FAQ About Homeowners Insurance

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Updated: June 12, 2024

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Homeowners insurance is essential for safeguarding your property, but its details can sometimes be confusing. To help you get a clear understanding, we’ve compiled answers to frequently asked questions about what your policy covers, potential exclusions and how to handle claims. This guide will provide practical insights to ensure you have the proper protection for your home and personal assets.

FAQ About How Homeowners Insurance Works

Understanding homeowners insurance can be a bit daunting, but knowing what your policy does and doesn't cover is the first step. These are some of the most common questions about homeowners insurance, focusing on coverage details and exclusions.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Homeowners insurance covers a range of risks to protect your home and belongings. Here's a breakdown of what is typically covered by a standard home insurance policy:

Coverage Type

Protects the structure of your home, including the walls, roof and built-in appliances, against perils like fire, wind and hail.

Covers structures not attached to your home, such as garages, sheds and fences.

Insures your personal belongings, including furniture, electronics and clothing, against theft or damage.

Provides financial protection if you are sued for bodily injury or property damage to others.

Covers the cost of living elsewhere while your home is being repaired due to a covered loss.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Injury to the Homeowner?

Homeowners insurance primarily focuses on property and liability coverage, not personal health. In other words, homeowners insurance does not cover injuries to you or other residents of your household. You would need health insurance or a separate personal accident policy for personal injuries.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Not Cover?

Homeowners insurance excludes certain risks and damages, such as earthquake damage or maintenance issues, requiring additional policies for full protection. What’s generally not covered by a standard policy includes:

Exclusion Type

Flood Damage

Damage caused by flooding is not covered. You need a separate flood insurance policy for this type of protection.

Earthquake Damage

Earthquake-related damage requires a separate earthquake insurance policy.

Maintenance Issues

Damage resulting from neglect, poor maintenance or wear and tear is not covered. This includes issues like mold, pest infestations and gradual water damage.

High-Value Items

Standard policies limit coverage for high-value items like jewelry, art and collectibles. For full coverage, you may need additional endorsements or a separate policy.

Business Activities

Damages or liabilities arising from business activities conducted from your home may not be covered. You may need a separate business insurance policy.

Home Insurance Coverage of Special Circumstances

If you have a specific question about what your homeowners insurance does or doesn’t cover, use the tool below. Alternatively, you can always check with your insurance provider. Policies can vary significantly, and only your insurer can provide details about your coverage limits and exclusions. Don't hesitate to reach out for personalized assistance and to ensure you have the protection you need.

What Can You Claim on Homeowners Insurance?

You can file a homeowners insurance claim after experiencing various scenarios, such as fire, vandalism or theft. Knowing what you can claim on your policy can give you peace of mind and help you navigate the claims process more effectively. Here’s an extensive list of scenarios where you can typically make a claim on your home insurance:

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    Fire Damage

    Claims for damage to your home and belongings caused by fire or smoke.

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    Wind and Hail Damage

    Coverage for damage caused by windstorms, hurricanes and hail.

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    Lightning Strikes

    Protection against damage resulting from lightning strikes.

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    Theft and Vandalism

    Claims for stolen or vandalized property, including repair costs and replacement of stolen items.

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    Accidental Discharge or Overflow of Water

    Coverage for water damage due to accidental discharge from plumbing, heating or air conditioning systems. Does not cover flooding.

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    Falling Objects

    Damage caused by objects falling on your property, such as tree limbs or debris from storms.

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    Snow and Ice Damage

    Claims for damage caused by the weight of snow or ice on your home.

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    Explosion Damage

    Coverage for damage resulting from explosions, whether inside or outside your home.

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    Riots and Civil Commotion

    Protection against damage caused by riots or civil disturbances.

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    Smoke Damage

    Coverage for damage from smoke, even if there was no fire.

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    Personal Liability

    Claims if you are found legally responsible for injury or property damage to others.

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    Medical Payments to Others

    Coverage for medical expenses if a guest is injured on your property, regardless of fault.

How Do You File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Filing a homeowners insurance claim involves assessing the damage, documenting it and contacting your insurance provider. This process can seem overwhelming, especially in the wake of damage or loss. However, understanding the key steps can help you navigate it more smoothly and ensure you receive the compensation you're entitled to.

Here's a detailed guide on how to file a homeowners insurance claim:

Contact Your Insurance Company

Notify your insurance provider immediately after the damage occurs. Provide your insurer with the necessary details about the incident and the extent of the damage.

Complete a Claims Form

Your insurance company will require you to fill out a claims form. This form will ask for detailed information about the damage and the surrounding circumstances.

Take Photos and Videos

Document the damage by taking clear photos and videos. This visual evidence will be crucial in supporting your claim and helping the adjuster understand the extent of the damage.

Make Temporary Repairs

If necessary, make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. Keep all receipts for these repairs, as they may be reimbursable under your policy.

Prepare for the Insurance Adjuster

Your insurer will assign an insurance adjuster to your case who will be responsible for inspecting the damage and assessing the value of your claim. Be prepared to provide them with access to your home and all relevant documentation.

Get Repair Estimates

Obtain repair estimates from licensed contractors. These estimates will help determine the cost of repairing the damage, which the adjuster will use to calculate your settlement.

Receive the Claim Payment

After the adjuster completes their assessment, you will receive a settlement offer from your insurance company. The offer must adequately cover your losses, so make sure you review it carefully. If the settlement isn’t something you agree with, you can negotiate or appeal the decision.

Complete Permanent Repairs

Once you accept the settlement, proceed with the permanent repairs. Keep all receipts and documentation related to the repair work. Submit any additional documentation required by your insurer to receive the final payment.

Follow Up

Stay in touch with your insurance company throughout the process to ensure your claim is processed efficiently. Address any questions or concerns promptly.

Does Filing a Home Insurance Claim Hurt You?

Filing a home insurance claim can provide crucial financial support during challenging times, but it also has potential drawbacks. While it offers relief for covered damages, it may ultimately increase premiums and affect your claims history. Understanding the pros and cons of filing a claim can help you make an informed decision about when you should approach your insurer.

Pros and Cons of Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Offers Immediate Financial Aid: Funds for repairs or replacements.

Increases Premiums: Future insurance costs may increase.

Restores Property: Returns home to pre-damage state.

Requires Deductible: Out-of-pocket cost before payout.

Grants Peace of Mind: Assurance of coverage against loss.

Increases Claims History: Multiple claims can hurt your record.

Get Professional Help: Access to adjusters for damage assessment.

Risk of Claim Denial: Risk of denial if not covered.

FAQ About Homeowners Insurance Costs

The cost of home insurance depends on a wide range of factors. Understand more about homeowners insurance costs through our answers to frequently asked questions below.

How Much Is Home Insurance?

The average cost of homeowners insurance is $2,614 per year for a policy with $250K in dwelling coverage. However, homeowners insurance costs can vary widely based on factors such as your home's location, size and construction type, as well as your coverage needs and deductible choices. We explore these factors in detail below:

Home Size and Construction
Coverage Amount
Home Age and Condition
Claims History
Security Features
Local Building Costs
Credit Score
Personal Factors

What Is a Deductible and How Does It Work With Home Insurance?

A deductible is the amount you are required to pay out-of-pocket before your home insurance coverage kicks in to pay for a covered loss. It's a specified dollar amount or percentage of the insurance policy's coverage limit that you must meet when you file a claim. Deductibles can vary based on the type of coverage and the specifics of your policy.

When you file a claim, the deductible is subtracted from the total amount of your claim settlement. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible and your claim is approved for $10,000 in damages, you would receive $9,000 from your insurer. Choosing a higher deductible can reduce your monthly premiums, but you'll have to shell out more when you need to file a claim. Conversely, a lower deductible will increase your premiums but reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for claims.

What Is the Average Deductible for Homeowners Insurance?

The average deductible for homeowners insurance typically ranges from $500 to $2,500. The specific amount can vary based on your insurance provider, policy details and personal preferences. Higher deductibles generally result in lower monthly premiums, while lower deductibles increase your premiums but reduce out-of-pocket costs when filing a claim.

Is Home Insurance Included in Your Mortgage?

Home insurance is often included in your mortgage payment through an escrow account. Lenders typically require borrowers to have homeowners insurance to protect their investment in the property. Each month, a portion of your mortgage payment is set aside in this escrow account to cover your insurance premiums. This ensures that your insurance remains current, providing continuous coverage for your home.

However, not all mortgages include homeowners insurance in the monthly payment. Sometimes, homeowners may pay their insurance premiums directly to their insurer rather than through an escrow account. Review your mortgage agreement or speak with your lender to understand how your insurance payments are managed.

Can You Pay Home Insurance Separate From Your Mortgage?

You can pay homeowners insurance separately from your mortgage if your lender permits it. While many lenders require insurance premiums to be paid through an escrow account to ensure continuous coverage, some may allow you to manage the payments directly. Making separate payments means you are responsible for making timely payments to your insurance provider to avoid any lapse in coverage.

Opting to pay your insurance separately requires discipline and financial management. Review your mortgage terms or speak with your lender to determine if this option is available to you and to understand the implications of managing your own insurance payments.

Does a New Roof Lower Home Insurance Costs?

Installing a new roof can lower your home insurance costs. Insurance companies often view new roofs as less risky because they are less likely to suffer damage from weather events, leaks or other issues that could lead to claims. As a result, many insurers offer discounts on premiums for homes with new or recently replaced roofs.

FAQ About Buying Home Insurance

Determining the right amount of homeowners insurance involves evaluating the cost of rebuilding your home and replacing your belongings in the event of a disaster. Review the most frequently asked questions below about how much home insurance you might need.

Do You Need Homeowners Insurance?

While state or federal law doesn't require homeowners insurance, it is often necessary for practical and financial reasons. Mortgage lenders typically require homeowners insurance as a condition for granting a loan, ensuring that their investment is protected. Here are key reasons why you might need homeowners insurance:

  • Lender Requirement: Mortgage lenders often mandate insurance to protect their financial interest in the property.
  • Financial Protection: Insurance covers the cost of repairs or rebuilding in case of damage from events like fire, storms or vandalism.
  • Liability Coverage: Having a policy protects you from legal responsibility if someone is injured on your property.
  • Personal Property Coverage: Insurance helps replace personal belongings if they are damaged or stolen.
  • Peace of Mind: Homeowners insurance provides assurance that you are financially protected against a variety of risks and unexpected events.

Even if you no longer pay a mortgage on your home and own it outright, having homeowners insurance is a wise idea to safeguard your property and personal belongings against unforeseen events.

How Much Home Insurance Do You Need?

When determining how much home insurance you need, consider the cost of rebuilding your home, the value of your personal belongings, potential liability risks and coverage for additional living expenses. The goal is to have enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace your possessions in the event of a major disaster.

Here are the primary factors to consider:

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    Rebuilding Cost

    Estimate the cost to rebuild your home from the ground up, including materials and labor. This is not the same as the market value of your home. You can get an estimate from a local builder or use online tools to calculate the replacement cost.

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    Personal Property Coverage

    Inventory your personal belongings and determine their total value. Ensure your policy covers the replacement cost of these items, not just their depreciated value.

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    Liability Coverage

    Assess your potential liability risks, such as owning a swimming pool or having frequent visitors. Consider an amount that would protect your assets in case of a lawsuit.

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    Additional Living Expenses (ALE)

    Ensure your policy covers the cost of living elsewhere while your home is being repaired after a covered loss. This includes hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses.

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    Special Coverage

    Consider endorsements or additional coverage for high-value items like jewelry, artwork or collectibles, which might have limited coverage under a standard policy.

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    Natural Disasters

    Evaluate the risks of natural disasters in your area, such as floods or earthquakes. You may need additional policies or riders, as these events are typically not covered under standard homeowners insurance.

How Do You Purchase Homeowners Insurance?

Purchasing homeowners insurance involves assessing your coverage needs, comparing quotes from multiple providers and selecting the best insurer for your situation. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to buy homeowners insurance:

Assess Your Coverage Needs

Determine the amount of coverage you need by evaluating the cost of rebuilding your home, the value of your personal belongings and any additional coverage for high-value items or specific risks.

Gather Information

Collect essential details about your home, such as its age, construction type, square footage and any safety features. This information will be required when getting quotes.

Compare Quotes

Compare home insurance quotes from multiple providers to find the most competitive rates. Use online comparison tools or consult an insurance broker to get a range of options and find the most affordable home insurance for you.

Check Discounts

Ask about available discounts, such as those for bundling policies, installing security systems or having a claims-free history. Discounts can significantly reduce your premiums.

Screen Providers

The best homeowners insurance providers are reputable and financially stable. Check customer reviews, ratings from agencies like AM Best or J.D. Power and the company’s claims handling process.

Evaluate Policies

Carefully review the policy details from each provider, including coverage limits, exclusions, deductibles and additional endorsements, to ensure the policy meets your needs and budget.

Contact Insurers

Reach out to the top insurance providers from your comparison to ask any remaining questions and finalize your decision.

Purchase the Policy

Once you’ve chosen the best policy, complete the application process with the insurer. Provide all necessary documentation and arrange for payment of your first premium.

Review the Policy

After purchasing, review the policy documents thoroughly to confirm all details are correct and you have the coverage you need.

Other FAQ About Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance can be complex, and many homeowners have additional questions about how it works, what it covers and how to manage their policies. Below are answers to other commonly asked questions about homeowners insurance.

What Happens if You Have a Lapse in Homeowners Insurance?

A lapse in homeowners insurance leaves your home unprotected against potential risks and damages. If you have a mortgage, your lender may purchase a more expensive policy on your behalf and add the cost to your loan payments. It's financially savvy to maintain continuous coverage to avoid gaps and ensure the protection of your home and personal assets.

How Do You Read Your Home Insurance Policy?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you understand how to read your homeowners insurance policy:

  1. Review the Declarations Page: Start with the declarations page, which summarizes your coverage limits, premiums and deductibles. This page provides a snapshot of the most important aspects of your policy.
  2. Understand Covered Perils and Exclusions: Carefully read through the sections that detail covered perils and exclusions. This will help you know what risks are covered by your policy and what is not.
  3. Check Additional Endorsements: Look for additional endorsements or riders that modify or extend your coverage. These sections can include special provisions for high-value items or specific risks.

Contact your insurance agent if any terms or provisions are unclear. They can provide detailed explanations and help you fully understand your coverage.

About Mark Fitzpatrick

Mark Fitzpatrick headshot

Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.