7 things to always tell your homeowners insurance company
Filing a claim isn’t the only time you need your insurer
Most policyholders believe filing a claim is the only reason to contact their insurance company and that the less the insurance company knows, the better. A catastrophe is just one of the reasons to talk to your insurance agent or company, and chances are, you don’t know many of the others. If you ask Google, you’re more likely to find answers to the question: What should I not tell the insurance company?
Like some, you may be skeptical of insurance companies. What other intangible service do you purchase, hoping to never need? Maybe you’ve heard about dealing with an adjuster and a negative claim experience from one of your friends. Perhaps premium increases have left you feeling frustrated. Or you worry the insurance company might deny your claim.
Whatever it is, not many people realize a homeowners insurance company is ready to assist you. It’s full of homeowners, just like you, who love their job and find purpose in helping people protect their greatest asset and recover from losses.
So, when should you call your homeowners insurance company?
You should call your insurance company when you make changes to your home or lifestyle that affect how you live in your house. When you sell your house, complete a renovation, replace your roof, update your outdoor space, add a smart home device, change who you live with or how often you’re living in the home — these major events warrant a conversation with your insurance company. One way to remember, is if you’re telling friends about the changes in your home, there’s a good chance you should call your insurance company too. These tips for talking to your insurance company take the guesswork out of when to connect with your homeowners insurer. Here are the most common reasons to call your insurance company.
When you sell your house
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it is on the list for a reason. People forget to call the insurance company when they sell a home.
If you’re purchasing a new home, your mortgage company will require insurance, and this will likely trigger you to cancel the existing policy on your recently sold property. But if you are settling into a retirement community, taking a year off to travel or moving in with a friend or family member, you could forget to let the insurance company know you no longer own your home.
Thanks to automatic bill pay and paperless systems, you set your premium payment and forget about it. Unless you call to cancel your insurance, your insurer continues to deduct your premium payment each month and you may not even realize it — especially during the busy time of a life change like selling a home.
When you complete a renovation
Home renovations give new energy to your home. In most cases, you’ll be updating features and fixtures, transforming living spaces and, in some instances, adding square footage. These changes impact the cost of replacing and rebuilding your home after a loss.
Out with the dated linoleum floors, old laminate counters and quirky inherited appliances. You’re upgrading to natural stone tile floors, granite counters and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. But not too fast. The cost to replace your kitchen with the new luxurious features you add during your remodel is, no doubt, more expensive. Your policy accounts for these costs under Coverage A, and your coverage needs to be adjusted to reflect your changes. When you invite friends for the long-awaited kitchen reveal, it’s also time to reach out to your insurance company and let them know about your new space so they can recalculate your Coverage A.
You might worry that if you tell your insurance company about upgrades, your premium could increase. While that is a possibility, another possibility, if you do nothing, is paying out of pocket to cover the cost of replacing your kitchen — a second time — if you need to file a claim. Home fires caused $7.3 billion of property damage between 2015 and 2019.1 It’s also worth noting that many homeowners policies contain a coinsurance clause that can reduce the amount of your claim payment if your home is underinsured.
When you replace your roof
Putting a new roof on your home isn’t glamorous, like a kitchen or bathroom renovation. Still, it is a significant investment in your home, and your insurance company cares a lot about the quality of your roof.
Your roof is your home and family’s number one protection against the elements — wind, rain, hail and lightning — which can cause costly damage and insurance claims. A new roof may even get you a discount on your homeowners insurance premium. And some insurance companies can help you source a roofing contractor with confidence.
So, when you realize you’re standing around the water cooler complaining to your buddy about the cost of a new roof, remember it is a good indication that it’s also time to call your insurance company.
When you update your outdoor space
It’s not just change inside your house that impacts your insurance. If you transform your outdoor space by adding a pool, deck, shed, barn or garage, you need to call your insurance company. Adding new features means they are currently unaccounted for in your Coverage A or B should a loss occur.
Insurance covers damage to buildings on your property beyond your home, but if you didn’t have a garage when you purchased your policy and then added one, there’s no way it can be adequately insured. Outdoor additions like pools and trampolines can require additional liability insurance. When you’re planning your first cookout after the firepit and hardscape are installed and inviting your friends, be sure to let your insurance company know.
When you add smart home devices
Smart home devices can prevent misfortune and reduce claims and might save you money on your insurance premium. Security systems can deter thieves. Water detection devices can identify leaks before they result in costly water damage. Smart smoke detectors can notify you of smoke even if you’re away from home.
If you’re considering installing one of these smart home devices, make a phone call to your insurance representative. Certain smart devices might qualify you for an insurance discount. Even without cost savings, you can rest more easily knowing your home is better protected.
When who you’re living with or how often you’re at home changes
Believe it or not, life events like moving in with someone, becoming empty nesters, retiring — and even adopting a dog — matter to your insurer. Changes to who is living in the home or how much time you’re spending there can impact your insurance coverage needs.
If you’ve said goodbye to work pressure and hello to endless leisure (i.e., retirement) you might be spending more time at home. An occupied home doesn’t appeal to thieves and can reduce vandalism and theft. When the number of people living in your home increases or decreases, it also affects the personal property and liability coverage needs.
Expanding your family with a fur baby? Adding a dog to your family is a big decision. For liability reasons, certain breeds of dogs can be excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies. Before you bring Fido home, call your homeowners insurance company and confirm your coverage.
When you need to file a claim
Filing a claim is the most obvious reason to contact your insurance company. From personal injury and medical bills to rebuilding your home, being there for you during some of life’s worst moments is what an insurance company is built to do. Sure, insurance companies oversee the claims process and ensure things are handled appropriately, but dealing with an insurance adjuster can provide valuable guidance during a crisis. Insurance companies are full of professionals with the expertise to help address immediate concerns (like standing water) and provide support throughout the lifecycle of a claim.
Insureds often discuss claim situations with friends or family members and expect the same outcome. Individual claims are dependent on many different factors and no two claims are the same. Call your insurer with questions. Your claims adjuster is there to help you navigate the unknown. It’s what we do every day.
But don’t wait until you have a claim and are looking for a settlement offer to call your insurance company. From renovations and a new roof to adopting a new puppy and retirement, your insurance representative can walk you through many of the big transitions that occur in your home.
It may not be how most people think of an insurance company. Too many have heard about one person’s bad experience and projected the problem industry-wide. But it’s time to think of your insurance company as an old friend who will be there for you when you need them. Just stay in touch, give them a call now and then, and let them know what’s going on at home.