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How much do claims increase home insurance rates?

Americans pay an average rate of $1,228 a year for home insurance for a $200,000 policy with $100,000 liability and a $1,000 deductible. But that number can be higher or lower depending on where you live and several other factors, including the number and the types of claims you file.

Homeowners file claims for everything from water and weather-related property damage to theft, fire and lightning damage and personal liability.

If you're not sure how claims might affect your insurance rate, here's what you should know.

How do claims affect home insurance rates?

Claims history can increase your rate in several ways.

If you have a history of filing claims at previous homes or places you lived, an insurance company may increase your rate. The insurer views you riskier and thinks you’re more apt to file a claim. 

How do you avoid that? Don’t file claims when you can. 

"Insurers will say to you, 'if it wasn't your fault, it won't affect you at all and we won't penalize you for it in any way,' but because all claims get reported to the CLUE database -- the Comprehensive Loss and Underwriting Exchange -- the safest thing for a consumer is to not file small claims and pay for them out of pocket, [just] to be sure it won't affect you," says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.

Bach says part of the challenge is that the process insurers use to determine how claims affect rates isn't transparent. Since each insurer has its own underwriting guidelines and rating rules, it's almost impossible for consumers to get a straight answer about how claims will be factored into their rate, Bach says.

However, the worse your risk profile looks and the more claims on your record, the less attractive you are to an insurer. Through CLUE, insurers can access information on the frequency and type of claims you file -- two variables that can increase your rates.

Here are the top 10 average home insurance percentage increases based on claims:

  • Filing a second fire claim -- 44%
  • Filing a second liability claim -- 39%
  • Filing a second theft claim -- 38%
  • Filing a second water claim -- 33%
  • Filing a fire claim -- 20%
  • Filing a liability claim -- 19%
  • Filing a theft claim -- 19%
  • Filing a water claim -- 16%
  • Filing a weather claim -- 16%
  • Filing a second medical claim -- 13%

 

Do insurers view home insurance claims differently?

Insurers have their own underwriting processes, so some insurers will increase your rates higher than others if you file a claim.

"Generally, whatever your insurer's policy is and whatever their internal guidelines are will dictate what the impact of a claim will be," Bach says.

 

When to file a home insurance claim -- and when not

One important rule of thumb for filing a claim is to look at the cost compared to your deductible. If the potential cost of the claim is less than your deductible, it's better to pay out of pocket. That’s especially true if this isn't your first claim.

"If the claim is below your deductible, you definitely do not want to file it -- there's nothing to be gained," Bach says. "Unless someone got injured and there's a possibility they may sue you. In that case, you need to let your insurer know."

If you're concerned about maintaining an affordable insurance rate, especially after filing a claim, consider carrying a higher deductible to bring down your premium. Increasing your deductible can save you hundreds of dollars annually. 

Making improvements to your home also can help. But Bach stresses that it's even more critical to be a knowledgeable consumer.

"We always encourage people to ask the question, ‘what are your rules, so that I know and can make informed decisions,’” Bach says. 

 

What else increases home insurance rates?

Beyond claims, home insurance rates can increase for several reasons.

When you renew your policy, you may receive a higher rate if an insurer views the area you live in as a higher risk. This can be due to an increasing number of burglaries or thefts. You also might encounter higher rates if where you live is more susceptible to extreme weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. 

If your home needs repairs, this also can increase your rates. An old roof or a bad foundation are potential safety hazards. Those issues make it more likely you'll claim a loss. Hence, the higher rates. 

Certain features of your home can increase your insurance rate, too. Having a pool, hot tub or outdoor spa can increase your home insurance rates. Those items create greater liability and a risk of injury or death. From 2005-2014, there were more than 3,500 unintentional drownings in the U.S. It's part of the reason the Insurance Information Institute recommends homeowners increase their liability coverage from $300,000 to $500,000.

The type of pet you own also affects your rate. Insurers have an exclusion list for certain breeds of dogs and exotic pets. Depending on the breed, certain companies may not insure you. Others may view you as more of a risk and increase your rate as a result.

The age and construction of your home are two other factors that affect your rate. The average construction costs in your area and whether your home is new affect its rebuilding costs. New construction homes get a 36% rate discount, on average. Older homes may be more expensive to rebuild because the materials used to reconstruct them can be more costly and not as readily available as newer construction materials.

Similar to other forms of insurance and consumer loans, poor credit history can lead to higher rates. Insurers use what's known as an insurance score based on your credit history to determine your risk level. A history of late payments or high outstanding debt may indicate to an insurance company you're more risky to insure. To offset this risk, an insurer may charge you a higher rate.

But your claims history could be even more important than all these factors in what you pay. Be careful to not file home insurance claims unless it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you’ll pay more for your home insurance. 

 

Methodology:

Home insurance rate data:

Insure.com in February 2019 commissioned Quadrant Information Services to field rates for up to six major insurers in 20 ZIP codes in every state for the following homeowner profile: Married 35-year-old, with a policy that includes $200,000 dwelling coverage with a $1,000 deductible,  other structures at 10 percent of coverage limit, or $20,000, personal property limits of $100,000, loss of use $20,000, guest medical at $5,000, replacement value, dwelling replacement at 120%.  

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