As a homeowner, you want to protect your home at all costs. But no matter how much you plan ahead, there are some things you simply can’t prepare for—like the tree in your front yard getting struck by lightning and crushing your car on the way down.
It happens! And that’s what homeowner’s insurance is there for: to help protect you from almost anything life might throw your way.
But sometimes, homeowner’s insurance might not be there to save the day: Will your insurance policy cover the removal of rodents from your home? And what if an earthquake destroys your car?
There are literally hundreds of scenarios that could leave you hoping and praying your insurance company will help foot the bill. So, when exactly will your policy kick in and when will you have to crack open the emergency fund?
Let’s take some of the mystery out of homeowner’s insurance by looking at some scenarios where your policy might, or might not, help you cover the damage.
Heavy rains caused flooding in my neighborhood . . . and now my living room is underwater. Will my insurance pitch in to fix the damage?
Inland flooding is one of the costliest and most frequent natural disasters Americans face each year, causing a whopping $146.5 billion in damages across the United States between 1980 and 2019.1 And even worse, devasting damage caused by floods is not covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy.
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If you live in a high-risk flood zone, you’re required to sign up for flood insurance if your home has a federally backed mortgage. But even if you don’t, you might want to check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center and ask your local insurance agent if having flood insurance is worth the cost.
An earthquake just destroyed my house . . . that’s covered, right?
Answer: Actually, no. It’s not.
If you think Californians are the only folks who have to worry about earthquakes, think again. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), more than 143 million Americans across the continental U.S. are at risk of the ground shaking underneath their feet.2 Yikes.
Unfortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies won’t pay for damage related to “movement of the earth”—a technical term that includes earthquakes. If you live in a place where earthquakes are common, you’ll probably need to purchase a separate earthquake insurance policy in addition to your standard homeowner’s insurance.
While we’re on the subject of natural disasters not normally covered by standard policies, you’ll likely need to purchase a separate policy for flooding and sinkholes if you live in an area prone to either. On the other hand, damage from windstorms (like a tornado) and fires (including raging wildfires) is usually covered under your home insurance.
My washing machine broke down, flooded my living room, and ruined my furniture. Will my insurance pitch in to fix the damage?
Answer: It depends.
If your washing machine suddenly breaks and turns your living room into the world’s worst bubble bath, the water damage to your home and personal belongings is usually covered by your homeowner’s insurance. The cost to fix or replace that washing machine, though, is on your dime.
But there’s a catch: If you knew your washing machine was breaking down and needed to be repaired or replaced but you kept putting it off for “next month,” the insurance company can decide not to cover anything at all because of that neglect or deterioration that takes place over time (like rot, decay or mildew). So get cracking on those repairs before it costs you big time!
A fire destroyed our kitchen, and my family is now living in a hotel while we fix the damage. The house is covered, but are hotel and food costs covered too?
Living out of a hotel and eating out for meals everyday can get really expensive really fast. So it’s nice to know that most homeowner’s insurance policies have additional coverage for living expenses to cover things like hotel bills and dining costs if an insured disaster ever makes your home unlivable.
And homeowner’s insurance will help you rebuild that kitchen and replace the stuff destroyed in the fire—as long as you have enough of it to cover the costs.
In fact, a majority of American homes are underinsured by about 20%—and they don’t even know it.3 If you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, it might be a good time to reach out to an independent insurance agent to make sure you’ve got enough coverage.
Oh, rats . . . a family of rodents set up shop in my attic, and they’re chewing up everything. Will the insurance company help me get rid of the critters?
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a homeowner quite like seeing a big fat rat scurrying across the living room floor. Or even worse: a small army of them deciding to call your attic home. Not only are the little critters terrifying, but they can also cause tons of trouble—from leaving messy droppings for you to chewing through electrical wires and wooden floorboards.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but rodent removal and the cost to repair the damage they cause is not covered by your home insurance. That’s because they’re considered matters of “home maintenance.” The same goes for other pests and termites.
But if a bear breaks in and tears through your kitchen for a midnight snack or a skunk stinks up your house, these damages caused by “wild animals” are usually covered by home insurance policies.
My dog ran off and bit my neighbor’s leg while he was on his morning run. Now I’m being sued. Does my insurance help with that?
Answer: Generally, yes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 out of 5 people bitten by a dog need medical attention.4 If your little Fido turns into Cujo and ends up sending your neighbor to the emergency room, your homeowner’s insurance usually includes personal liability coverage that’ll help with your legal expenses if they decide to sue.
But be warned: There are certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, that some insurance companies won’t insure because they’re considered more dangerous than other breeds. You might want to check with your insurance company to make sure they cover your dog’s breed.
Regardless, it’s probably a good idea to keep your lovable pooch on a short leash!
I slipped and fell on my living room floor and needed to go to the hospital. Will home insurance help pay my medical bills?
Don’t worry, though—that’s where your health insurance should kick in. But if it was your neighbor who slipped and fell in your home, homeowner’s insurance could help you cover some of the legal costs if they decide to take you to court.
A thief broke into my son’s college dorm room and stole most of his stuff—including his brand-new laptop. Will my insurance help replace those stolen belongings?
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, if Junior is under 26 years old and lives on campus, his stuff might be covered under your personal property coverage within your homeowner’s insurance policy.5
But if he’s living off campus, maybe renting a house with a few of his buddies, your personal property coverage won’t extend to his belongings anymore. In that case, Junior needs to get renter’s insurance to protect his things.
Just to be safe, you’ll want to touch base with your insurance company to see if your child’s belongings are covered under your policy while they’re off at college.
A powerful storm knocked out the power for several days in my neighborhood, and the food in my fridge is now spoiled. Will my insurance reimburse me for that?
Maybe you spend a few hundred dollars on groceries for the week, right before a huge storm knocks the power out in your neighborhood . . . and then the lights stay out for several days. A bunch of meat, milk and produce sitting in a powerless fridge for a while could create a pretty stinky situation (literally).
If your food goes to waste due to a “peril” beyond your control—a powerful storm or a falling tree hitting a power line, for example—then your homeowner’s insurance could reimburse you for the spoiled items. You’ll want to take pictures of the spoiled food and gather any grocery store receipts to verify your claims.
Not Sure if You’re Covered? Talk With A Pro.
Sitting down with an insurance Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) can take the mystery out of homeowner’s insurance. They’ll help you understand what’s covered and what isn’t while making sure you have all the coverage you need to protect your home.
Plus, working with an independent agent who isn’t beholden to one insurance company might help you save money on homeowner’s insurance. That’s because they can shop around for rates from dozens of different companies and find the best deal for you.