Owning or renting your home can be expensive; but not taking out insurance could be an even greater expense.
The cost of repairing a home or replacing damaged belongings affected by flood, storm or fire can be distressing and extremely costly, bringing financial and emotional hardship. This is why taking out home and contents insurance can provide protection and peace of mind.
Having the right home and contents insurance not only helps protects you from the unthinkable of losing your home or belongings, but can also cover additional costs of having to find alternative temporary accommodation, or costs of demolition and debris removal should the home require significant repair. Whether you are affected by accident, power surge or natural events, it is reassuring to know you have insurance in place to help cover the financial cost.
Seven tips for making a claim
Making a claim for the first time can be daunting especially in the event of a major loss such as fire, storm or flood. To help navigate through the claim lodgment process and to remove some of the stress, the following pointers should help you with your claim:
- Contact your insurance provider either online or by phone as soon as you can. Try to have your policy number ready. If you don’t know your policy number, after confirming your details the insurance provider will be able to locate your policy and proceed with lodging the claim.
- The insurance provider will ask you a series of questions about the loss or damage. Photos of damaged items and receipts of purchased items can all be helpful in lodging your claim.
- Retain damaged items, especially water damaged contents – this can help with the timely authentication and replacement of items.
- In the event of theft, you should contact the police to report the incident and provide the police report number to the insurance company when lodging the claim.
- Where the structural integrity of the home has been compromised, in the interest of safety for you and your family, you should not personally attempt temporary repairs until a qualified repairer or assessor has inspected the home. Your insurance provider can assist with organising an inspection, and emergency repairs, if required.
- Always check with your insurance provider before paying for the replacement or repairs to your lost or damaged items and home, as this could put you out of pocket and slow down the settlement of your claim.
- Depending on the extent of the loss or damage, your insurance provider may send out an assessor or company representative to inspect onsite. They may also arrange for qualified trades people or replacement specialists to inspect your home and to provide quotes for repairs. Alternatively, the insurance company may ask you to obtain your own quotes for repairs. It is important not to authorise any repairs or replacements to your home and contents until your insurance provider has agreed.
How long will the claim process take?
Always confirm the next steps of the claims process with the insurance provider and the expected time of completion of those steps. This will help you to understand the timeframe involved with settling your claim, and hold the insurance company to account regarding the completion of assessment, the approval of your claim, and the commencement of repairs or replacement of items.
The minimum time and standard which insurance providers must meet when handling your claim are both set out in the Insurance Code of Practice.
Do I have to pay an excess?
An excess is the amount you may need to pay whenever you make a claim. You can specify the excess amount when you take out your home or contents insurance policy and this will be shown on your insurance policy schedule. This excess is generally deducted from the amount you receive from your insurer when they pay your claim.
Settling a home and contents claim
If your insurer has accepted your claim, in consultation with you, they will decide whether to repair, rebuild, replace or pay you the cost for the repairs or rebuilding of either your property or lost or damaged contents.
What if my claim is rejected?
In some situations, your insurance provider may not cover or pay your claim. If this happens your insurer must tell you why. You can object to this decision and ask for your case to be reviewed either through the insurance provider’s own internal dispute-resolution body or by going directly through to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) for free independent resolution of your complaint.
What’s covered under home and contents insurance?
Home insurance, otherwise known as building insurance generally covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding residential buildings on the property, including garden sheds, pools and fences. Contents insurance specifically covers the cost of replacing damaged or stolen belongings, such as mobile phones and electronic devices.
When purchased together, the home and contents are covered for accidental damage or loss, flood and fire and other listed events noted in the product disclosure statement.
Even if you’re renting, you should still consider protecting your contents and belongings from loss or damage due to accidental breakage, theft, or fire. Purchasing contents-only insurance protects your personal possessions and valuables such as furniture, mobile phones, televisions, computers and clothes.
What isn’t covered under home and contents insurance?
It’s important to know what is and isn’t covered by a policy before making the decision to purchase, so make sure you read your insurer’s product disclosure statement and ask the insurance provider questions to know exactly what you are covered for, and what you’re not covered for.
Comparing insurance from several providers also helps in making the right decision. Some insurance providers also provide flexibility in selecting or deselecting specific benefits and features as well as choosing a suitable excess to meet your specific needs.
One last thing … beware of underinsuring
When people underestimate the value of their home and contents, they insure them for less than they’re worth. This could happen when trying to save money on insurance premiums or being unable to accurately estimate the true replacement value of buildings and contents. Whatever the reason, underinsurance can prevent you from being fully covered, leaving you out of pocket at claim time.
To help prevent underinsurance some insurance providers have contents and building calculators online to help estimate the true cost of replacing your home and contents using today’s prices. Some insurance providers also provide Full Building Replacement insurance, taking away the hassle and complexity of trying to estimate the replacement cost of your home.