If you are anything like me you begrudgingly pay your monthly short-term insurance premium and forget about it. Nobody enjoys imagining the different scenarios under which you will need to claim against your home insurance, nor the admin that will be required to lodge and follow up on such a claim.
Moreover, if you’ve never claimed before you may be slightly dumbfounded by the requirements needed to successfully claim. You will need to have all of your policy as well as personal documents easily accessible to make the claims process as hiccup-free as you possibly can.
Think before you claim
Christelle Fourie-Colman, respected player in the South African insurance industry, explains that although inflationary pressures typically has an impact on the sum insured increases, and subsequently the cover and monthly premiums, it is not the only factor that affects possible premium increases.
When your insurance company considers your policy, and premium, at your annual contract renewal date they will consider the frequency and severity of claims lodged since your last renewal. If you have lodged multiple claims in the previous year this could result in a substantial premium increase for the same amount of cover. “Often an increase due to claims as well as an increase in property sum insured value can compound the effect of the increase,” adds Fourie-Colman. “It can then seem as if the increase is above inflation, but in real terms it is not the case.
Your best bet is to ask your insurer how your premiums will be affected at your next contract renewal date if you do claim. Often times you will find that it does not make financial sense to submit the smaller claims.
When claiming is unavoidable
Sometimes claiming cannot be avoided; you may simply not have the money saved up to make the necessary repairs. On those occasions you can use these basic guidelines to be organised so that the process really is as stress-free as possible.
Before you even begin the process of lodging your claim you need to be sure that you are covered for the eventuality you want to claim for. Even if your policy does cover the damage it may not cover the conditions under which it occurred.
You should regularly review your personal situation to ensure that you have the required amount of coverage to cover the actual damages caused to your home.
#2 Contact your insurer.
This is another reason why it is important to keep those documents neatly stored away; when traumatised by whatever event is necessitating the claim the last thing you will feel like doing is digging for policy numbers.
The policy docs will contain your policy number as well as the claim helpline telephone number. If desperate your insurer should be able to help you if you phone the number given on their website and use your ID number to locate any policies you may have with them.
#3 Documentation of the damage
If the damage occurred as a result of a crime you will need to open a case at your nearest police station. They will provide you with a case number which you will need to lodge the claim.
You will need to give an indication of the value of the damage that has occurred – this may refer to receipts or bank statements. If you do not have access to either contact your bank and request the statements of the relevant months. It may also be required to take photographs of the damage.
#4 Complete the correct forms thoroughly
You should be able to obtain the required forms from you insurer’s website. If you are unable to, or not sure of which form to use ask a representative of your insurer to assist you. It is also always a good idea to ask for assistance with completing the forms if you are unsure.
Basically, the more documentation, evidence, and other requirements you can submit in the first instance, the faster and smoother your claim is likely to be processed.
Make sure your insurer has your latest and correct contact details; if you cannot be reached easily it will delay the process unnecessarily long. You should also try to obtain direct contact details for the representative who is working with your claim personally. Demand, if you must, a telephone as well as e-mail address of this person. Phoning your insurer’s hotline number and needing to explain your case to a new representative every time you make contact will be soul-destroying.
If your claim is particularly large your insurer may require that an investigator confirms the loss or damage at your home and how much it is likely to cost to repair this. Again, to streamline this process constant follow-up with the right person at your insurer will minimise the period you have to wait for your claim to be finalised.
#6 Remember the excess
Paying the excess is the first part of any claim. You will always need to contribute the compulsory excess, but the voluntary excess will depend on the decisions you made when taking out the policy. The cheaper your policy premiums the higher your voluntary excess is likely to be.
Bottom line is that you have home insurance to cover you against eventualities that you are just not prepared for. In that case you can and should claim, and remember to contact your insurer if you have any doubts or require assistance – the more accurate and complete your claim is, the less stress the process will entail.
What you should not do, is claim against your house cover for something that is essentially a maintenance concern. If your roof or fence is in need of repair, you need to adjust your household budget to be able to address the maintenance issue, not wait for something to happen so you can use your insurance pay-out to cover these maintenance cost.