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What Is Covered By A Standard Homeowners Policy?

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What Is Covered By A Standard Homeowners Policy?

Disaster_HouseFireA st andard homeowners insurance policy includes four essential types of coverage. They include:

  • Coverage for the structure of your home.
  • Coverage for your personal belongings.
  • Liability protection.
  • Additional living expenses in the event you are temporarily unable to live in your home because of a fire or other insured disaster.

1. THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR HOUSE

This part of your policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disaster listed in your policy. It will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear. When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, it is important to buy enough to rebuild your home.

Most st andard policies also cover structures that are detached from your home such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo. Generally, these structures are covered for about 10% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. If you need more coverage, talk to your insurance agent about purchasing more insurance.

2. YOUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS

Your furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disaster. Most companies provide coverage for 50% to 70% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. So if you have $100,000 worth of insurance on the structure of your home, you would have between $50,000 to $70,000 worth of coverage for your belongings. The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory.

This part of your policy includes off-premises coverage. This means that your belongings are covered anywhere in the world, unless you have decided against off-premises coverage. Some companies limit the amount to 10% of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions. You have up to $500 of coverage for unauthorized use of your credit cards.

Expensive items like jewelry, furs and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. Generally, you are covered for between $1,000 to $2,000 for all of your jewelry and furs. To insure these items to their full value, purchase a special personal property endorsement or floater and insure the item for it’s appraised value. Coverage includes “accidental disappearance,” meaning coverage if you simply lose that item. And there is no deductible.

Trees, plants and shrubs are also covered under st andard homeowners insurance. Generally you are covered for 5% of the insurance on the house—up to about $500 per item. Perils covered are theft, fire, lightning, explosion, v andalism, riot and even falling aircraft. They are not covered for damage by wind or disease.

3. LIABILITY PROTECTION

Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. So, if your son, daughter or dog accidentally ruins your neighbor’s expensive rug, you are covered. However, if they destroy your rug, you are not covered.

The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit of your policy. You are also covered not just in your home, but anywhere in the world.

Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. However, experts recommend that you purchase at least $300,000 worth of protection. Some people feel more comfortable with even more coverage. You can purchase an umbrella or excess liability policy which provides broader coverage, including claims against you for libel and sl ander, as well as higher liability limits. Generally, umbrella policies cost between $200 to $350 for $1 million of additional liability protection.

Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage. In the event a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses are paid without a liability claim being filed against you. You can generally get $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your family or your pet.

4. ADDITIONAL LIVING EXPENSES

This pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a fire, storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above your customary living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits, usually a percentage of the amount of coverage you have on your home, and some policies include a time limitation. But the amount of ALE coverage is separate from the amount available to rebuild or repair your home. For example, suppose you have a policy that provides up to $150,000 in rebuilding costs and up to $15,000 (10 percent) for ALE and you use up the entire $15,000, your insurance company will still pay what it costs to rebuild your home up to the policy limit of $150,000.

Coverage for additional living expenses differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage for about 20 percent of the insurance on your house. You can increase this coverage, however, for an additional premium. Some companies sell a policy that provides an unlimited amount of loss-of-use coverage, but for a limited amount of time.

If you rent out part of your house, ALE coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, “What Is Covered by a St andard Homeowners Policy?” iihs.org website. Accessed June 2, 2014. http://www.iii.org/articles/what-coverage-is-included-in-a-st andard-homeowners-insurance-policy.html

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. This content is strictly for informational purposes and although experts have prepared it, the reader should not substitute this information for professional insurance advice. If you have any questions, please consult your insurance professional before acting on any information presented. Read more.

Five Insurance Mistakes To Avoid… And Still Save Money

Homes-Buildings_RebuildWe are all concerned with saving money and it is important to shop around when looking for insurance coverage. However, simply reducing your coverage or dropping important coverages altogether can leave you dangerously underinsured in the event of a disaster.
Following are the five biggest auto, home, flood and renters insurance mistakes consumers can make, along with suggestions to avert those pitfalls while still saving money:
1. Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the home. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings.
A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.
 
2. Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service.
A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and h andle claims fairly and efficiently.

3. Dropping flood insurance. Damage from flooding is not covered under st andard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas. Furthermore with the significant snow fall this winter, spring related flooding may be particularly severe, thus increasing the importance of purchasing flood insurance.

A better way to saveBefore purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to determine whether the property is situated in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a designated flood zone, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance. Additional information on flood insurance can be found at www.FloodSmart.gov.
 
4. Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket if you are sued— and those costs may be steep.
A better way to save: Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars worth less than $1,000. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.
5. Neglecting to buy renters insurance. A renters insurance policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to an insured disaster, such as a fire or hurricane. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue.

A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto and life will generally provide savings.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, “Five Insurance Mistakes to Avoid… And Still Save Money” iihs.org website. Accessed June 2, 2014. http://www.iii.org/articles/five-insurance-mistakes-to-avoid- and-still-save-money.html

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. This content is strictly for informational purposes and although experts have prepared it, the reader should not substitute this information for professional insurance advice. If you have any questions, please consult your insurance professional before acting on any information presented. Read more.

How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?

People_ChildrenInPoolYou need enough insurance to cover the following:

  • The structure of your home.
  • Your personal possessions.
  • The cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere during repairs.
  • Your liability to others.

The structure

You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs. Don’t include the cost of the l and. And don’t base your rebuilding costs on the price you paid for your home. The cost of rebuilding could be more or less than the price you paid or could sell it for today.

Some banks require you to buy homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage. If the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage, make sure it’s enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. (If your mortgage is paid off, don’t cancel your homeowners policy. Homeowners insurance protects your investment in your home.)

For a quick estimate of the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. To find out construction costs in your community, call your local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Factors that will determine the cost of rebuilding your home:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction–frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds
  • Fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows
  • Whether the house, or parts of it like the kitchen, was custom built
  • Improvement to your home–adding a second bathroom, enlarging the kitchen or other additions that have added value to your home

St andard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters such as damage due to fire, lightning, hail, explosions and theft. They do not cover floods, earthquakes or damage caused by lack of routine maintenance.

Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program – NFIP and from some private insurers. Earthquake coverage is available from private insurance companies or, in California, also through theCalifornia Earthquake Authority.

Replacement cost policies
Most policies cover replacement cost for damage to the structure. A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality. There is no deduction for depreciation–the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors.

If you purchase a flood insurance policy, coverage for the structure is available on a replacement cost basis.

Guaranteed or extended replacement cost coverage
After a major hurricane or a tornado, building materials and construction workers are often in great dem and. This can push rebuilding costs above homeowners policy limits, leaving you without enough money to cover the bill. To protect against such a situation, you can buy a policy that pays more than the policy limits.

An extended replacement cost policy will pay an extra 20 percent or more above the limits, depending on the insurance company. A guaranteed replacement cost policy will pay whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the fire or other disaster.

Building codes
Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild your home to meet new building codes. Generally, homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy) won’t pay for the extra expense of rebuilding to code. Many insurance companies offer an Ordinance or Law endorsement that pays a specified amount toward these costs. (An endorsement is a form attached to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.)

Inflation guard
Consider adding an inflation guard clause to your policy. This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area.

Older homes
If you own an older home, you may not be able to buy a replacement cost policy. Instead, you may have to buy a modified replacement cost policy. This means that instead of repairing or replacing features typical of older homes, like plaster walls and wooden floors, with similar materials, the policy will pay for repairs using the st andard building materials and construction techniques in use today.

Insurance companies differ greatly in how they insure older homes. Some won’t insure older homes for the replacement cost because of the expense of re-creating special features like wall and ceiling moldings and carvings. Other companies will insure older homes for the replacement cost as long as the dwelling is in good condition.

If you can’t insure your home for the replacement cost or choose not to do so–in some cases, the cost of replacing a large old home is so high that you might not want to replace it with a house of the same size–make sure the limits of the policy are high enough to provide you with a house of acceptable size and quality.

Your personal possessions

Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your personal possessions for approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure or “dwelling” of your home. The limits of the policy typically appear on the Declarations Page under Section I, Coverages, A. Dwelling.

To determine if this is enough coverage, you need to conduct a home inventory. This is a detailed list of everything you own and information related to the cost to replace these items if they were stolen or destroyed by a disaster such as a fire (for more information see How do I take a home inventory and why). If you think you need more coverage, contact your agent or insurance company representative and ask for higher limits for your personal possessions.

Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value
You can either insure your belongings for their actual cash value, which pays to replace your home or possessions minus a deduction for depreciation up to the limit of your policy. Or you can opt for replacement cost, which pays the actual cost of replacing your home or possessions (no deduction for depreciation) up to the limit of your policy.

Suppose, for example, a fire destroys a 10-year-old TV set in your living room. If you have a replacement cost policy for the contents of your home, the insurance company will pay to replace the TV set with a new one. If you have an actual cash value policy, it will pay only a percentage of the cost of a new TV set because the TV has been used for 10 years and is worth a lot less than its original cost. Some replacement cost policies also replace the item and deliver it to you.

Generally, the price of replacement cost coverage is about 10 percent more than that of actual cash value. If you need a flood insurance policy for your belongings, it is only available on an actual cash value basis.

Insuring expensive items with floaters/endorsements
There may be limits on how much coverage you get for expensive items such as jewelry, silverware and furs. Generally, there is a limit on jewelry for $1,000 to $2,000. You should ask your agent or look it up in your policy. This information is in Section I, Personal Property, Special Limits of Liability. Insurance companies may also place a limit on what they will pay for computers.

If the limits are too low, consider buying a special personal property floater or an endorsement. These allow you to insure these items individually or as a collection. With floaters and endorsements, there is no deductible. You are charged a premium based on what the item (or collection) is, its dollar value and where you live.

You can determine the value by providing your agent with a recent receipt or getting the item or collection appraised.

Additional living expenses after a disaster

This is a very important feature of a st andard homeowners insurance policy. This pays the additional costs of temporarily living away from your home if you can’t live in it due to a fire, severe storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Coverage for additional living expenses differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage for about 20% of the insurance on your house. Some companies will even sell you a policy that provides you with an unlimited amount of loss of use coverage, for a limited amount of time.

If you rent out part of your house, this coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

You should talk to your agent or company to make sure you know exactly how much coverage you have and how long the coverage will be in effect. In most cases, you can increase this coverage for an additional premium.

Liability to others

This part of your policy covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by pets. It pays for both the cost of defending you in court and for any damages a court rules you must pay.

Generally, most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but higher amounts are available. Increasingly, it is recommended that homeowners consider purchasing at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of coverage of liability protection.

Umbrella or Excess Liability.
You should buy enough liability insurance to protect your assets. If you own property and or have investments and savings that are worth more than the liability limits in your policy, you may consider purchasing an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Umbrella or excess liability policies provide extra coverage. They start to pay after you have used up the liability insurance in your underlying home (or auto) policy. An umbrella policy is not part of your homeowners policy. You have to purchase it separately. In addition to providing a higher dollar amount, they offer broader coverage. You are covered for libel, sl ander, and invasion of privacy. These things are not covered under st andard homeowners or auto policies.

The cost of an umbrella policy depends on how much underlying insurance you have and the kind of risk you represent. The greater the underlying liability coverage, the cheaper the policy. This is becaue you would be the less likely to need the additional insurance. Most companies will require a minimum of $300,000 on your home and your car, if you own one.

 

Source: Insurance Information Institute, “How much homeowners insurance do I need?” iihs.org website. Accessed June 2, 2014. http://www.iii.org/individuals/homei/hbs/howmuch/

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. This content is strictly for informational purposes and although experts have prepared it, the reader should not substitute this information for professional insurance advice. If you have any questions, please consult your insurance professional before acting on any information presented. Read more.

IN: Insuring Your Home: Many Things To Consider

Dear Valued Customer,

In this issue of “———————-” we focus on Homeowner’s Insurance.

How much homeowners insurance do you need? What things do you need to consider when you’re buying homeowner’s insurance? What types of disasters does your insurance cover? Would you be covered in the event of an earthquake, a flood, or other natural disaster? If you’re installing a pool, what type of insurance you need. And, if you’re renting the home you live in, you still have to use insurance to protect your possessions. Read all this and much more.

We appreciate your continued business and look forward to serving you.

Kind regards,

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