Homeowners Insurance Peril: What is Covered on a Home Insurance Policy

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What is the Definition of a Peril in Insurance?

The definition of "perils" in insurance refers to hazards and events that are a source of loss or damage. If a peril is insured, that means it is covered by a policy. If a peril is excluded, then you would not have coverage for the damage caused. The definition describes things that can happen, depending on if it is an insured peril or not. It also helps you understand what is covered by your insurance policy.

Insured Perils vs. Risks

Another term for peril is "the risk." Your insurance policy will refer to perils in your policy contract. The term "insured peril" refers to risks or sources of damage that are "insured."

Perils may also refer to the source of an injury for which you may be held liable. Examples of some perils are:

  • water damage
  • ​fire
  • theft
  • flood
  • earthquake
  • vandalism, and many more. 

Not all perils are covered on a policy. Sometimes items might be added by endorsement, for example, with earthquake insurance. Your insurance policy will specify what is covered or not.

Extended Definition and Examples of the Term "Perils" in an Insurance Context

The term peril is used in many contexts, aside from the definition, it may be used to describe the type of insurance policy form you have. Insured perils will always be specifically outlined in an insurance policy, which the exception of an "All Risk" policy, which takes an alternate approach by insuring "all risks" or "all perils." Therefore, the policy only lists the perils that are not insured as exclusions. Most insurance policies may list "Named Perils" or "Insured Perils." These designate what you are insured for on the policy.

Perils and Exclusions

Not all perils are protected on an insurance policy. Perils that are uninsured or excluded may be referred to as "uninsured perils" or "risks" or "exclusions."

For example, perils such as floods, earthquakes, mold damage, insect or pest damage are all hazards. However, they may be excluded from a residential insurance policy. Some perils or risks may be added by endorsement or rider.

Two Main Types of Homeowner Insurance Policies 

A peril is the choice word used by insurance contracts to explain what risks the insurance contract will cover. A homeowner policy will assign coverages to the building portion of the policy and the contents portion of the policy. It should not be assumed that because one portion of coverage has all perils insured, that the other will as well. 

The Named Peril vs. Open Perils (All Risk) Insurance Policy

In a named peril insurance policy, the insurance policy will only provide insurance coverage on losses due to particular perils or damages that are specifically stated in the insurance policy wording.

It is important to understand what perils you are insured, so you know what to expect in a claim. Since the named peril insurance policy only covers specific perils, it is usually less expensive than an all-risk or open perils insurance policy. Additional coverages may sometimes be added by endorsement.

An Open Perils, All Risk, or All Perils insurance policy is an insurance policy that covers all perils except perils that are specifically excluded in the insurance policy.

The all-risk insurance policy is usually more expensive than the named-peril policy because it is more comprehensive than the named peril insurance policy. It usually has significant advantages over a named-peril policy because of its more extensive coverage, sometimes including higher special policy limits. 

Where Do You Find What Perils Are Insured on Your Insurance Policy?

Your insurance policy declaration page (DEC) will show you what type of home insurance policy you have: Open Perils or Named Perils based on the policy form listed.

The insured perils will not be specifically listed on the DEC page. Instead, they will appear in the policy contract wording. The exclusions (or excluded perils) and policy conditions will also appear in the wording and are important to reference, especially in the case of an open perils policy where "all perils are covered, subject to exclusions."The list of exclusions can be extensive, which is why it is important to review them.

List of Common Homeowners Insurance Named Perils

Fire

Fire relates to something that produces a spark, flame, or glows. (not smoke). Direct damage due to hostile fire is covered under the fire peril. Hostile fire is a fire that burns where it is not intended to burn, such as a bed or curtains.

Lightning

Lightning is defined as natural electricity. Lightning directly damaging something or fire caused by lightning are both covered under the lightning peril. Damage to the electrical system or appliances in a home due to a lightning strike will also be covered under the lightning coverage, but not if the electrical problem comes from the company providing the power.

Explosion

Coverage for an explosion can vary depending on the insurance policy but generally refers to explosions that originate within the covered structure but can also sometimes include explosions that originate outside of the structure and cause damage to the covered structure.

Windstorm

Windstorm relates to damage due to wind, including cyclones, tornadoes, and hurricanes. It covers the outside of the property and—depending on the cause of damage—the inside of the property. The interior is included if the wind causes an opening to the inside, such as blowing out a window. It does not include damage due to floods and, in most cases, hurricanes.

Hail

Policies may also include damage caused directly from hail. The inside of the structure is only covered by hail coverage if the hail itself breaches the structure and causes internal damage. If the hail enters because of an open window, the hail damage to the interior due to the open window would not be covered.

Riot or Civil Commotion

A riot is usually defined by three or more people causing damage to a property, and a civil commotion is usually defined as damage caused by a large number of people.

Aircraft

Aircraft damage is caused by any flying machines including, balloons, helicopters, airplanes, spacecraft, and self-propelled missiles.