Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you need to make a claim on your insurance – after all, that’s the reason you took out a policy in the first place. Making a claim is straightforward in most cases, but complicated claims can sometimes arise, which means that being organised and prepared is all the more important.

Keeping your policy documents somewhere safe should be a top priority, just in case something goes amiss that forces you to make a claim. You may also want to keep the purchase receipts for anything that you have insured with your policy documents, just to ensure that they’re on hand should they be needed.

Should you need to make a claim, there are a few simple steps to follow:

 

Make a Report

If you are a victim of a theft or vandalism it will only be natural to want to make a claim. You should, however, always report the incident to the police before doing anything else. Many policies have time limits in place for you to report crimes to the police so do it as soon as possible.

It may also be useful to make a personal record of dates, times, key facts and details of what has happened. This will help you to remember any important details should you need to check and confirm something later down the line.

Check Your Policy

Next, you should make sure that you are covered for what has happened. There may be a specific procedure that you need to follow which can differ from insurer to insurer.

For example, in the wake of a storm you could find that some of your roof tiles have blown off leaving you with water ingress as a result. Some policies may require you to use a workman that has been approved by the insurance company, which means that whilst it would be natural for you to want to call a roofer to come and complete a remedial repair to the roof to try and reduce further damage, you may risk invalidating your claim.

You should look at your policy and check you’re covered for the incident, and then get someone out to fix it that fits the criteria set out in your policy. Your insurance company may in some cases make the arrangements for you.

Gather All of Your Documentation

Having everything to hand makes the whole process easier. You’ll need:

  • Your policy document.
  • Receipts for anything stolen or damaged.
  • Reference numbers – e.g. the crime reference number provided if you filed a police report.
  • Any key dates, times or additional information that may be relevant to the claim.

Remember!

You should make sure to answer any questions you are asked truthfully as well as fully explaining the circumstances of any claim in order to help make sure processing your claim goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Used a broker? Contact them first

Insurance brokers can often help you to report a claim. If you bought your insurance policy through a broker, get in touch with them first, as they may be able to offer direction and support, or work with your insurance company to process the claim on your behalf.

Either way, it can be well worth getting in touch with them before calling your insurance company.

Get in touch with your insurance company

To get the claim started, call your insurer’s claims helpline, which you can usually find easily on your policy document or on your insurer’s website. You will find following the steps above most useful when first reporting your claim as you’ll need to be prepared with information about the incident.

Things to check before making a claim

Before you get in touch with your insurance company to start the process of making an insurance claim, it’s worth considering the follow things to save on time:

Are you within the time limits for making a claim?

Most policies will have a time frame for which claims can be reported. Make sure to check the terms of your policy for time scales within which claims must be reported or claim forms completed to ensure you comply with them.

Are you covered for what you’re claiming for?

It seems obvious, but you should check to make sure that whatever you’re claiming for is actually covered by your insurance policy. Your insurance policy may have exclusions which will prevent you from making a claim, so check the policy documents carefully. If you have taken out separate policies with different insurers for different types of cover, then you need to make sure you contact the right insurer.

How much is your excess?

The excess is the amount of money that you have agreed to pay before making a claim and can usually be found on your policy schedule. Your insurer will take this off the claim’s payment. If the amount you’re claiming for is less than the excess, it may not be worth making a claim.

You will always have to contribute the full amount of the excess; all policies will have a compulsory excess and may have a voluntary excess which you agreed to when you took out the policy, so factor both figures into your calculations.

If you decide not to make a claim, it is still recommended that you tell your insurer about an incident in case any liability issues arise in the future.

Have your read the small print?

It’s worth ensuring that you take time to make sure there’s nothing in the terms and conditions that prevents you from claiming. This could be a specific exclusion defined in your policy or a limit to the amount an insurer will pay.

For example, the use of heat may be excluded from your policy so if you use any heat producing equipment such as a blow torch or soldering iron, and happen to cause a fire which results in a costly claim, you will have to pay for the damage. Another example may be that your policy outlines a height limit of 10 metres for work being carried out.

If an employee is working above this height and suffers a fall and resulting injuries, no responsibility for the claim will be accepted by your insurers).

Does your policy cover new for old?

If it doesn’t, then the amount you may be paid for the items you’re claiming for will be less than the cost of replacing them as your insurer will take off money for wear and tear.

Top tips for helping the claims process

 
Your policy may have a time limit for making claims, so be sure to report your claim as soon as possible.

Even if your policy allows for plenty of time, it’s always best to start the process while the details are fresh in your mind.

Make sure that you provide clear details of the incident and stick to the facts to help keep the claim moving as swiftly as possible.

Document the damage such as taking photos and or videos as well as making a list of the damaged or stolen possessions, or whatever it is that you’re claiming for as soon as you can. The more solid evidence you have, the quicker it will be for your insurance company to process your claim.

Document the claims process. Whenever you speak with your insurance company, make a note of the date and time, the name of who you spoke to and what was discussed and said, ask for a reference number or “Claims Reference Number” as this will help insurers find your file when you speak to them.

Make sure to keep a file of any letters you’ve received, and copies of any letters or documents you send/ submit with respect to the claim.

As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to keep your property safe and free from health hazards for your tenants, as well as follow regulations with regards to rent and deposits.


 

Safety

 

Gas Safety

As a landlord, you must make sure that any gas equipment you supply in your property is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

You should also have a registered engineer complete a 12 monthly gas safety check on appliances and the flue to ensure that all of the gas fittings are safe to use. Be sure to give your tenants a copy of the record before they move in or within 28 days of when the check took place, and keep a copy for yourself for at least two years.

You should also make sure your tenants know where to turn off the gas and what to do in the event of a gas emergency.

Electrical Safety

For the electrical safety of your property, you must make sure the electrical system in your property is in safe condition. This includes things such as sockets and light fittings.

You should also ensure that all the appliances you supply, such as cookers and kettles, are safe and have the CE marking – the manufacturer’s claim that it meets all of the requirements of European law.

Using a registered electrician for work on your property and ensuring your property has adequate residual-current device protection are two of the ways you can help to ensure electrical safety for your tenants.

Fire Safety

Fire safety depends on the potential risks that your property may pose for fire hazards, which is where a fire safety assessment should be carried out.

This includes things like checking that your tenants have access to escape routes at all times, and making sure the furniture and furnishings you supply are fire safe. You should look to identify any potential fire hazard and people at risk, and then evaluate, remove or reduce and protect your tenants from those risks.

If the property you let is a large House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), then you must provide alarms and extinguishers. There’s no legal obligation in single family rentals if they’re built before June 1992. After that they should have a mains operated interlinked smoke detectors with at least one detector per floor level. Landlords are just well advised to provide them.


 

Energy Performance

 
If you’re letting out an individual house or dwelling or a self-contained flat, then an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required.

An EPC contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy cost as well as recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. It also gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.

To get an EPC for the property you’re renting, you will need to find an accredited assessor to assess your property and produce the certificate. If you fail to provide an EPC or make one available when required then you face a fixed penalty of £200 per dwelling.

When advertising your property you must ensure that your advertisement includes the EPC rating and the Standard Assessment Procedure rating where an EPC is available.

Repairs

Making sure that your property is in a good condition for your tenants is important.

General Repairs

As a landlord, the responsibility is on you for repairs to the property’s structure and exterior such as the walls, roof, external doors and windows, but also for internal items such as sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains.

You are also responsible for repairs to your property’s heating and hot water, as well as all gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation. Any faults with electrical wiring and any damage you cause by attempting repairs are also your responsibility.

If you provide any items or appliances with the rental property, then you are usually responsible for repairing these if a fault occurs. You are not usually responsible for appliances that your tenants have bought themselves.

You may also be responsible for repairs to common areas – for example staircases in blocks of flats, hallways and lifts. You should check your tenancy agreement if you’re unsure.

If your tenants cause damage to your property or the furniture, then they may be liable to pay for repairs; though your tenants should not usually pay for fair wear and tear during the course of their tenancy.

Repairs as a result of damp or mould

It can be difficult with damp to identify the cause, which makes it a little more challenging to work out who is responsible for any repairs in order to resolve the problem.

You are usually responsible for repairs if damp has been caused by leaking pipes, damp proofing that no longer works or a structural defect such as a crack in the wall or a leaking roof.

Mould growth and condensation can be caused by a number of reasons, such as poor design of the building, your tenants not using the heating systems properly or drying their clothes indoors without adequate ventilation of which you may not be responsible for repairing, but you may want to advise your tenants on how they can prevent the problem.

In order to help your tenants if they have issues with mould and condensation, you may consider providing an extra heater or dehumidifier, fitting ventilation or adding insulation in order to try and combat the problem. Check what has been outlined in your tenancy agreement as to whether you have to fix these issues.

You can’t force your tenants to do any of the repairs that are your responsibility.


 

Deposits

 
You must put the deposit your tenants provide in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it.

Once their tenancy ends, you must return your tenants deposit within 10 calendar days.

Should you wish to withhold some or all of the deposit for breaches of the tenancy agreement, pay for repairs to damage your tenants have caused, or to cover the cost of unpaid rent and bills, then you should discuss the matter with your tenants to reach an agreement on how the issue should be resolved. If an agreement cannot be met, you should raise a dispute with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) the deposit is held with.


Insurance

 
Because renting out a property is never risk-free, in order to protect your property investment it may be wise to consider obtaining a specialist Landlord Insurance policy.

It’s not a legal requirement but it’s a sensible and essential consideration if you’re renting out a property to ensure you’re protected should something go wrong with or at the premises. Most homeowner insurance policies don’t cover damage by a tenant or any liability issues should a tenant be injured while they are in the property.

Landlord Insurance policies include things like Public or Landlord Liability Insurance, as well as Buildings and Contents. You can also opt to include a variety of optional extras such as Loss of Rent and Alternative Accommodation cover, Property Disputes cover, and Employers Liability.

It isn’t your responsibility to insure the personal possessions of your tenants.


 

Gaining Possession

 
If you need to get your property back and are renting out your property as a private landlord on an assured shorthold tenancy, then you have a couple of routes to gaining back possession of your property from a tenant.

You can take back your property without giving any reason, but only if the following apply:

  • You’ve protected your tenants’ deposit in a deposit protection scheme
  • You’ve given your tenants at least 2 months’ written notice that you want the property back (‘notice to quit’) and the date they must leave
  • The date they must leave is at least 6 months after the original tenancy began (the one they signed on first moving in)
  • They have a periodic tenancy – or they have a fixed-term tenancy and you aren’t asking them to leave before the end of the fixed term

You will need to use one of the reasons for possession outlined in the Housing Act 1988.

If you are still in the fixed term of your tenancy agreement, then you can only ask your tenants to leave if you have a reasons for wanting possession that are in the House Act 1988, such as your tenants being behind on their rent payments or them having used your property for illegal purposes such as selling drugs.

The length of the notice period varies depending on the reason you’re using, but is usually between two weeks to two months.

You can’t remove your tenants by force. Unlawful eviction is a criminal offence. If the notice period expires and your tenants don’t leave the property, you should contact the courts start the process of eviction.

Providing legal services and insurance, Essential Business Legal covers legal expenses if your business is involved in certain legal disputes. Alongside the core legal expenses insurance, Essential Business Legal provides a range of services and benefits your business.

Features include confidential Legal Advice on business matters with 24/7 access to a legal helpline, a dedicated Tax Advice line to assist with all tax-related issues, a Counselling Helpline staffed with trained counsellors to provide employees with help and support over the phone and online Business Legal Services allowing for you to personalise and download a wide-range of legal documents.

Essential Business Legal responds to a generous range of legal disputes that can arise from your clients’ day-to-day business activities.

What kind of cover is available under Essential Business Legal?

 

  • Employment Protection and Compensation Awards which provides protection from disputes with past, present or prospective employees, including payment of legal costs and compensation awarded by the courts.
  • Tax Protection which covers a formal aspect or full enquiry into your clients’ business tax affairs, PAYE compliance disputes and appeals against an assessment by HM Revenue and Customs relating to VAT.
  • Property which pursues legal claims relating to physical property damage, nuisance or trespass, and recovery or repossession of property from an employee or ex-employee.
  • Compliance and Regulation which helps to defend the insured from business-related prosecution, civil action brought under the DPA and provides cover to appeal against a decision to cancel suspend or restrict the terms of a statutory licence.
  • Employees’ Extra Protection which provides cover to defend employees against civil actions alleging unlawful discrimination, pension fund trustees cover and cover to pursue a claim if they are injured while on business.
  • Contract and Debt Recovery to protect you if a customer or supplier doesn’t fulfil a contractual agreement.

Maximum amount payable: £100,000

Exclusions, limitations and excesses apply; please refer to the Essential Business Legal Policy Wording for full details. For more information about this specialist cover, please contact our dedicated insurance specialists.