No offense to all you insurance agents out there, but home insurance policies don’t exactly make for the most thrilling read. They’re long-winded, dull and force you to contemplate the unthinkable: a disaster at home. Not exactly the best bedtime story.
That may be why so many homeowners actually neglect to read them. Over half say they don’t know “much at all” about their coverage. And many wrongly assume that their policy has their back through every kind of disaster, which isn’t necessarily so. In fact, there are lots of unfortunate—and expensive—exceptions, like floods, mold damage, and sewer backups.
That’s the bad news. The good news, though, is that by learning about your policy limits now, you can prepare for the worst before it drains your savings. And in the wake of a disaster, that’s about the best you can ask for!
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Floods are the most common weather-related hazard out there, but they’re rarely covered by homeowners insurance. Almost all policies exclude floods—at least ones caused by the elements. If your area is prone to flooding, consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy, like the ones offered by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Bad news, Californians. Standard insurance policies also leave off “ground movement,” which means damages incurred by earthquakes are not covered. Again, the solution for at-risk homes is separate coverage.
Mold remediation and removal costs between $500 to $6,000—in order words, a pretty good chunk of change. Don’t expect insurance to foot the bill, however. Many standard homeowners policies limit or even exclude mold damages. Your best bet is to prevent mold from forming in the first place, by allowing spills and floods to dry properly, and checking pipes and air conditioning ducts for leaks.
If a sewer backs up into your basement or drains, the damage can be pretty nasty—literally. Unfortunately, these issues aren’t covered by standard insurance or by flood policies. But you can purchase a separate rider for about $40 to $50 a month.
We all think our pets can do no wrong, but the truth is, dogs can sometimes be a liability. Dog bites and dog-related injuries account for approximately one third of all homeowners insurance claims. Most dogs are covered, but some policies make exceptions for certain breeds, like pit bulls or German Shepherds. Other insurers approach coverage on a dog-by-dog basis and may take exception if yours has a history of aggressive behavior. Either way, you can do your part to mitigate risk with proper training and socialization.
Feel like freaking yourself out? Watch this compilation of sinkhole videos then. As you can see, a sudden, massive sinkhole is fairly nightmarish, rapidly swallowing whatever’s in its path. And it may not be covered by your insurance. The upshot, however, is that you may be able to roll sinkhole damages into an earthquake policy. And if you live in Florida or Tennessee, your homeowners insurance must provide optional sinkhole coverage.
It’s pretty hard to convince your homeowners insurance adjusters that you had thousands of dollars of cash lying around in your home when a burglar broke in. Most cash coverage taps out at about $200, so your best bet is to keep your money at the bank.
Termites cause around $5 billion in damage every year, which makes them a major threat to homes. Your homeowners insurance probably won’t help you out here, either, which means it’s up to you to prevent termite infestations.
Trampolines may be fun for the kiddies, but they were responsible for over 1 million ER visits between 2002 and 2011. That alone might be enough to give you pause before buying one, but here’s even more reason: injuries like these aren’t covered by standard homeowners insurance.
Okay, now that we’ve provided you with plenty of nightmare fuel, it’s time to go back and read over those policy details and get your coverage up-to-date. It may not be your most thrilling afternoon ever, but you’ll sleep better in the long run.