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Your home is probably the most expensive thing you own, and protecting that asset doesn't come cheap. The average homeowners insurance premium is $1,249 annually, according to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). That cost is nothing to sneeze at, and filing a homeowners insurance claim could unfortunately cause your premiums to rise even higher. Whether they go up and by how much depends on a variety of factors, including the type and severity of the claim.
How Does Filing a Claim Affect Your Home Insurance Premiums?
When you contact your insurer to file a homeowners insurance claim, you'll be assigned a claim number and claims adjuster who will handle your claim. Generally, you'll submit documentation of the loss, and a claims adjuster will visit your home to survey the damage and estimate your payout.
Different types of homeowners insurance claims may affect your premiums differently. A 2021 survey of claims found weather-related claims generally have the least effect on premiums, while fire-related claims have the biggest effect.
|Average Premium Increase per Insurance Claim|
|Type of Claim||Avg. % Increase for One Claim||Avg. % Increase for Two Claims|
Keep in mind that these figures are averages, and depending on your situation, your home insurance premiums may not rise at all. A 2019 Consumer Reports survey found that 50% of respondents who filed a home insurance claim in the previous three years didn't experience a premium hike; just 12% said premiums rose by $200 or more annually.
What Else Affects Homeowners Insurance Rates?
Filing a claim isn't the only thing that can make your homeowners insurance premiums go up. Other factors that could increase your rates include:
- The age of your home: As your home gets older, it may become more vulnerable to damage from aging systems such as leaky roofs or old pipes.
- Risky elements: Adding features that could cause injury or damage can raise your premiums. These include a wood furnace or wood stove; a swimming pool, trampoline or other potentially dangerous play area; or owning certain breeds of dogs.
- Severe weather: If your part of the country has experienced an increase in natural disasters, insurers will likely raise your rates the following year, regardless of whether you filed a claim. Frequent catastrophes increase the odds that your insurance company will have to pay out claims, so they'll generally raise rates to make up for their higher costs.
- Real estate and construction costs: If home values or construction costs are rising in your area, homes will cost more to repair or replace. As a result, home insurance premiums may rise too.
- Your credit: In states where it's allowed, insurance companies typically review your credit-based insurance score credit to assess your insurance risk, which is the likelihood that you'll end up filing a claim. This type of score is distinct from the credit scores lenders use, and is calculated based on different factors.
- C.L.U.E. information: The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) is a database of information about auto and homeowners insurance claims maintained by LexisNexis. Home insurance claims you've filed for your property in the past seven years—even if filed by a previous homeowner—will likely appear in the database and may affect your insurance costs.
How to Decide When to File a Claim
Since filing a homeowners insurance claim can have a big impact on your premiums, should you try to avoid making a claim?
If the cost of the damage is not much more than your deductible, it likely won't be worth the risk that filing a claim could raise your rates. For instance, if repairing broken windows will cost $1,500 and your insurance deductible is $1,000, filing a claim would only net you $500 and could cause your rates to rise.
If your insurance company gives you a discount for being claim-free, filing a claim will cost you that discount.
Also consider whether you've filed any claims in the recent past. Even if the claim was with another insurer, it remains on your C.L.U.E. report for seven years. Filing another claim while previous claims still appear on your C.L.U.E. report could cause your premiums to go up.
Previous claims by prior homeowners can also affect your home insurance rates. If you've lived in your home less than seven years and aren't sure if the prior owners ever filed a claim, contact LexisNexis for a copy of the C.L.U.E. Home Seller's Disclosure Report, which will list any insurance claims filed on the home in the last five years. You can get a copy online, by calling 888-497-0011 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It may be frustrating not using the insurance that you've paid for. However, homeowners insurance is meant to help with major catastrophes, not with comparatively small home repairs. If you suffer a major disaster, by all means file a claim. If the stakes are lower, weigh the benefits of filing a claim against the risk of higher premiums in the future.
Ways to Lower Your Home Insurance Premiums
If you need to file a claim and are worried your rates will go up, there are steps you can take to save on insurance. Consider increasing your deductible or bundling home and auto insurance. You can also make safety improvements such as removing dry brush near your home if you live in a fire-prone region, installing a security system or upgrading old plumbing. According to Consumer Reports, these actions could potentially save you 6% percent or more on insurance premiums.
Improving your credit-based insurance score may also help keep your rates down. While this score is different from credit scores used by lenders, it takes into account many of the same factors, such as your history of on-time payments and your credit utilization ratio. Check your credit score; if it could use improvement, your credit-based insurance score probably can too. Reducing debt, bringing past-due accounts current and paying your bills on time can help raise your scores—and possibly lower your premiums.