Unexpected things homeowners insurance covers
- Homeowners insurance
- Coverage clarity
Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home and belongings. It also provides liability coverage for accidents that occur on the property. The amount of coverage and policy details vary, but generally homeowners know more about what home insurance does cover than what it doesn’t.
Or so they think.
Many homeowners insurance policies go far beyond the broken windows and stolen property that homeowners expect coverage for and will reimburse policyholders for spoiled food, identity theft, meteorites and more.
What does home insurance cover?
Review the policy documentation provided by your insurance company to get a better understanding of what your homeowners insurance does cover. Your policy declaration page should outline your specific coverages, including the amount of coverage for the structure of your home, personal property and liability. It is important to regularly review your policy and make updates as necessary to ensure that you have the coverage you need.
If you have any questions about your policy, reach out to the VIU by HUB Advisory Team or your insurance carrier. They would be happy to walk you through your policy to help you better understand your coverages.
Adding more coverage to a homeowners insurance policy
After reviewing your policy, you may want to add coverage for certain perils. Our ultimate homeowners insurance guide outlines some of these additional coverages but you’ll need to speak to your insurance company about the coverage types they offer and the cost for each.
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Unexpected things that homeowners insurance does cover
Coverages, unexpected or not, depend on the specific terms and conditions outlined in your insurance policy. Here are some of the unexpected coverages you might have.
- Additional living expenses – Additional living expenses coverage helps cover the costs of living elsewhere if your home is uninhabitable due to a covered loss, such as a fire or a natural disaster. It can help pay for temporary housing, meals, laundry and other necessary living expenses that you incur while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. This allows you to maintain your normal standard of living while your home is being restored to its previous condition.
The amount of coverage you have is typically specified in your insurance policy and may be expressed as a percentage of your dwelling coverage.
- Medical expenses for a person injured in your home – Medical payments to others coverage is used when someone is injured on your property and requires medical treatment. This coverage is designed to pay for medical expenses, such as ambulance bills and doctor visits, regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
For example, if someone falls on your property and breaks a leg, your medical payments to others coverage can help pay for the emergency room visit, cast and follow-up care. The coverage typically applies to anyone who is accidentally injured on your property, including guests, neighbors, delivery people and other visitors.
These limits are typically quite low, but you may also be covered by liability coverage and you can supplement it with an umbrella insurance policy.
- Damage caused by you or members of your household – Liability coverage, included in homeowners insurance policies, typically covers damage that you or members of your household cause to others or their property. It can be used to pay for expenses, such as medical bills and property damage, that are incurred as a result of an accident that you or a member of your household are responsible for. For example, if your child accidentally breaks a neighbor's window while playing outside, your liability coverage can help pay for the cost of repairing the window.
Your liability coverage may also help pay for expenses if you or a member of your household is sued for causing injury or damage to others. The coverage typically includes payment for legal defense costs, in addition to any damages or settlements that you may be required to pay.
The amount of liability coverage you have is typically specified in your insurance policy and may range from a few hundred thousand dollars to $1 million or more. This is another area where an umbrella insurance policy is beneficial as it can increase your coverage amount.
- Landscaping – Homeowners insurance typically does not cover damage to landscaping, such as trees, bushes and lawns, unless the damage is caused by a covered peril. Some policies do offer limited coverage for landscaping though and it’s worth checking to see if yours is one of them. You may also be able to purchase additional coverage for landscaping if you have a significant investment in your landscaping and you want it to be protected.
- Personal belongings – Personal property coverage, also known as contents coverage, helps protect your possessions in the event they are lost, stolen or damaged due to a covered peril, such as fire or theft.
This typically includes coverage for items kept in your home such as clothing, electronics, furniture and jewelry. The coverage may also apply to your belongings if they are temporarily away from your home, in a place such as your car or a hotel.
- Identity theft – Some homeowners insurance policies include, or offer as an optional endorsement, coverage for identity theft. This coverage can help cover the costs of restoring your identity and repairing any damage that may result from identity theft but not reimbursing you for lost money (though your bank may cover this loss). For example, if your identity was stolen and the thief took $5,000 from your bank account, your identity theft coverage would pay for a credit report, notary fees, new documents and any resulting court cases. Your bank would refund your $5,000.
- Falling objects and space debris – Falling objects are generally considered a covered peril. This means that if an object like a tree branch or satellite dish falls onto your home, your insurance policy may provide coverage for the repair or replacement of the damaged property. Note that policies may exclude damage caused objects that are not properly maintained.
- Damaged outbuildings – Outbuildings, including sheds, garages and barns, are generally covered under most homeowners insurance policies. This coverage helps protect these structures if they are damaged or destroyed. The amount of coverage for outbuildings is typically specified in your insurance policy and may range from a few thousand dollars to a percentage of your home's insured value.
- Injuries caused by animals – Some policies provide coverage for injuries caused by animals, including dog bites. If included, this coverage is typically provided under the liability section of your policy. Note that some policies exclude certain breeds so be sure to double check your policy for exclusions.
- Spoiled food – Policies may provide coverage for spoiled food if you must temporarily leave your home due to an event like a fire or power outage. This would fall under additional living expenses coverage discussed above. Your policy may also provide coverage for the cost of food that you would have normally purchased for home, including groceries and restaurant meals.
- Lightning strikes – Lightning strikes can cause a variety of damages, including fire, electrical surges, and structural damage. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for damage caused by lightning strikes. This protects your home and other structures on your property, such as sheds and garages, if they are damaged or destroyed by a lightning strike.
- Gravestones/urns – Headstones and other grave markers are seen as valuables, so they're generally protected in your policy if they’re cracked, crushed or defaced. Reimbursement amounts vary so check your policy and add coverage if necessary.
- Lock replacement – This coverage is typically provided under the personal property section of your policy, which helps protect your personal belongings from theft and other types of losses.
If your locks are damaged or need to be replaced due to a covered loss, such as a break-in or vandalism, your insurance policy may provide coverage for the cost of lock replacement. This coverage may also be available if your keys are lost or stolen and you need to have your locks changed for security reasons.
- Volcanic eruptions – Standard homeowners insurance policies do cover volcanic eruptions, though it won’t be called “volcano insurance.” Covered damages caused by volcanic activity often include the removal of ash and debris and possibly even damage from lava. However, damages caused by earthquakes, landsides and erosions, which often accompany volcanic activity, are not covered. Insurers may also be reluctant to cover damage from lava or fires if they believe you had time to move your belongings out of the path of the lava in time.
- Drones – Generally, insurance policies provide coverage for damages caused by your personal property, including drones, as long as the damages are caused by a covered peril. For example, if your drone collides with another object and causes damage, your homeowners insurance policy may provide coverage for the cost of repairs. However, if you use your drone for commercial purposes, your homeowners insurance policy may not provide coverage, as commercial activities are typically excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies.
- Lost luggage – Your home insurance is with you and your possessions, even outside of your home, and may cover lost luggage and items you need to replace. You will need to pay the deductible first though so it might be wise to check the value of what you lost and file a claim only if the value exceeds that of your deductible. Note that this coverage is not a replacement for travel insurance. If you’re hoping to be compensated for medical expenses, missed flights and other emergencies during your travels, then travel insurance is a must.
- Dorm decor – In most cases, college students are covered under their parents' homeowners insurance. That means if your child’s computer is stolen from their dorm room, your home insurance can help cover the cost of a new one. If they accidentally injure someone or cause damage to school property, your policy’s personal liability coverage can cover the cost of medical expenses or property repairs.
But coverage for college students has its limits, too. Some insurers will require the student to live on campus (like in a dorm room) and be under a certain age in order to be eligible for coverage. Most insurers also have limits to how much they’ll pay out for property damage or theft that happens away from the insured residence. If you have a college student, check your policy carefully for limits for these coverages.
Remember that not every company offers these coverages. Even if your insurer does offer them, you’ll want to check your policy to know for sure if your policy does. Carefully review your insurance policy to see which of these coverages you have and speak with your insurance company to understand the coverage and limits for each.
Unexpected things that homeowners insurance does not cover
- Normal wear and tear – Coverage typically doesn't extend to damage resulting from normal wear and tear, such as chipped paint or peeling wallpaper.
- Flooring – Damage to floors caused by a covered peril, like a fire, would be covered. Cosmetic damage and repairs, like scratches in hardwood caused by chairs or pets, are unlikely to be covered.
- Frozen pipes – Pipe damage may be covered. This depends on the reason for the pipe freezing. An unexpected cold snap with pipes that were in good condition will likely be covered. If the pipes were found to have been in poor condition or if they burst due to the home’s thermostat set too low, the claim is unlikely to be covered.
- Termite damage – Home insurance policies typically exclude coverage for damage caused by animals or pests, such as termites or rodents.
- Home maintenance issues – Home insurance policies typically do not cover damage that results from lack of maintenance, such as mold caused by a leaky roof that wasn't repaired. Address these issues as soon as possible after purchasing your home and then keep up to date moving forward.
- Pets – Your homeowners policy will cover injuries to people, but not to pets. If you have pets, you should have a pet insurance policy that will cover them in case of accidents in your home.
Does it seem like what home insurance covers might not be enough for you, even with these unexpected coverages? The VIU by HUB Advisory Team would be happy to talk with you about additional coverages that may be available to you so you can be certain that your homeowners insurance does cover all of your needs.
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