6 Weird Things Your Homeowners
Insurance Probably Covers
A blog post from our friends at Leavitt Group
Many of us don’t look in to everything our homeowners policy covers when purchasing insurance. Instead, our attention is probably focused on the premium, the deductible and the coverage limits. If your house catches on fire or is damaged by a storm, you’d expect it to be covered by your policy. You’d have similar expectations if burglars hauled away all of your electronics or if a drunk driver parked an SUV in your living room.
Besides the usual types of covered claims, there are several seemingly unlikely cases that are probably covered as well. In some of these cases, you may be able to collect from the negligent party or that person’s insurer. All the same, as dubious as these scenarios may seem, it’s nice to know that you’re prepared (and covered) for some pretty odd possibilities.
No crying over spoiled steaks
Scenario: After finding a great deal on filet mignon at your local butcher, you purchase several hundred dollars’ worth of steaks and store them in your freezer. Several weeks later, unexpected high winds knock down dozens of utility poles in your neighborhood. The storm is so severe that it takes three days to restore electricity service to your home. By the time the power is back on, your steaks (along with everything else in your fridge and freezer) have thawed and spoiled.
When the power goes out due to a major storm, spoiled food is usually pretty low on a homeowner’s list of worries. According to one expert, people often don’t report food spoilage because the limits—usually $500—are lower than the deductibles. As the thinking goes, why pay $500 to collect $500 in damages? In this situation, where the only damage is spoiled food, there probably wouldn’t be a payout.
However, when the weather event that caused the blackout causes additional damage to your home, it makes sense to include the spoiled food as part of a larger claim. So in addition to replacing windows, re-shingling the roof or cleaning out a flooded basement, you might as well replace those filets since they were damaged with the rest of the house.
Scenario: In a moment of extravagance, you offer to host your daughter’s outdoor wedding in your beautifully landscaped backyard. Two days before the magic day arrives, a kitchen fire damages part of the house. In the midst of trying to recover from that particular disaster, you’re forced to come up with an alternate venue for the festivities. Luckily, a local hotel has a ballroom available, and the wedding goes off without a hitch.
It’s very likely that your homeowners policy includes “loss of use” coverage allowing you to claim the cost of having to rent the hotel ballroom because of the fire. The one caveat is whether you had planned a champagne toast to the bride as part of the wedding festivities as most insurance carriers do not cover events at which alcohol is served. A commercial event policy can solve the liquor liability problem, so keep that in mind if you’re holding a wedding at your home.
Dorm away from home
Scenario: Your 19-year-old daughter is away at college, gaining her “freshman 15” on a combination of cafeteria food and delivery pizza. Though your grown-up child is (almost) always responsible, her roommate has a habit of leaving their dorm room door unlocked. After one such occurrence, someone enters the room and leaves with a pillowcase containing your daughter’s laptop, iPod, jewelry and other valuables.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, most personal possessions in an on-campus dorm room are covered under a parent’s homeowners insurance policy. However, some policies limit dorm room coverage to ten percent of the policy’s total for personal belongings. This means the dorm room items would be covered up to $10,000 for $100,000 worth of coverage on the primary residence. Also, most insurance providers have an age limit—usually 25 or 26—for the student involved.
It’s important to note that a homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for students in off-campus housing. Separate renters insurance would be needed to cover a student in this situation.
Toppled tombstones, marked-up markers
Scenario: It’s Memorial Day and you drive over early to pick up your mom. The two of you go to the cemetery every May to visit the grave of your father, a military veteran. You arrive at the memorial with flags and a wreath—only to discover that vandals have defaced your father’s grave marker with spray paint. You try to console your mother as you wonder privately how she will pay for the damages.
Sadly, cemetery vandalism is more common than most people realize. But the damage is probably covered under your mom’s existing homeowners insurance policy. It’s important to be careful in placing blame, though. Most damage to grave markers is actually caused by heavy equipment operated carelessly by landscapers and burial crews. Spray paint is one thing, but if you notice a cracked or chipped headstone, report it first to the cemetery’s management. They should investigate to determine whether their own workers caused the damage.
Grave markers, urns, and other funerary items are generally considered “valuables” under most homeowners insurance policies. However, most polices will limit coverage by default to somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000. If you want to make sure a family crypt or particularly expensive memorial is covered, you’ll want to talk to your agent about purchasing expanded coverage.
Scenario: You’re in your kitchen taking inventory of your breakfast cereal when you suddenly hear a loud crash. As you check the exterior of the house, you notice a large hole in the roof. Upon further inspection, you discover a wet, smelly mess in your attic. Since it was a sunny day, the damage was definitely not related to weather. Eventually you discover the falling object that caused the damage was likely from a passing airplane.
On certain occasions, the sewage holding tanks from airliner lavatories can sometimes rupture and leak, and then immediately freeze into solid chunks of extremely nasty ice. The Federal Aviation Administration says these so-called “blue ice events” happen a few times every year, and should be reported to the FAA for investigation. Luckily, damage from blue ice (and other falling objects like meteorites) is usually covered under the “open perils” section of your homeowners policy.
Grievances and dirty laundry
Scenario: Your teenage son has a verbal altercation with one of his high school teachers and ends up suspended from school. Later that night, you do a little venting on your personal blog. Recalling a juicy bit of gossip you heard from one of the other parents, you mention that this particular teacher is rumored to make extra money by selling school property on eBay. Someone at the school gets wind of your accusation and an investigation ensues. Though the teacher maintains his innocence, he is dismissed from his position. A week later you are served notice that the former teacher is suing you for libel.
This may come as a surprise, but many homeowners insurance policies—and even some renters policies—include provisions to cover the cost to defend yourself from various civil liability cases, including a libel or defamation suit, often within certain limits.
Some policies may exclude coverage if a libel suit is related to business pursuits—that would be something covered by a business policy. What this means is that if your personal blog is in any way connected to business—if you accept advertising, for example—your blogging activities may not be protected.
It’s a good idea to review your coverage with an insurance professional to see what forms of liability are covered. An umbrella policy is often your best option to ensure that your life won’t be turned upside-down by a frivolous lawsuit.
Mountain America Insurance happily provides all kinds of insurance—including homeowners. Make an appointment with one of our advisors to find out how we can help you!