Home ownership is one of the largest investments you will make, so protecting this investment with quality homeowners insurance is a crucial part of being a responsible homeowner. However, while many Americans understand the importance of homeowners insurance, some don’t understand the specifics of what it covers if a burglary, natural disaster or other property damage occurs.
Here are five things your homeowners insurance policy should cover if an unexpected or unforeseen loss were to happen.
1. Sudden and accidental flooding.
This coverage is for the overflow of water from systems or appliances within your home, including plumbing, heating or air conditioning units, an automatic fire sprinkler system or certain household appliances. For example, if your hot water heater suddenly springs a leak and floods the recreation room in your basement, the water damage to your furnishings and carpeting or flooring would be covered. There may be certain exceptions depending on the cause of the flooding, so be sure to discuss the details of this peril with your insurance agent ahead of time. Your homeowners policy would typically not cover flooding resulting from a naturally occurring event outside your home, such as an overflowing river, mudslide or storm surge near the coast. You must purchase separate flood insurance to cover events like these.
Nearly 1.5 million fires were reported in the U.S. during 2015, resulting in $14.3 billion in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, but heating equipment, electrical cords and wiring, and candles can also be culprits. Wildfires are another potential danger for U.S. residents living in dry climates, and as the temperatures heat up you should be prepared for this very real danger. Homeowners insurance covers your property if it’s damaged in a fire, but you should always be sure to never leave stoves or candles unattended while lit.
The FBI reports there were nearly 1 million residential burglaries during 2015, averaging $2,296 in property losses per offense. Most burglaries occur between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when most people are at work or school. Be sure to keep all windows and doors locked, even if they’re on a second floor – you don’t want to make it easy for thieves to access your belongings. A home security system is also a good deterrent and may qualify you for a homeowners insurance discount. It may even cover property that is stolen from you while you’re traveling anywhere in the world. Check in with your agent on an annual basis to ensure you maintain enough coverage to protect against possible losses to your ever-changing home inventory.
4. Objects falling from the sky.
Imagine you’re home alone, binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix when, suddenly, you hear a loud crash in the next room. When you go to examine the cause of the ruckus, you discover remains of a defunct satellite have landed in your kitchen. The likelihood of this, a meteorite or other space debris hitting your home isn’t very high, but your insurance covers it if it happens.
Acts of vandalism often happen under cover of night. For example, a group of unruly teenagers looking to create some Halloween mischief throws eggs and pumpkins at your home, breaking a window in the process. Or you wake up to find your garage door covered in spray paint. These types of situations are covered under the vandalism peril in your homeowners insurance policy. If your home is vandalized, be sure to file a police report to aid with the claims process. Installing surveillance cameras and floodlights are also good ways to deter it from happening in the first place.
You should also make sure your homeowners policy covers additional living expenses. If your home becomes uninhabitable due to damage from a covered loss, your homeowners insurance may reimburse you for the expenses you incur while you’re living elsewhere. This coverage helps you maintain your normal standard of living while your home is being rebuilt or repaired, and includes hotel accommodations, meals and more. Be sure to keep all of your receipts for your adjuster.
Is there anything homeowners insurance doesn’t cover?
Homeowners insurance helps ease the process of getting back to normal after damage from an unexpected or unforeseen event. However, be aware the following natural events are not included in your coverage.
- Flood damage caused by storms
Speak to your local insurance agent to learn how you can get coverage for these.
If you happen to be a victim of any of these scenarios, follow these steps when filing a homeowners insurance claim:
When filing a claim
- Contact your insurance provider immediately to report a loss.
- Be prepared to provide your policy number.
- Do not remove debris or damaged property that may be related to your claim.
Steps immediately after filing a claim
- Prepare a detailed inventory of destroyed or damaged property.
- Gather photos or videotapes of your home and possessions for your insurance adjuster, if these are available.
Steps while the claim is processed
- Keep copies of communications between you and your adjuster.
- Keep records and receipts for additional living expenses that were incurred if you were forced to leave your home and provide copies to your adjuster.