insurance

7 freaky home threats: Are you covered?

Highlights
  • Abandoned underground mines can swallow up homes in many states.
  • Most insured homes are covered for damage from falling space stations.
  • Stampeding animals are usually covered but not if they're "domestic."

If you're like most homeowners, you probably don't think about your property insurance very often. It's common to enjoy the security of knowing your insurance company has you covered.

Or does it?

Sure, your basic homeowners' policy will cover you for the run-of-the-mill stuff like fires (the accidental variety, at least). But what if you have the misfortune of suffering a more unusual type of calamity?

7 'freaky' home perils
  1. Flood.
  2. Mine subsidence.
  3. Volcanoes.
  4. Meteors, comets and space debris.
  5. Stampeding animals.
  6. Landslides.
  7. Sinkhole collapse.

In that case, it's important to know whether you have an "open perils" or "named perils" policy. Most homeowners' policies cover your dwelling on an "open perils" basis, sometimes conversely referred to as "named exclusions." With this type of policy, anything not specifically excluded by your policy is covered. A named perils policy is just the opposite: Everything's excluded except what is specifically listed as covered.

Even within those categories, policies can vary widely, depending on your location and the type of coverage you have. So you need to study your policy carefully. Here's a look at some of the more unusual things that could happen to your home, and how your insurance company might react. We'll get some help from Bill Wilson, associate vice president of Education & Research for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

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1. Flood

This may not be considered very "freaky" because it is fairly common. But it's perhaps the most common calamity not covered by a standard policy -- which many homeowners discover the hard way. "Homeowners' policies rarely, if ever, cover flood," says Wilson. "This means surface waters that accumulate from heavy rains; lakes or streams that overflow their banks; wave or wind-driven water and surges common in coastal areas; underground water and springs; sewer and drain backups; and almost any other kind of flooding that doesn't originate from your home's plumbing system. Flood insurance can be purchased from most insurance agents but it is underwritten by the federal government and provided in policies separate from your homeowners insurance." For more information visit the National Flood Insurance Program Web site at FloodSmart.gov.

2. Mine subsidence

Residents of the Pennsylvania village of Drifton got a shock when the ground opened up and swallowed parts of two homes. The village sits atop old abandoned coal mines, so this wasn't as shocking as it sounds (in fact, the same thing had happened on the same block 30 years earlier). Mine subsidence isn't covered by regular insurance -- insurance for this must be obtained through a special program run by the state, at an average cost of around $250 per year. In the Drifton example, one affected property had this insurance; their neighbor did not.

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