Homeowners Insurance FAQ
Why should I buy homeowner's insurance?
A home can require a tremendous investment of money, time, and energy. Homeowners insurance is designed to protect that investment by insuring the actual structure or structures and the personal possessions in and around them, as well as providing liability protection for the residents. Through homeowner's insurance, you can protect yourself and your family from enormous loss in the event of damage or destruction to your home and property. Most likely, if you have a mortgage on your home, you are required to carry homeowner's insurance.
What is a deductible?
Deductibles place responsibility for the initial cost of certain claims – and some of the risk – back on the insured. Basically, a deductible is the amount you must to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will step in and pay for the loss of your property. Your deductible has a direct effect on the amount of your premiums. The higher the deductible – that is, the more you have to pay out of pocket – the lower your premiums will be.
How much will I pay for homeowner's insurance?
To set the amount of your premiums, the issuing company will first want to assess what kind of risk you might present. Be prepared to share plenty of information about you and your home. The company will consider your credit rating, whether you have a criminal record, your previous addresses, and if you have a history of insurance claims. An insurer will want to know what kind of work you do, your employment history, your marital status, and your age. An insurer will also want to know about the construction of the home. Is it brick or wood? How many square feet is it? How old is it? Are there any unattached structures on the parcel? How far is the house from a fire station? Is it perched on a cliff above the ocean? Deadbolt locks, smoke detectors, and other preventive measures can lower your rates. But certain kinds of pets, a pool, and other potential opportunities for personal injury can raise your rates. So can running a home business.
How can I lower my premium?
If you want to lower your monthly premium, or buy more coverage for less money, one way is to carry a higher deductible. A higher deductible also may make sense if you believe that your chances of making a claim are remote enough to warrant assuming extra financial risk.
What if I'm found liable for injuring another person?
As long as the injury was due to your negligence and was not intentional, your homeowner's policy should cover any medical bills and legal expenses, up to the liability policy limits.
What kinds of damage does a basic homeowner's policy cover?
Most basic policies protect against damage from:
- Fire and lightning
- Windstorm and hail
- Riot and civil commotion
- Vandalism and malicious mischief
- Damage by glass or glazing material that is part of a building
- Volcanic eruption
You can also step up coverage to include:
- Falling objects
- Weight of ice, snow, and sleet
- Three kinds of water-related damage from home utilities or appliances
- Electrical surge damage
Protection is subject to policy limits and deductibles can vary.
What damage to my house would not be covered by my homeowner's policy?
It depends on the type of policy you own. But in general, unless you buy additional coverage, you won't be compensated for losses due to floods, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, wars, intentional damage, and normal wear and tear. Other exclusions may also apply.
If my home burned to the ground, how much money would the insurance company pay me per my policy?
Insurance companies normally use one of two methods to figure how much you will be reimbursed for a loss per your policy provisions. The most common calculation is the actual cash value, which is the replacement value minus depreciation. The second calculation is simply the replacement cost of the lost property with no depreciation, but usually with a maximum value. Also, don't forget that the company will subtract the amount of your deductible from the settlement.
How will I be able to recall the contents of my home if it is destroyed?
It's wise to generate a detailed list of your possessions. Making a video or photographic record of your possessions is advisable, as well. You may want to consider storing your inventory in a safe-deposit box off your property, or at least in a lockable fireproof storage box in your home. Not only will a record of your possessions take most of the guesswork out of filing a claim, police say such documentation can help you prove ownership in case your belongings are recovered from a thief. Also, you may want to videotape or photograph the mess after a disaster and before you begin the cleanup. This can help you prove the extent of damage without having to wait to get your life back in order.
What can I do about expensive possessions, like jewelry and camera equipment, that are far more valuable than the coverage limits of my homeowner's policy?
You can purchase additional coverage, through an endorsement to your existing policy or with a separate policy, to extend the limits of coverage for specific items.
I want to buy a condominium. Will my homeowner's policy be different from the one I had when I owned a house?
Insuring a condominium is different from insuring a house because of the way ownership is structured. A homeowner's policy covers against losses, and you can only suffer a loss if you have ownership. Because there are areas of common ownership in a condominium complex, your homeowners association may have a master policy. The extent of the coverage you buy will depend on what the master policy covers. The standard homeowner's policy for condominiums is called HO-6. It will likely cover your personal property, shield you and your family from some types of liability, plus pay to repair any portion of the unit you own under the terms of the condominium or cooperative documents.
I'm renting an apartment. Will my landlord's insurance cover my belongings if the building burns down?
If you rent an apartment or a house, the building owner is responsible for any perils that befall the property. Rest assured, if the place burns down, your landlord's insurance is responsible to compensate him for damage to the structure. But if your personal belongings – your furniture, your stereo, your clothing – are destroyed, it's you who loses unless you have renter's insurance. Renter's insurance is a kind of homeowner's policy for non-homeowners. It contains most of the same provisions of a basic homeowner's policy, except the part that covers the home itself. Up to certain limits, a renter's policy covers your personal belongings against destruction or theft, and protects you against claims of liability if you cause injury to someone or an individual's property.
Besides me, who else is covered under my homeowner's policy?
In general, a homeowner's policy will have a named insured, which is usually the owner or tenant named on the deed or lease. The named insured's spouse is covered as well, even if he or she is not named on the policy declaration. Other users and residents also may be covered to a lesser extent by the personal property and liability provisions in the policy. For instance, the insured's children or someone under 21 in the insured's care would likely be covered. Employees such as gardeners or housekeepers may also be covered against loss of personal property on the premises. And you may also extend coverage to your guests if you make a request to your insurance company in advance.