When most people think of homeowners insurance, they think of the coverage they’d need if their house burned down. (With the recent fires in Lake County, insurance is a topic of some interest right now.) However, homeowners insurance covers far more than fire damage.
It can also cover structural damage caused by some water issues, a tree falling on your house and any number of other non-maintenance-related disasters. In some cases it will even cover plumbing or wiring, and you can always purchase a home warranty to cover maintenance-related issues for your appliances, heating and air conditioning, and more.
Most renters hear the term “homeowners insurance” and assume it isn’t for them. They’re wrong. While they may not own the structure they’re living in, they have a home where everything except the structure can be covered by a homeowners policy.
Let’s say a pipe bursts and water floods your house and destroys valuable personal property: this is typically covered by homeowners insurance. Should this happen to you, you’ll be really pleased if you’ve already taken the advice I’m about to give: do a walk-through of your home with a video camera and record your belongings with narration that describes each item’s value. If you have receipts for big purchases, capture images of those. Go into the kitchen and open the drawer that holds your grandmother’s silver serving set, and capture a good image of it. If your armoire is solid cherry and 150 years old, mention these details while you’re recording. If you remember details about where you bought expensive items and how much they cost, record it all. Trust me, ten years from now you will not remember those details. If you’re like me, you probably won’t remember them a week from now.
In addition to covering structural damage and damage to your home’s contents, homeowners insurance also includes liability coverage for things like a dog bite or a mailman’s slip and fall. It can even cover you, believe it or not, for things that have nothing to do with your home. For example, if you have a laptop stolen out of your car, the theft is unlikely to be covered by your auto policy, but it may be covered by your homeowners insurance. And if your son decides he’s had enough of the school bully and he knocks out the bully’s front teeth, your homeowners policy may cover that, too. You’ll notice I’m not promising your homeowners insurance covers all these situations—that is because every policy is different, and as painful as it is, you should read the whole policy and ask questions about information you don’t understand before signing the contract.
While I was researching this column, I spoke with Rob McAsey at Mark Davis Insurance. He let me know there’s a new clause in some homeowner policies called the brush warranty. The brush warranty says your insurance company won’t cover your home for wildfire damage if your home is within 100-200 feet of brush vegetation, even if the brush is on someone else’s property. Like I said, read the policy before paying for it.
I’ll share more about homeowners insurance next week. In the meantime, if you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.