First of all, unlike car insurance where filing even one claim can result in a premium hike at renewal time, the first claim against your homeowners’ insurance policy shouldn’t have any effect on your premiums (with the possible exception of a dog bite claim). So the answer to when should you file a homeowners insurance policy claim is as soon as possible after a covered incident occurs. Waiting will delay the processing of your claim, diminish your memory of the incident and may even result in greater damage.
However, there are a couple of things you should do first to facilitate the claim-filing process.
If theft, vandalism or burglary are involved, call the cops immediately. You need to file an official police report, get a copy and take notes of any and all conversations you have with the police (including, name, badge number, day and time).
Document the losses and damages.
Go through your home with a camera (a camcorder with voice is even better). Ideally, you made a photographic or video inventory of your home and possessions when you took out your policy. This will come in really handy when it’s time to file a claim on your homeowners insurance policy because you’ll be able to show your insurance company the before and after situation.
Do not clean up messes or throw away damaged items that are beyond repair. Wait until your insurance claims adjuster shows up to assess the damage. Besides, if a crime was committed, the police will want to see the crime scene undisturbed.
Once you’ve been given the green light, quickly arrange to make any temporary repairs to avoid further damage to your property.
Keep the receipts, because these temporary fixes may be reimbursable under the terms of your policy. By the way, if you don’t think your homeowners insurance policy covers the specific damage (for instance if you don’t have sewer backup coverage), call your provider anyway. At bare minimum, your policy may include reimbursement for expenses incurred if you’re forced to leave your home while repairs are made. Can’t hurt to find out. And if you do have to move out, keep all receipts!
Be aware that negligence on your part can result in denial of a claim. If something is broken or damaged, take care of it before the problem gets worse. And save the receipt from all repairs. Being able to show your adjuster that you had a plumber in to fix a leaky pipe or hired a roofer to repair a hole will greatly help your case.