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Homeowners Insurance Information
Because everyone's needs are not the same, it is best to consult your agent to help assess your needs and find the insurance policy that is right for you.
What is Homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it.
Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.
Damage caused by most disasters is covered but there are exceptions. The most significant are damage caused by floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance. You must buy two separate policies for flood and earthquake coverage. Maintenance-related problems are the homeowners' responsibility.
Why do you need homeowners insurance?
It is really all about protecting yourself financially if something unexpected happens to your home or possessions. That's important because chances are your home is likely one of your largest investments.
- If your home was destroyed by fire or damaged by a natural disaster, you'd need money to repair or replace it.
- If a guest in your home is injured, liability protection and medical coverage help pay expenses.
- If you are a victim of theft and vandalism, it can reimburse you for your loss or pay for repairs.
- If you are still paying for your home, your lender will require insurance.
It is important to know that homeowners insurance is meant to cover unexpected damage, not routine maintenance. Ask your agent to talk about what is covered and be sure to read your policy so you know exactly what's included and what is not.
Three ways to insure the structure of your home:
Replacement Cost. Insurance that pays the policyholder the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation, but limited to a maximum dollar amount.
Extended Replacement Cost. An extended replacement cost policy, one that covers costs up to a certain percentage over the limit (usually 20%). This gives you protection against such things as a sudden increase in construction costs.
Actual Cash Value. This covers the cost to replace your home minus depreciation costs for age and use. For example, if the life expectancy of your roof is 20 years and your roof is 15 years old, the cost to replace it in today's marketplace is going to be much higher than its actual cash value.
Two ways to insure your personal belongings:
Replacement Cost Coverage. Insurance that pays the dollar amount needed to replace damaged personal property with items of like kind or quality without deduction for depreciation.
Actual Cash Value. Insurance under which the policyholder receives an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus depreciation. Unless a homeowners policy specifies that property is covered for its replacement value, the coverage is for actual cash value.
Things to consider and questions to ask your agent
Here are few things to discuss with your agent that will influence your decisions.
- How much will it cost to rebuild my house and replace my belongings if they are damaged or destroyed? (Ask your agent to talk you through your home's features and the things you own so you can make an informed decision about coverage.)
- Does the insurance company have a good reputation for customer service? Is it known for paying claims fairly and promptly?
- What discounts are available? (Ask about multiple policy, security system and fire resistance discounts.)
- What's the process for filing and settling a claim? (Ask who to call and what happens after you file a claim.)
Be certain that you extend the liability coverage under your
homeowners policy to include your secondary home. You should also
consider including the secondary home under an excess liability or
umbrella policy to provide for additional liability limits.
Purchase a flood insurance policy to protect your home and covered
contents from certain types of flood losses as designated by the
National Flood Insurance Program. A flood policy is purchased as a
separate policy through the federal program (NFIP) or through a
servicing carrier known as a write your own carrier.
Personal Property / Contents - Property Damage
Your homeowners insurance policy typically covers personal property,
including the contents of your home and other personal items owned by
you or family members who live with you. Make sure your homeowners
policy includes replacement cost coverage for personal property so
that you always receive the full cost to replace whatever item is
Make sure your homeowners policy contains guaranteed replacement cost
coverage. This protects you if the cost to reconstruct your home is
higher than your current limit of coverage. Also be sure that your
insurance includes rebuilding your home to code. Very often, local
ordinances and building codes change over time, which may require
Your homeowners insurance policy includes liability coverage for
property damage caused by any member in the family, but it may not
cover rumors or statements that damage a reputation. You need to add
an endorsement to your policy to expand coverage to include liability
protection that covers personal injury.
Umbrella / Excess Liability Coverage
An umbrella or excess liability policy increases your personal
liability limits by adding protection over and above your current
auto, boat, or homeowners policies-providing real financial value, as
well as priceless peace of mind. Excess liability insurance is
available either by an endorsement to your homeowners policy or
available as separate coverage.
Jewelry, Fine Arts, and Collectibles
Valuable possessions insurance covers personal property that may have
unique value, cannot be replaced like regular personal property or is
subject to special types of losses such as breakage or mysterious
disappearance. For most valuable possession categories, there is no
deductible applied at time of loss. Valuable possessions insurance can
be added to your homeowners policy or may be written as a separate
If you have a sizable wine collection, you may want to consider
scheduling the collection on your homeowners policy. Doing so expands
your coverage and eliminates the deductible in case of a loss. You can
also consider unique coverages for wine, such as for spoilage.
Additional Living Expense / Loss of Use
Ensure that your homeowners insurance policy provides additional
living expense or loss of use coverage to compensate you for the
additional costs you incur for reasonable housing and living expenses
if a covered event makes your house temporarily uninhabitable while
it's being repaired or rebuilt.
Most homeowners policies offer an option to include off-premises theft
coverage as an endorsement, which covers you for theft of your
personal property away from your residence.
Water backup coverage can be added to most insurance policies.
Consider adding it so that you have the coverage you need in the event
of damages caused by a clogged drain, sewer, sump pump, and related
Your homeowners policy includes personal liability coverage to respond
to incidents where injuries or damages occur to a third party where
you may be deemed negligent. However, you should consider purchasing a
personal umbrella or excess liability policy to provide additional
coverage limits to protect your assets in case a lawsuit is brought
Your homeowners policy should include medical expenses coverage to
take care of injuries and treatment - generally not of a serious
nature. In the event a person is injured on your property and requires
medical attention, you would be able to submit the injury-related
medical expenses to your insurance carrier. Medical expenses are
usually paid without a liability claim being filed against you.
You should make sure your homeowners insurance policy covers your
trampoline, as many insurance providers refuse to take on trampoline
liability and exclude the item from coverage.