the opposite of the advice shared in the section above. Still, most of it can't be said too often, so here it is again.
You shouldn't file a renters insurance claim if:
You've already filed one or more other claims on your policy. Be especially wary if you filed these other claims within the last few years. People who file more than one claim in a couple years' time are basically asking to have their policies canceled.
The damage was caused by an excluded event or an incident your renters plan doesn't cover. This is why it's important to read through your policy and understand what it will and won't cover. That will keep you from accidentally (and embarrassingly) filing a claim the insurance company is sure to deny--and then possibility use against you.
Your claim is at all suspicious. If the circumstances surrounding your loss are iffy or sketchy in any way, you might want to reconsider your decision to file a claim. It's far more likely your insurer will deny such a claim, so repairing or recovering your items with your own cash could be a far better bet than filing and risking a higher premium or a canceled plan.
As you might suspect, the amount of time it takes an insurance company to send claim checks to policyholders varies a lot.
For example, it's not unheard of for an adjuster to cut a settlement check on the spot if the claim is small enough or straightforward enough. That said, it's also not unusual for the process to take a good while longer than that.
If your insurer doesn't give you an estimate of when you can expect to receive your payment, ask about it.
Insurance companies deny rental policy claims for all sorts of reasons. Here are some of the most common:
The costs associated with your loss are less than your deductible. Let's say the deductible tied to your renters insurance policy is $1,000. If someone steals your $500 tablet and you file a claim about it, don't be shocked if your insurer replies with a denial. And don't be shocked if your insurer increases your premium as well. Filing a claim, even one that ends up being denied, can prompt such hikes. As a result, think long and hard before you make a claim for a loss that's worth less than your deductible.
You filed a claim for something your renters policy doesn't cover. Most standard rental insurance policies don't cover damage or destruction caused by flooding or earthquakes. Some also won't cover damage or destruction caused by hurricanes or tornadoes. To be protected in that way, you need additional coverage or insurance. So if you file a claim against your standard renters policy for flood- or earthquake-related losses, look for your insurer to deny it.
The information you gave to your insurer was inaccurate or untruthful. If you told the insurance company that your front door is secured by deadbolts or watched by video cameras and it finds out during its investigation that's not the case, it may deny your burglary or theft claim. Other, similar situations could result in a denial, too. The moral of the story here: tell the truth when you take out your renters policy as well as when you file a claim on it.
The insurance company suspects fraud. Going along with the above, if your insurer or adjuster thinks you may be lying to them about the incident that resulted in your loss or about the items you say were stolen, destroyed, or damaged, you may be hit with a denial. Again, be honest. And do yourself a favor by keeping, collecting, and sharing all the proof you can to support your claim. Receipts, instruction manuals, photos, and even video footage can take you a long way toward success.
You're not up to date on your policy premiums. Did you miss a few premium payments in the lead-up to filing your renters insurance claim? If so, that may be enough for your insurer to deny it--and maybe even flat-out cancel your policy as well.
Your landlord is responsible for the loss. There are all sorts of circumstances that could prompt the owner of your rental unit, rather than you, to be responsible for your loss. In such cases, your insurance plan wouldn't cover it; his or hers would. If you're at all unsure about the situation surrounding your potential claim, bring it up when you contact your insurer. Someone there will be able to tell you if your rental policy will kick in to cover the loss or if the property owner's policy will have to do it.
In most cases, policyholders can appeal claim denials.
That usually means a handful of insurance adjusters will review your claim and then give their opinions on the matter, but don't take that as gospel.
If you're at all unhappy with how your insurer responds to your claim, ask what you can do about it. Find out what steps you can take moving forward--whether that means filing an appeal or something else entirely.
Regardless, don't feel like you have to accept whatever comes your way.
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