Homeowners insurance is a necessary financial product that covers the structure of your home and the contents within it. It protects against unexpected events such as fire, theft, or vehicle damage. Home insurance also provides liability protection against legal action related to a bodily injury, or a property damage claim made by a guest.
A home insurance policy doesn't cover every possible mishap that could befall your household, however. If your neighborhood is hit by certain types of natural disasters and your home suffers structural damage, your insurance carrier likely won't cover the loss.
Here are six things a homeowner's insurance policy typically doesn't cover.
- If you don't properly care for your home, insurance may not cover maintenance issues that arise from that neglect.
- Natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes, may not be covered by standard insurance policies.
- Sewer backups, canine attacks, and loss of expensive valuables are other situations that may not be covered.
- Adding endorsements or acquiring a separate, specialized policy can provide coverage for each of these events.
If your home suffers damage from a flood, your standard homeowner's insurance policy won't cover the damage. You'll need a separate flood insurance policy. Most flood policies are administered through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The maximum amount of coverage available is $250,000 for the home's structure and $100,000 for the contents of the home, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
Damage from Lack of Maintenance
The issues that can arise from neglecting to maintain your home—such as a pest infestation or mold—are generally not covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy, according to the III. If the mold growth is a result of a covered peril—water leaking from an air conditioning unit or a burst pipe, for example—it's possible your policy would cover the cost of getting rid of the mold.
It's important to limit the amount of moisture in your home to prevent mold growth. The III recommends using dehumidifiers and air conditioners, cleaning your bathrooms with mold-killers such as bleach, and maintaining your roof. You should also keep water from accumulating under plants, avoid installing carpet in damp areas of the home like basements and bathrooms, and regularly clear your gutters of any debris.
In most cases, earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes aren't covered. The good news is separate policies exist for these types of events. It's important to determine whether you live in a state or area that is prone to one or more of these perils. Residents of California—or Oklahoma, because of fracking—will more than likely need an earthquake policy, while Florida and Tennessee residents might want to purchase sinkhole coverage.
Damage caused by a sewer backup typically isn't covered in a standard home insurance policy. According to the III, sewer backups can occur for several reasons, including:
- Combined stormwater and raw sewage pipelines
- Growing tree roots
- Outdated sewer systems
- Sanitary main blockages
Insurance coverage for sewer backups can be purchased as a separate policy or as an endorsement to your homeowner's policy.
If you're the owner of a dog that belongs to an aggressive breed, such as a German Shepherd or Pit Bull, some insurance carriers likely won't cover you. For dog breeds that are covered, if your dog bites a guest, your policy would cover a dog bite claim up to the limits of your liability coverage, which typically falls somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000. In cases where the claim exceeds your liability limit, you would be responsible for the remaining amount.
While your homeowner's policy includes coverage for jewelry items, it's likely not enough to protect an engagement ring or family heirloom from loss. Because jewelry is at high risk of being stolen, insurance carriers often limit jewelry coverage to about $1,500, according to the Insurance Information Institute. You'll need to purchase a rider, also known as an endorsement, to cover your expensive jewelry, though your items will need to be appraised first. Another option is to raise the liability limit on your homeowner's policy.
Check Your Coverage
Before assuming your homeowner's insurance policy will cover you against any event that could affect your home and valuables, be sure to review your coverage to understand its limits and exclusions fully. If you're not quite sure whether you're protected against a specific type of damage or loss, double-check with your insurance carrier and update your coverage as necessary. You'd rather have adequate coverage for the unexpected than not enough.