Homeowners and Renters Insurance FAQ

Q: Am I required to have homeowners insurance?

  • A:Because your home is likely one of your largest assets, it's a good idea to maintain coverage even if you do not owe any money on it. If you use your home as collateral or security for a mortgage, home equity or other type of loan, your lender will require coverage.

Q: Are all polices the same?

  • A:All policies are not the same. They vary in the extent and scope of coverage for specific or named perils, such as lightning or fire, and with a number of exclusions, while other policies expand coverage to open perils, which normally excludes floods and earthquakes but has fewer exclusions from coverage. Some policies are designed for condominium owners and others are designed for renters or tenants. There are even policies that are designed for homes of historic value.

Q: Does my homeowner's policy cover property that my child took to his college dorm if it is stolen or damaged?

  • A:Yes, your policy should cover any personal property that your children took with them to college. However, there are limits to the amount of coverage for certain property, such as computers.

Q: Does my policy cover damage caused when a tree on my property fell on my car?

  • A:No. Your homeowner's policy will not cover the damage to your automobile. If you have comprehensive coverage under your automobile policy, that policy should cover the damage.

Q: Does my policy cover damage done to inventory for my small, in-home business?

  • A:No. Your homeowner's policy doesn't cover business activities conducted at your home. However, you may be able to purchase an endorsement to your policy that will cover the use of your home for business purposes. Alternatively, you can purchase separate business owner's insurance for even greater protection of your home-based business.

Q: How can I tell if I'm covered for damages caused by storms, bad weather or other severe weather?

  • A:Damages caused by windstorms, hail, hurricanes and tornados are covered in all homeowner's policies. However, some insurers may limit coverage of homeowners residing in hurricane prone areas. Additional coverage may be purchased for accumulating snow or ice may not otherwise be covered. Flood damage is not covered in any homeowner's policy and flood insurance must be purchased separately.

Q: How is the replacement value of my belongings calculated?

  • A:Generally, the replacement value of your personal property is the amount it would cost to replace it with like or similar items. To be sure you have enough coverage, prepare a detailed written inventory of all your items, including make, model and the price paid, where available. Videotaping your property is a good idea, and you should also have a written inventory. Keep the inventory in a safe place in case you suffer a loss.

Q: If my sump pump failed after lightning struck my house, is the damage to my basement from standing water covered?

  • A:In most cases, yes. Damage caused by lightning is covered under your policy. However, you should be aware that water damage caused solely by the failure of your sump pump is typically not covered, and there may be limits on the coverage for damage to the basement, depending on your policy.

Q: Is my landlord responsible for damage to my personal property if there is a fire?

  • A:No, and that's exactly why a tenant should buy renter's insurance, which provides protection against loss or damage caused by fire, severe storms and other incidents usually covered in homeowner policies. If you or a guest caused the fire, then your renter's insurance may provide protection for claims filed by others whose property was damaged. If you're sharing an apartment with a nonfamily member, then both of you should have separate renter's insurance policies. Your co-tenant's policy won't cover the fire damage of your personal property.

Q: Is removal of a tree that fell on my roof during a thunderstorm covered by homeowner's insurance?

  • A:Generally, any damage to your roof is covered by your policy. The removal of the tree should be covered in this instance, but check your policy. Some insurers require tree removal coverage to be purchased separately.

Q: Is replacement cost the same as the sale price of a home?

  • A:No. You may purchase a home (selling price) for $100,000, but the cost to build a similar home (replacement cost) could be $200,000. Replacement cost is the amount required to replace or rebuild your home with the same materials and workmanship originally used to construct the home, but the selling price is determined by many factors, including depreciation, the need for maintenance or the condition of the housing market in your area. If replacement cost is the method for settling a loss claim under your insurance policy, then your insurance recovery will not be reduced by depreciation, needed maintenance or market conditions. You should consult an insurance advisor to determine the best coverage option for your situation.

Q: Is the property I have in my car covered for theft under my homeowner's policy?

  • A:Generally, yes. Property stolen from your car is covered under the personal property provisions of your homeowner's policy. However, a deductible may apply and your policy may limit the amount that it will pay on your loss.

Q: What does homeowners insurance protect against?

  • A:Generally, homeowner's insurance will cover replacing your home and personal property up to certain limits. Most disasters are covered, but not earthquakes or flooding, and homeowner's policies do not cover the normal aging of your house. Homeowner's insurance also may include liability coverage, which covers personal injuries to other people that happen due to your negligence.

    Policies will provide coverage for:

    • Damage to your home and other structures on your property, such as a garage, deck or swimming pool
    • Loss or damage to your personal possessions, wherever they may be kept
    • Loss of use. This will help pay the cost of additional living expenses incurred when your home is damaged and isn't inhabitable until repairs are made.
    • Coverage of bodily injury to persons injured on your property or whose possessions are damaged on your property
    • Medical payments for injuries that occur in an accident on your property or, under limited circumstances, off your property. For example, if you are supervising your child's friends on a beach outing and one of them is injured, you might be sued for negligent supervision. If you are found liable for the child's injuries, your homeowner's insurance policy might provide coverage to pay for the claim.

    On the declarations page provided by your agent, and within your policy, you will see the various coverage types identified as follows:

    • Coverage A - Damage to your home

    • Coverage B - Other structures such as a garage, deck or swimming pool

    • Coverage C - Loss or damage to your personal possessions

    • Coverage D - Loss of use coverage

    • Coverage E - Personal liability to third parties

    • Coverage F - Medical Payments to third parties

Q: What does my homeowner's policy pay if a neighbor slips on my property and sues?

  • A:Within the limits of your policy, your insurer will pay for any injury or property damage suffered by non-residents occurring at your home. The policy will also pay the medical bills incurred. In addition, your insurer is required to defend you in the event you are sued by the person who suffered an injury or damage on your property.

Q: Who pays for the rental my family is in while our house is being repaired due to damage?

  • A:The loss of use provision in your insurance policy should cover any additional living expenses, such as temporary housing, that you incur while your home is being repaired. However, coverage may be limited either to a few months or a dollar limit. Also, you are usually entitled to benefits only if your home is rendered uninhabitable-that is, the damage occurred in bedrooms, the kitchen or bathrooms. If the damage is limited to a nonessential area of your home, your insurer may not cover any temporary housing costs.

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