The 5 Most Common Home Insurance Claims

By Shannon Ireland

Home insurance is necessary to protect one of the largest investments you’ll likely make in your lifetime. Homeowners purchase coverage to protect their homes and belongings from specified perils, all the while hoping they’ll never have to file an insurance claim.

Standard policies can protect a home and its contents from disasters such as fire, wind, theft, hail and more, depending on your provider and the coverage you select.

About one in every 15 insured homes has a claim each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Here’s a look at the five most common claims.

1. Wind and hail

The most common types of insurance claims are wind and hail. These claims can include hailstorms and windstorms, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. These perils are typically covered by home insurance, but may have to be purchased as a separate policy, depending on the region in which you live.

If you live in Tornado Alley or in coastal states along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, your basic home insurance coverage may not include wind and hail. Call your agent to discuss your options, and ensure that your home is covered from these perils if you live in areas where they’re common.

2. Water damage and freezing

Much of the country experiences low temperatures during the winter. So low, in fact, that those homes can fall victim to burst and/or leaking pipes, if not properly insulated. The good news is that this category of water damage, as well as rainwater and ice storms, is typically covered by home insurance policies.

Inspect your pipes to ensure that there aren’t any leaks. Keep pipes insulated during the winter, and run warm water through all faucets and shower heads occasionally to help prevent freezing – and subsequently bursting – pipes.

3. All other property damage

According to the III, this category includes vandalism and malicious mischief. Here are a few examples:

  • Your home is egged.
  • Outdoor lights or windows are broken.
  • Someone digs up your garden.
  • Your trees or bushes are cut or slashed.
  • Your locks are tampered with.
  • Your home is defaced with spray paint.

Standard home insurance policies can cover these types of perils. If this coverage isn’t listed in your policy, talk to your agent about adding it.

4. Theft

Imagine arriving home after work and seeing your front door kicked in or a window shattered. Upon further investigation, you find your home ransacked. There’s a blank space on the wall where the flat-screen TV was, your laptop is nowhere to be found, and your earrings and necklaces have been plucked from the jewelry box on your dresser.

There were an estimated 2,159,878 burglaries in 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and 74 percent occurred at residential properties.

Consider these tips to decrease the likelihood of your home being burglarized:

  • Invest in a home security system, and make sure it’s working properly. One of the biggest deterrents for burglars is a sign in your front yard advertising that your home is protected by a security system.
  • Alert police and a trusted neighbor when you’re traveling. If you’re going out of town for a long time, police can drive by your home to make sure that nothing looks suspicious. Neighbors also can keep an eye on your house and collect your mail to avoid newspapers piling up, which signals to burglars that no one is home.
  • Don’t hide a spare key outside. Hiding a spare key is a game of Russian roulette that you should avoid playing. No matter how great your hiding place is, a burglar could still find it and gain access to your home. Give your spare key to a friend instead.
  • Always secure doors and windows. Before leaving your home, double check that all doors and windows are locked so burglars aren’t able to simply walk in.

5. Fire and lightning

Although these perils aren’t the most frequent types of claims, they are among the most expensive. The average fire and lightning claim between 2009 and 2013 was $ 37,153, which is $ 17,687 more than the second-most severe types of claims (bodily injury and property damage), and $ 29,412 more than the third-costliest claims (wind and hail), according to the III.

Whether a grease fire in the kitchen ignites and sets your entire home ablaze, or lightning strikes and throws your electrical system out of whack, you could receive help from your insurance provider to repair damage or replace what’s been destroyed.

Call your carrier to make sure these perils are covered and to discuss the parameters of your policy. If your home were to burn to the ground, it’s imperative that you have the correct amount of coverage to help you rebuild.

Minimize losses

To minimize losses from these typically covered perils, create or update a home inventory and review your policy annually.

If you’re unfamiliar, a home inventory is a complete list of all your possessions and their values that you can present to your home insurance provider if/when you file a claim in order to speed up the process.

If you don’t already have one, take the time to create one. Trying to remember everything you own – and how much you spent on each item – when your home is in disrepair due to a covered peril is extremely difficult and daunting. Save yourself the added stress by creating the inventory now, making multiple copies, and storing them in safe spaces.

Also, review your policy each year and talk it through with your agent. Your needs may vary greatly with each passing year, and it’s important to make sure you have the right coverage to protect yourself, your home and your family.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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