You worked hard, saved your money and bought a home. Now you want to protect the largest investment you have ever made with homeowners insurance. You’ll sleep better knowing that your insurance will help you rebuild if there’s a fire, tornado or a tree falls onto your home. What you may not know are the many things it might not cover. Your sweet dreams of protection could turn out to be a nightmare because you don’t have the coverage you thought you did.
Here are five things not covered by most home insurance policies:
- Earthquake and land movement. As landslides and earthquakes have become more common in many states, many people are surprised to learn that earthquake or land movement damage is not covered by standard homeowners insurance. You need to purchase separate earthquake and landslide insurance protection.
- Floods. Multiple surveys have found a majority of homeowners and renters thought their property insurance protected them from flooding; it doesn’t. If a river overflows its banks or storm surge sends tides into your home, you’ll need to purchase separate flood insurance, provided primarily by the federal government. Keep in mind there is a 30 day waiting period before any flood policy can go into effect.
- Sewer backups. The sludge can do serious damage and make your home unsafe until it’s properly cleaned up, but it’s not covered under most homeowner insurance policies. Your insurance company can provide a special endorsement to cover sewer or sump pump backups. What you may not know is that homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of sewer and water lines through their property up to the sewer main, and many cities and utility departments will deny responsibility for most sewer incidents.
- Maintenance issues. Insurance companies can dispute payment of damage or injuries if you fail to repair a broken step or other obvious hazards, or for mechanical breakdown of an appliance. In most cases, you will also need a special rider to cover food that might be lost due to a power outage or failure of a freezer or refrigerator.
- Expensive jewelry, fine art, firearms, musical instruments, furs and collectables. Many people learn after a fire or tornado that their precious items only had minimal coverage. You’ll need special scheduled personal property coverage, often called a “floater,” to make sure they are protected for their full value.
And, if you have a swimming pool, trampoline or certain types of dogs, you need to call your insurance company to make sure you are protected. Many insurance companies are starting to exclude them from policies or refusing to insure homes that have one or more of these.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) also warns that as many as 60 percent of America’s homes are underinsured because owners:
- Didn’t update insurance after remodeling or adding on
- Only purchased enough insurance to cover the mortgage
- Underestimated costs associated with updated building codes
- Didn’t factor in building material inflation in replacement costs
Another important step many homeowners fail to take is to do a home inventory. Nobody can predict when a fire or tornado might strike, but you can make sure your possessions are properly protected. A survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found 60 percent of homeowners have not documented all the things they own. What does that mean to you? Completing a home inventory can speed up your claim and help you determine how much coverage you need. The Insurance Information Institute has created an easy to use home inventory brochure. Items to include are:
- Personal care items
- Kitchen items
- Beds and linens
- Holiday ornaments
- Lawn and yard equipment and tools