Claim from previous homeowner could jack up your insurance rates

Most consumers don't know that a claim made by a previous homeowner could raise your current insurance rates or that even a claim that was never filed could push up both your auto and home insurance, according to a report and survey released on Monday by insuranceQuotes.com.

About three-quarters of those surveyed did not know a prior owner's claims could affect their rates, and 51 percent didn't know their own claims could affect their rates. Unfiled claims can cause rates to raise if damage or an issue is described to the insurance company in an attempt to determine whether it's appropriate to file a claim, the report said.

Details about claims are included in an insurance industry database called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange), a tool only about 18 percent of consumers said they had even even heard of. The database shows the date of the incident, the type of claim made and how much was paid by the insurer.

Claims remain in that database for seven years, according to insuranceQuotes.com, meaning any claims activity that occurred during that period can be seen by any insurer.

"Most consumers are shocked to hear that denied claims, never-filed claims and claims made by a previous homeowner can raise their insurance costs," Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com's senior analyst, said in a statement.

But knowing about the database can prove advantageous, particularly to someone who's going to buy a home, because it could reveal important details about problems that might have previously happened at the property. Plus, it could have an impact on their insurance costs.

"Prospective homebuyers should ask the seller for a copy of the property's CLUE report before making an offer," Adams said. "Unfortunately, we found that only 10 percent of homeowners have done this. And people need to be really careful when filing claims or even discussing potential claims with their agents."

Consumers are entitled to a copy of their CLUE report once a year. You can request it here.

  • Mitch Lipka On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.