What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
A Complete Guide
Whether you own a home or you’re in the market to buy one, you already know how important it is to protect it from the myriad of dangers threatening to harm it. Ensuring that you have the right kinds and amounts of homeowners insurance is one of the smartest steps you can take as a homeowner.
But in order to do that, you first need to know: What does homeowners insurance cover, anyway? What isn’t typically covered? And if something isn’t covered, is there a way to purchase additional coverage so that you can sleep a little easier at night?
Below, we answer all of these questions, and more, so that you will be able to make an informed decision when you shop around for homeowners insurance.
What is homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to help you pay to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by a covered event. What is considered a “covered event” will vary from policy to policy, so it’s important to understand what your policy covers before you finalize the purchase.
Types of homeowners insurance policies
While you might think that all homeowners insurance policies are the same, the truth is that there are actually eight different standard types of homeowners insurance policies, each of which offers different types and levels of protection. These different policies are:
- HO-1: Basic Form
- HO-2: Broad Form
- HO-3: Special Form
- HO-4: Contents Broad Form
- HO-5: Comprehensive Form
- HO-6: Unit-owners Form
- HO-7: Mobile Home Form
- HO-8: Modified Coverage Form
The two policy types most often held by homeowners nowadays are HO-3 (special form) and HO-5 (comprehensive form).
What does homeowners insurance cover?
The standard homeowners insurance policy will typically provide four types of coverage:
It’s important to note that each type of coverage listed above has its own coverage limit, which may or may not be enough to fully pay for expenses related to a covered event. Likewise, each coverage has its own deductible, which you will need to meet before insurance kicks in to pick up the remaining tab.
Do you have other questions related to homeowners insurance? Here are answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions!
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Does home insurance cover structural damage?
Yes. Structural coverage, also called dwelling coverage, is a major component of all standard homeowners insurance policies. It applies to any part of your home considered a part of the dwelling’s structure — such as the windows, roof, ceiling, walls, flooring, foundation, and more.
Of course, in order to be covered by your policy, the damage must be caused by a covered event. If it was caused by a non-covered event, by a lack of maintenance, or just general wear and tear, it likely will not be covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover your roof?
Yes. Your roof is a part of your home’s structure and, as such, any damage it experiences during a covered event will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Some examples of times when roof damage may be covered include:
- Leaks caused by wind or hail damage
- A hole or missing shingles caused by a fallen tree/branch
- Fire or smoke damage
Damage due to the roof’s age, general wear and tear, or neglect, however, will not be covered by your policy and you will need to pay for those repairs yourself.
Does homeowners insurance cover foundation issues?
Yes. As with your roof, your foundation is a part of your home’s structure. This means that any foundation damage caused by a covered event will be covered by your policy’s dwelling coverage.
It’s important to note, though, that some of the most common causes of foundation damage are typically excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies. Foundation damage caused by earthquakes, flooding, landslides, construction mishaps, shifting soil, natural settling of the foundation, and intrusion by tree roots will typically not be covered by the standard policy.
Does homeowners insurance cover electrical?
If your home’s electrical system (wires, outlets, electrical panel, etc.) are damaged during a covered event, it will typically be covered by your policy’s structural coverage. Damage caused by age, improper or lack of maintenance, or faulty workmanship are typically not covered, however.
It’s also important to note that it may be difficult to obtain homeowners insurance if your home has knob-and-tube or aluminum wiring. These wiring methods are considered to be outdated, and carry a higher risk of electrical fire. If you do obtain coverage, it may come at the cost of higher premiums compared to a home with modern, up-to-code wiring.
Does homeowners insurance cover other structures?
Yes. Most standard homeowners insurance policies include other structures coverage, also known as Coverage B. This coverage specifically applies to structures on your property other than your home, such as a detached garage, gazebo, shed, barn, patio, deck, fence, etc.
Generally speaking, any other structures on your property will typically be covered against the same perils as your home. Likewise, they will be subject to the same exclusions.
Does homeowners insurance cover earthquakes?
No. The typical homeowners insurance policy will not automatically provide coverage against damage or destruction caused by earthquakes.
If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, you may want to consider purchasing earthquake insurance, either as a rider on your existing policy, or as a standalone policy. You should also consider other steps you can take to prepare your home for an earthquake.
Does homeowners insurance cover personal property?
Yes. All standard homeowners insurance policies include personal property coverage. This coverage can help you pay to repair or replace items that are damaged or destroyed by a covered event, or which are stolen (see below).
That being said, how much personal property coverage your policy offers will vary, and may not be enough to fully cover the cost to replace a stolen, damaged, or destroyed item — especially expensive items like electronics, art, antiques, or jewelry. If you have many valuable belongings, you can consider purchasing additional personal property coverage to ensure you are adequately protected. Likewise, a scheduled personal property rider can be a great way of insuring specific items against loss.
Does homeowners insurance cover theft?
Yes. If personal belongings are stolen from your home or property, it will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy’s personal property coverage. Items stolen away from your property may also be covered, depending on the terms of your policy.
Personal property coverage against theft is subject to the same limitations discussed above.
Does homeowners insurance cover vehicles in the driveway?
No. Your homeowners insurance policy does not provide coverage to your car or other vehicle, even if it’s sitting in your driveway or garage. Any coverage for the vehicle would be provided by the auto insurance policy you carry for it.
Likewise, your homeowners insurance policy will not cover car theft. That being said, if you have personal belongings in your vehicle and those items are damaged or destroyed, then the personal belongings coverage of your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover them.
Does homeowners insurance cover someone getting hurt on your property?
If a visitor is hurt while on your property, legal and medical bills related to the incident will usually be covered by your homeowners insurance policy — specifically, the liability coverage that is included as a part of your policy.
Liability coverage can help protect you against a wide range of common accidents, including when a visitor:
- Trips and falls on a broken walkway
- Falls due to a lack of railing
- Slips on an unsalted, icy walkway
- Dog bites (in some cases)
It’s important to note that liability insurance only applies to visitors who are injured in your home. If a member of your household is injured due to an accident, liability insurance typically will not kick in. Likewise, liability coverage won’t apply if an injury was intentionally inflicted on the other person — for example, if they are injured during a fight.
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Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
It depends on what caused the water damage.
Generally speaking, if your home experiences water damage due to a covered event — for example, due to a burst pipe or sudden and accidental discharge — it will be covered by your policy.
Water damage caused by flooding is not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. Likewise, water damage caused by a sewer backup, improper installation of an appliance, or lack of maintenance (i.e., plumbing) will not be covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover mold?
It depends on what caused the mold.
If mold was caused by a covered event, then mold removal and remediation may be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. This may include mold caused by a burst pipe or other sudden, accidental discharge of water.
That being said, most homeowners insurance policies have exclusions in place for other common causes of mold. This includes mold caused by flooding, leaking or poorly maintained plumbing, poor ventilation in moist areas of the home, sump pump failure, water backup, improperly sealed windows or doors, and improper installation of appliances.
Does homeowners insurance cover a burst pipe?
Yes. Water damage caused by a burst pipe will typically be covered by your homeowners insurance policy, so long as the discharge was sudden and accidental.
Coverage applies to the damaged plumbing system itself, the other structures affected in your home (floor, carpet, walls, etc.), and personal belongings. Mold and mildew cleanup may also be covered.
Coverage typically does not apply when water damage is caused by:
- Incorrect installation of an appliance (i.e., washing machine)
- Rusted, leaking, or otherwise poorly maintained plumbing
- Negligence (i.e., frozen pipes)
- Sewer backup
Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?
No. Homeowners insurance does not cover damage or destruction caused by flooding. This is true regardless of the source of water. Flooding caused by intense rain, overflowing bodies of water (lake, stream, ocean, etc.), and over-saturated ground are all excluded from the standard homeowners insurance policy.
If you live in a flood zone or are otherwise concerned about the risk of a flood damaging your home, you should consider purchasing flood insurance to ensure you are adequately covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover storm damage?
Storms can cause a lot of damage to your home — and many different types of damage. Some types of storm damage are covered by most homeowners insurance policies, but some are not.
Generally speaking, your homeowners insurance policy will cover storm damage caused by:
- Lightning strike
- Hail and sleet
- The weight of snow and ice on your roof
- Storm-downed trees
If a storm results in flooding, however, that flood damage will not be covered unless you specifically have flood insurance.
Does homeowners insurance cover wind damage?
Yes. Wind damage caused by storms is one of the most common types of claim submitted to insurance companies, and it’s covered by most standard homeowners insurance policies. This is true whether the wind was from a thunderstorm, hailstorm, hurricane, tornado, microburst, Nor’easter, derecho, or other type of storm.
That being said, some policies specifically exclude damage caused by winds. This is more common in regions prone to strong windstorms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. If your policy does not automatically include coverage for wind damage, it may be possible to add a wind damage rider.
Does homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage?
It depends on the type of damage that the hurricane causes. Wind damage and damage by projectile objects will typically be covered, unless it is explicitly excluded from your policy, as will other types of storm damage that may accompany a hurricane (hail, lightning, fallen trees, etc.).
Flood damage caused by a hurricane, however, will not be covered by your policy. Likewise, if flooding leads to sewage backup, that will also not typically be covered.
It’s also important to note that many homeowners insurance policies carry a separate deductible specifically for hurricane damage — especially in areas prone to hurricanes. This deductible is often higher than the deductible you would pay for other types of claims.
Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?
Yes. As with hurricanes, if your home is damaged by a tornado — whether due to winds, projectiles, hail, or lightning strike — that damage will typically be covered unless windstorms are specifically excluded from your policy. Flooding caused by a tornado, however, will not be covered.
There are steps you can take to prepare your home against tornado damage.
Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal?
If a tree falls during a covered event — whether it’s the entire tree, a portion of the tree, or just a branch — and causes damage to your home or a detached structure on your property, removal will usually be covered, up to your policy’s limit. Covered events may include a windstorm, hail storm, lightning strike, and limb collapse caused by the weight of snow and ice, amongst other perils.
If the tree fell due to a covered event, but did not cause damage to your home or other detached structure, then its removal is likely not covered by your policy.
If the tree falls due to an uncovered event, such as a flood or earthquake, then removal will not typically be covered. Likewise, if the tree was dead, rotting, or improperly maintained, removal of the fallen portion is not covered.
Homeowners insurance does not cover the removal of a standing tree. Even if it is deemed to be a hazard (for example, due to its health or size), it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to have the tree cut down and removed.
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Does homeowners insurance cover wildfires?
Whether or not your homeowners insurance policy covers wildfires will depend on the terms of your policy and your carrier.
Damage caused by fire — including wildfires — has traditionally been covered by most homeowners insurance policies. But as the threat of wildfires has grown in recent years, many carriers began excluding wildfire damage from the policies they issue. Others have stopped insuring homes located in areas prone to wildfire damage altogether, or have increased premiums to account for this increased risk.
If wildfires are not specifically excluded from your policy, then you are likely covered. But if you’re concerned, it doesn’t hurt to call your carrier or agent to make sure.
If you live in an area prone to wildfires, there are steps you can take to lower your risk and keep your home safe.
Does homeowners insurance cover animal damage?
It depends on the type of animal.
Most homeowners insurance policies provide structural coverage against damage that is suddenly and unexpectedly caused by a wild animal — for example, a deer breaking your window or a bear damaging your door. Personal property coverage, however, typically does not extend to damage caused by wild animals.
That being said, damage caused by smaller wild animals — such as squirrels, raccoons, other rodents, bats, and woodpeckers — will not typically be covered. That’s because the damage caused by those animals tends to happen slowly over time. Many policies would deem them to be infestations, which are generally not covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?
No. If your home is damaged by termites or other pests — such as carpenter bees, honey bees, carpenter ants, wood-boring beetles, etc. — that damage is not typically covered by homeowners insurance. Preventing insect damage is considered part of normal home maintenance, so it’s important to stay on top of it and to know the signs that you may have an infestation.
How to protect your home from non-covered threats
If you’re worried about the costs you might have to pay to repair your home if you experience a non-covered event, there’s some good news: Most insurance companies offer riders, which offer additional coverage on top of the coverage already provided by your homeowners insurance policy.
You can purchase riders to increase your coverage limits beyond what is included in your base policy. You can also purchase riders to make sure you are covered against specific risks or perils that you would not otherwise have coverage for.
There are many different types of homeowners insurance riders that you can and should consider when insuring your home. Some of the most common include:
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