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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Homeowner's Insurance Claims

Homeowner's Insurance Claim Questions -- Updated November 15, 2018

Q. I have claims to file for losses on my homeowner’s insurance policy.  When should I report my claims and to whom?

A. You should report your claim to your homeowner’s insurance company as well as to your agent or broker, if you have one, as soon as possible.

Q. How long should it take for the insurance company to inspect damage to my home?

AInsurance companies are expected to respond to your claim and inspect your home as soon as possible. However, when a natural or man-made disaster strikes, it may take a little longer for them to inspect your home, due to the large number of homeowners affected by the disaster.

Q. How long should it take for my claim to be settled in full?

A. The time to process a claim can vary depending upon the complexity of the claim and the extent of the damage. Typically, a large loss such as a fire claim can take several weeks to several months to settle in full, due to the magnitude of the damage and the many personal items lost. However, insurance companies are expected to respond to your claim and settle it for a fair and reasonable amount as soon as possible.

Q. I had to put a tarp over my roof and board up my windows and doors due to fire and water damage in order to protect it from further damage. Does my homeowner’s insurance policy cover these expenses?

A. You should take reasonable steps to ‘mitigate’ damage and protect your home from further damage following a loss. That typically includes tarping the roof and boarding windows and doors. Your insurance carrier may reimburse you for such expenses provided that your home suffered a direct loss, though this will depend on your specific policy.  You may also file a claim against the responsible party's insurance carrier. It is strongly recommended that you save all receipts for such expenses. 

Q. My home was not damaged during the fires / explosions which occurred on September 13th but I was ordered to evacuate by the city/town. Does my homeowner’s insurance policy cover the hotel and meal expenses that I incurred due to being ordered to evacuate my home?

A. Coverage for this will vary depending on the details of your policy. It is important to check your policy and speak with your agent or broker and your insurance company to understand what is covered.
Q. My home was damaged by a fire that was not my fault. Will I have to pay my deductible if I report a claim to my insurance company?

A. Unfortunately, yes. The deductible in your policy applies anytime you report a claim to your insurance company. However, you may seek reimbursement of your deductible from the party determined to be responsible for causing the fire. You have the right to file a claim against the responsible party’s insurance company or file a small claims suit within the Massachusetts Small Claims Courts to recover your deductible.  

Q. The apartment I rent was damaged by the fires / explosions and is now uninhabitable. Does my landlord’s insurance policy cover my hotel expenses and relocation? 
A. While the details of each policy vary, in most cases coverage is available for hotel expenses and the relocation of a tenant through the landlord’s insurance policy. There may be also be coverage available for clothing and furniture. You should speak with your landlord about the coverage available for the building in which you rent.

Q. Electricity in my neighborhood was shut down during the fires / explosions and the food in my refrigerator was spoiled. Can I make a claim to my homeowner’s insurance policy for loss of that food?
A. It depends, as each homeowner’s insurance policy differs.  You should speak with your agent or broker and your insurance company to determine if coverage is available through your particular policy.  

Q: My home was damaged during the fires / explosions which occurred on September 13th. I am living in my home with the assistance of a space heater, but my home is not fully heated. I cannot shut off my water and drain my pipes or I will not be able to stay in my home.  Will I be covered if my pipes freeze?

A: Many property and casualty insurance policies include sections that require policyholders to take reasonable steps to keep their property heated, or to shut off the water supply and drain all water from systems and appliances in their home or business, to avoid damage associated with pipes freezing in covered properties.  If you can, take whatever steps necessary to heat your home. Occupation of your home with the assistance of a space heater is a reasonable attempt to maintain heat in your property, and you would not be required to shut off the water supply and drain all water from systems and appliances in your home or business, to be covered for a claim if your pipes freeze.

Q: My home was damaged during the fires / explosions which occurred on September 13th. I am not currently residing in my home because of lack of heat.  I do not have access to my home, and have not been able to shut off my water service or drain my pipes.  Will I be covered if my pipes freeze?

A: Many property and casualty policies include sections requiring policyholders to take reasonable steps to keep properties heated, or to shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances in their home or business of water, to avoid damage associated with pipes freezing in covered properties. If you can, take whatever steps necessary to shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances in your home or business of water. If you lack access to your home or business and are unable to shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances in your home or business of water, you will not be required to do so in order to be covered for a claim if your pipes freeze.  The Division would not find it reasonable for insurers to re-rate, cancel, non-renew, or refuse to provide insurance coverage due solely to a policyholder's status as a victim of this incident, or as an evacuee of this disaster.

Q: My home was damaged during the fires/explosions which occurred on September 13th.  Now that the weather is getting colder, will my insurance be cancelled or non-renewed if I make a claim for damage due to frozen pipes?

A: It is the Division’s position that it would not be reasonable for insurers to re-rate, cancel, non-renew, or refuse to provide insurance coverage due solely to a policyholder's status as a victim of this incident, or as an evacuee of this disaster.  This includes problems with the Gas Company making appropriate fixes that prevent homeowners from heating their premises, which might lead to problems with frozen pipes.

Q. I am having difficulties with my homeowner’s insurance carrier. Where can I turn for help?

A. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance investigates consumer complaints of inappropriate conduct by insurance companies, including the unfair handling of insurance claims. You may file a complaint through our website at: www.mass.gov/doi. You may reach us at: 617-521-7794.    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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