Homeowners insurance is absolutely essential if you want to protect your house and assets. If you take a look at a typical insurance policy (commonly known as an HO-3), you’ll find it protects homeowners from a wide range of mishaps, from fires to vandalism, lightning strikes, and tree falls. But do you know the full scope of what your homeowners policy covers?
Here’s a look at some of the surprising things that you may find are covered by homeowners insurance.
1. Patios, gazebos, and sheds
You may think that you’re only buying insurance for your home. But in reality, the homeowner policy usually covers your entire property, including all structures such as storage sheds, gazebos, and that luxury doghouse you just had built for Fido. Be sure to let the insurance company know ahead of time, however, that you have these structures on your property. This will ensure you have documentation for coverage.
Believe it or not, grave markers at a cemetery are considered “personal property” and are therefore covered under most homeowners policies. Thus, most people are covered up to $5,000 worth of damage. It’s important to note, however, that some gravestone damage is caused by the cemetery’s own landscaping equipment, and would therefore be covered by the cemetery’s perpetual care fund. So be sure to check the source of damage before making an insurance claim.
A typical HO-3 will cover your home and personal property in the event that they are damaged during civil unrest. (Some policies refer to it as “civil commotion.”) Vandalism, fire, and explosions are usually covered. If a state of emergency is declared in your area due to rioting, that could help your case when filing a claim. If not, it’s a good idea to get a police report to document the event and damage.
4. Volcanoes (but not earthquakes)
Most of us outside Hawaii don’t have to worry about this, but if your home is in the path of an erupting volcano, rest assured you’ll be covered. It’s worth noting, however, that earthquake damage (sometimes referred to as “ground movement”) is not covered under most standard policies.
5. Flooding (in some specific cases)
A typical homeowners policy does not cover flood damage. You’ll need separate insurance to cover damage caused by persistent rainfall, an overflowing creek bed, or flooding of a similar nature. But, some policies will cover water damage caused by things like a faulty sump pump, busted water heater, or broken pipe. And you may find that water problems may be covered if the water is the indirect result of other kinds of damage (for example, a roof blowing off during a storm). Be sure to check your policy carefully to see what’s covered when it comes to water.
6. Your kids’ stuff at college
If you send your child off to school and he’s living in a dorm, his items are usually covered under your homeowners policy. That’s because most policies cover anyone in your household as well as students under the age of 24. Not all policies cover students living in off-campus housing, however. It’s also worth noting that liability limits on students’ items may be lower, so if they have expensive items like a computer or bicycle, it may be a good idea to get some renters insurance as well.
7. Identity theft
If some nefarious person gets ahold of your sensitive data, it can become difficult to straighten out. Fortunately, many homeowners policies now allow for reimbursement of the cost of fixing your credit reports and restoring your identity. This can include the cost of lost wages, phone bills, and possibly even legal representation. If this coverage is not included in your basic policy, it may be available as a low-cost add-on or endorsement, so check with your insurance provider.
8. Anything you travel with
Most homeowners policies cover your belongings wherever they go, under something called an “off-premises” provision. That means that if your laptop or luggage is stolen while you’re on vacation in Europe, you’re usually covered. For pricey items, like your engagement ring or your triathlon bike, it may be worth getting an additional rider to ensure you have enough coverage.
9. Dog bites
If your dog bites someone, your homeowners policy may cover the cost of medical care, usually up to $300,000. Just be aware that some dogs can do serious damage when they bite, and may require additional insurance to cover the cost of any potential claims.
10. Home upgrades required by law
If your local government passes an ordinance requiring your home to have a new roof, the cost of that improvement is often covered. This is nice to have if, for instance, your home is damaged in a storm and the repairs must be in line new zoning laws. There are usually limits to this coverage—insurance may not pay for full demolition, for instance—but it’s nice to have for homeowners who may live in older houses. Check your insurance policy to see if this coverage is included in your basic plan or available as a low-cost endorsement.