You’ve bought your dream home and it’s time to get it insured. You want to choose the right coverage to fully protect your investment. While you have a basic idea of what home insurance probably covers, you may not know the particulars.
A homeowner’s policy is actually a “package” of coverages. It protects your home from specific events that can damage your property, and provides additional living expenses if you are unable to live there due to an insured loss. It also protects your personal belongings. In addition, your homeowner’s policy covers you for lawsuits or liability claims that might otherwise be your responsibility if you accidentally injure other people or damage their property. Here’s the breakdown from A to Z (or in this case, F).
Coverage A: Dwelling
Dwelling coverage refers to the structure of your home. This includes the roof, walls, floorboards, cabinets, and bath fixtures. The easiest way to think about it is that if you could tip your house upside down, the dwelling is everything that remains attached.
What is covered: This insurance covers open perils. That means a loss is covered unless it’s excluded by your policy. Coverage A generally covers direct physical loss due to fire/smoke, lightning, windstorms and hail, explosions, vandalism and theft. If one of these perils destroys your home, your insurance provider will pay to rebuild it up to your policy limits.
What is not covered: If it is listed as an exclusion, it is not covered. Typically, natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes are not covered by dwelling coverage. You can add these coverages with a separate policy or an endorsement added to your property policy.
Coverage B: Other Structures
If your pool is in the ground or installed permanently above the ground on your property, it is covered under Coverage B – Other Structures. This is an insurance term describing a detached structure on your property. Other structures include pools, fences, gazebos, sheds, etc. However, if your pool is above-ground but portable, it is considered part of your personal property and covered by Coverage C – Personal Property insurance.
What is covered: This insurance covers open perils. That means a loss is covered unless it’s excluded.
What is not covered: Typical exclusions include flood, earthquake, or wear and tear. For other structures, the coverage limit is generally set at 10% of your home’s coverage limit. That means if your home is insured for $200,000, the coverage limit for your detached garage would be $20,000. For an additional premium, you can add an endorsement to increase your coverage.
Coverage C: Personal Property
Personal property coverage protects your possessions, such as furniture, clothes, sports equipment, and other personal items. Again, if you could tip your home upside down, everything that would fall out is considered personal property. This coverage protects these items whether they are in your house or off-premises.
What is covered: If your possessions are stolen, or damaged by fire/smoke or any of 16 covered “perils,” your policy will pay for them subject to your deductible. For personal property coverage on a homeowner’s policy, you typically get 50 or 75% of Coverage A, the total amount of coverage for your home. You may choose replacement cost or the actual cash value (ACV) for reimbursement. ACV is the amount the item is worth, minus depreciation for its age. It will cost a little more for a policy that provides replacement cost.
What is not covered: There are dollar limits for certain items, such as jewelry, firearms, animals, cars, planes. See your policy for a full list. You may choose to purchase additional coverage to ensure your valuables are fully insured.
Coverage D: Loss of Use
If your home is damaged in a covered loss, it may not be livable. If that’s the case, you would need to stay somewhere else. Loss of Use, also called Additional Living Expense, covers you for any necessary increase in living expenses, such as lodging, food, and gas.
What is covered: Your policy will provide a flat percentage toward living costs, usually 30% of the Coverage A amount.
What is not covered: Some states have time limits on when you can use this coverage. Payment will be for the shortest time required to repair or replace the damage, or if you permanently relocated, the shortest time required for your household to settle elsewhere.
Coverage E: Personal Liability
Personal Liability protects you if a claim is made or a suit brought against you for bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence to which coverage applies. Liability covers you at your place or anywhere in the world.
What is covered: If you are found liable, the policy will pay up to its limit of liability for damages for which an insured is legally liable. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent scarring. The policy also provides a defense in court, if needed, for the policyholder. This is at the insurance company’s own expense.
What is not covered: You are only covered up to your policy’s limit. Coverage starts at $100,000 but should be increased to a minimum of $300,000. You want to consider how much the home and all of your assets are worth and select an amount up to $1,000,000. If you have a pool, hot tub, trampoline or other attractive nuisance which is likely to attract children, consider adding an umbrella policy for additional coverage.
Coverage F: Medical Payments & Other
If you are not liable, but your guest was injured through his/her own fault, then Coverage F – Medical Payment to Others may cover your guest’s medical bills.
What is covered: Under Coverage F, the insurance company will pay the necessary medical expenses to a person injured on the insured location with the permission of an insured, or off the insured location if the injury is caused by the activities of an insured or caused by an animal owned by an insured.
What is not covered: You and your family are not covered. This is only for guests, and they are only covered up to the limit of your policy.
A Word About Deductibles
Generally, the higher your deductible, the lower the cost of your insurance premium. Since the deductible is the amount your insurance provider will subtract from an insurance payout, you’ll want to select a deductible that you’re comfortable paying out-of-pocket after a loss.
Common Home Endorsements
You may add specific endorsements to your homeowner’s package of policies for additional coverage. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Scheduled personal property (SPP) Coverage is for items that have higher values above your personal property coverage limits. This includes heirlooms, watches, jewelry, instruments, and furs. SPP offers much broader coverage for your precious items – if you misplace a set of earrings, they are covered; if a diamond falls out of a ring, or a guitar breaks, they’re covered. There is no deductible if the covered items are stolen, lost, or damaged. Insurance pays the lowest of the four options: repair, replace, actual cash value or the amount of insurance.
A Water Back Up and Sump Discharge or Overflow Endorsement covers two potential losses: (1) if the sewer backs up into your home via the sewers or drains or (2) if your sump pump overflows or discharges. The amount of coverage and the deductible vary by states. The endorsement comes with a maximum amount of coverage ($5,000 or $10,000) and its own deductible ($250, $500 or $1,000).
Home Day Care Coverage: This extends your liability coverage to those in your care. Most states require you to have it for licensing, and parents also may request to see proof of this coverage.
Refrigerated Property Coverage: When there is a power outage, the food in your refrigerator could spoil. A standard homeowner’s policy may cover the costs of replacing some of the food. A refrigerated property policy provides additional coverage. A refrigerated property policy adds up to $500 of coverage for property, such as meat that spoils because of a power outage or equipment failure.
Special Computer Coverage: With everyone working remotely, computers have become our lifeline. Consider a special computer coverage option to ensure you are covered for your devices: desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. With this coverage, you will receive more money for your devices if they are damaged than with traditional homeowner’s.
Permitted Incidental Occupancies: If you have a home-based business, this endorsement increases the coverage for your business property. This includes furniture, equipment, and supplies.
Ordinance or law coverage helps you bring your home up to current building codes for repairs and/or rebuilding.
Identity fraud coverage covers the expenses associated with identity theft.
Remember that you can ask for ways to lower your home insurance costs when you purchase a policy. You may be eligible for group discounts. There are discounts if you have a burglar/fire alarm. There also is a cost savings and convenience of paying in full with most policies.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.