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WHAT IS HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE?
Homeowners insurance provides for the restoration of your property following a disaster. A standard policy insures the home itself, along with most of the owners’ items inside.
A homeowner insurance policy is a package policy, which means it covers both damage to the property and the owner’s liability or legal financial responsibility for injuries and property damage that he or members of his family cause to others.
The damages caused by most disasters are covered, but there can be exceptions. The most common exceptions are damages from floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance of the home. One can purchase separate policies for flood and earthquake insurance coverage. Maintenance-related damages are the homeowner’s responsibility.
What is in a standard homeowner insurance policy? A standard policy includes four major types of coverage, which include:
1. Coverage for the physical structure of the dwelling;
2. Coverage for the insured’s personal property or belongings;
3. Personal liability protection;
4. Additional living expense in the event insured’s family must vacate the premises during repairs or restorations following a disaster.
1. STRUCTURE OF THE HOME. This part of the policy pays to repair or rebuild the home after it is damaged by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disaster listed in the policy. When purchasing coverage for the structure, it is most important to buy enough to rebuild and/or restore the building. Most standard policies include those structures that are detached from the house itself, like a garage, tool shed or gazebo. Generally, these structures are covered for about 10% of the amount of insurance on the main dwelling.
2. PERSONAL PROPERTY/BELONGINGS. Personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or any covered disaster. Most companies include coverage of 50% to 70% of the amount of insurance on the main dwelling. For example, if the main dwelling is insured for $100,000, the belongings would be insured for $50,000 to $70,000. The policy generally includes off-premises coverage. This provides coverage anywhere in the world, and the limit is usually 10% of the amount of insurance on the personal property.
Expensive items, such as jewelry, computers, guns and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if stolen. Generally, the insured is covered between $1,000 and $2,500 total for any category. To cover these items for their full value, the insured can purchase a scheduled personal property endorsement/floater for the appraised value of the item(s) or collections. Coverage includes “accidental disappearance” in case the item(s) are lost.
Trees, plants and shrubs are also covered under the standard homeowner policy, generally providing coverage for 5% of the main dwelling coverage, with per-item limits. Perils covered are theft, fire, lightning, explosion, vandalism, riot and even a falling aircraft. They are not covered for damage by wind or disease.
3. LIABILITY PROTECTION. Liability coverage is needed when the insured is subject to claims or lawsuits for property damage or bodily injury caused by property owner, family members living at the property, or even by owner’s pets. The liability portion of the policy pays for both the cost of defending the insured in court, and to cover any court-mandated financial obligations, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits can start as low as $50,000; however, most professionals recommend at least $300,000 or $500,000 of liability protection, and most companies will provide even more. An umbrella or excess liability policy can provide even broader coverage, including higher limits and claims against the insured for libel and/or slander.
WHAT IS AN UMBRELLA LIABILITY POLICY?
If the insured is ever sued, the standard homeowner or auto policy will provide the stated liability coverage, paying for judgments against the insured, the attorney fees, up to the stated policy amount. We know we are a litigious society. We may want to have that extra layer of liability protection that the umbrella policy provides.
An umbrella policy takes effect when the insured has reached the limits on the underlying liability coverage in the homeowner, renters, condo, auto, motorcycle, boat, RV policy. Again, it covers the insured for libel and slander.
Umbrella policies are generally sold in increments of $1,000,000 of liability coverage. Premiums run from $150 to $320 per year.
Finally, because a personal umbrella policy goes into effect after the underlying coverage is exhausted, most umbrella carriers require $300,000 to $500,000 liability limits on the underlying homeowner and auto policies.
4. ADDITIONAL LIVING EXPENSES. When the insured’s family cannot live in the covered premises because they are being repaired, rebuilt or restored after a fire, storm or other covered disaster, the additional living expenses or loss of use coverage will pay for hotel bills, restaurant meals, etc in a short-term vacancy, or a rental home for a long-term restoration process. Coverages differ from company to company, generally providing up to 20% of the coverage on the main dwelling. The claims management team will establish the limits of time for the completion of repair/restoration work.
As ALWAYS, you will get the answers specific to you and your situation from YOUR insurance professional or your insurance carrier.