Homeowners Insurance is a very complex but important aspect of owning a home. Actual laws and policies differ from state to state, but I will give basic details, applicable to most policies. Specifics for your state and area can be determined from a licensed agent. If you are just renting a home, you would need renters insurance while there are also different mobile home insurance and vacation home insurance policies, basically similar in concept but with extra wording applicable to those types of risk. Any standard homeowner insurance policy will cover damage to the structure and personal possessions, up to a limit specified in the policy, caused by the following perils: storms (wind, hail, rain, and snow) and tornadoes, fire, and lightning.
PLEASE NOTE: Homeowners in high-risk states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas) need to buy special Windstorm Insurance for protection against tornado, hurricane, hail and flood damage. This coverage is not available on a standard homeowner insurance policy and is more expensive. Earthquake insurance in California is also a separate and more expensive ($800 - $1600 per year premium) policy.
Components of Homeowners Insurance
The liability portion (coverage E) protects the homeowner against accidents or events that occur on the covered property. With this protection, the homeowner is protected from lawsuits that result from these events. Note that this coverage does not cover the transfer of disease nor does it cover issues that arise from the exchange of drugs and controlled substances.
The property portion of the contract protects the homeowner against loss due to fires, theft, and minor weather damage. It is important to note that most times major weather damage is not included in standard contracts. Insureds who live in areas that are prone to natural disaster should be advised to purchase extra protection to cover those risks. Flood, earthquake, hurricane, and tornado damage are not necessarily covered in standard contracts, so make sure to take precautions based on where you reside.
Additionally, liability insurance covering injury or damage to members of the public or the property caused by an accident on your property is also covered, up to specified limits, as well as loss of use, due to downtime while repairs are being made.
You should make sure that the coverage limits in your policy contract are high enough to cover complete replacement as well as other expenses in case of a disaster. A licensed home insurance agent will be able to advise you fully.
Insurance riders and exclusions
There can also be riders and exclusions attached to a policy. Insurance Riders give coverage for items that are not normally covered or they can raise the standard limits of coverage. Exclusions do just what they say which is excluding specified items or risks from coverage. Flood and earthquake damage is excluded from a standard policy, therefore you would need to purchase the extra cover for these risks.
In addition, If you operate a business from home or work from home you will need additional cover forage work-related risks, such as people coming to see you on business. Expensive jewelry or other items of high worth will need to be specified in a rider against damage or loss, for an additional premium. Otherwise, there is a limit of coverage on jewelry, antiques and electronic equipment. If standard limits of cover are inadequate to cover your belongings, then you will need to have them increased.
Be sure that the loss or damage is covered at replacement cost, not actual cash value. It costs more, but the actual cash value may be well below what it costs to replace an item (think what it costs new vs. what you can sell it for). Get it right up front and don't fight about it later.
A good tip for any homeowner is to read your policy carefully and make a brief summary of what is covered and what is excluded under your policy, as well as what action you might need to take and what time limits you have for reporting incidents. Ask a licensed professional for help if there is anything you don't quite understand the wording. This summary will help if something happens and you need to take quick action in case of an emergency. Make the effort up front and save yourself a heap of trouble later, particularly if you know that your area is prone to various issues.
If our house caught on fire can I file a claim on my homeowner's insurance?
Under a standard insurance policy, the fire hazard is certainly covered. Your only responsibility for filling the claim is your deductible, which is usually between $500 to $1000 and pales in comparison to the damage amount. Other than that, your insurance carrier will usually even provide you with a place to stay while your house is being repaired. Your homeowner's insurance will take care of your family's daily expenses, up to a certain limit until your home is repaired.
Someone broke into our house and took all my expensive jewelry, can we claim that to our homeowner's insurance?
Theft is also covered under homeowners insurance policies all be replace by your homeowner's insurance policy. This is a primary example why you should make sure you have adequate coverage limits on your policy. Having adequate limits means that you are properly compensated for the value of your belongings.
What do we need to provide when filing a claim with our homeowner's insurance?
When you file a claim, you will need to coordinate with your insurance agent and they will turn over your claim to their insurance adjuster. You will need to provide your adjuster a copy of the police report and the list of all your personal belongings that are missing. You will also need to make sure that you have copies of your file. Your insurance adjuster will process your claim and they will make sure to get back to you within the next few days and settle the entire claim.
Homeowners insurance is one of the most important aspects of owning a home. It is the one sure way to maintain some stability should you run into a rough time.
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