If you own your house, having it insured is the best way to be financially protected against any catastrophe that might befall the property. A standard homeowners insurance policy covers your house, all attached structures (such as a garage), and personal belongings inside, as well as unattached units on the premises (like a shed). It also provides liability protection against injuries and damages sustained on your property.
Most home insurers include personal property coverage in their policies as standard coverage, which means items like furniture, appliances, electronics, clothes and jewelry are protected from a covered loss, such as fire, theft or severe weather event.
However, if your personal belongings are stored somewhere away from your house, like a self-storage facility, your homeowners insurance policy may not always cover them. To protect belongings kept in a separate storage unit, you may need to purchase additional insurance.
What homeowners insurance covers
Personal property is a broad term that indicates possessions stored inside your house and elsewhere. A standard home insurance policy reimburses you for damaged or stolen items up to the coverage limit. Depending on your insurer and the way your policy is written, your personal belongings will be covered even when you are traveling or staying at a hotel. This includes damage from fire, severe weather events and theft.
Personal property covered by a homeowners insurance policy typically includes:
- Kitchen appliances
- Television and entertainment systems
- Carpets and rugs
- Lawn and gardening equipment
- Trees and plants
Bear in mind that some insurance policies may exclude computers under personal property coverage. Also, if your appliances or electronic gadgets are damaged by power failure, they will not be covered by your standard home insurance policy. Separate insurance is offered for these items.
Home insurance and items in storage
When you have possessions stored off your premises, certain home insurance policies may offer them the same coverage as the belongings inside your house. However, the coverage limit might be far lower than the standard personal property coverage, which is usually based on a percentage of the dwelling coverage amount. If the coverage offered is only a fraction of the value of the stored items, increasing the total dwelling or personal property coverage might help to stretch the limits. However, this will also typically raise your annual premium.
- Off-premises coverage limits: Your belongings kept in a storage unit away from your property fall under the off-premises coverage. This is commonly around 10% of the total personal property coverage limit, often between $1,000 and $5,000. If your storage unit possessions have a higher value, consider raising the total coverage limit of your home insurance policy or get separate storage insurance.
- Theft-only limits: Personal property coverage comes with limits to the amount you are reimbursed in case of theft or burglary. Money, jewelry, watches, collectibles, watercrafts, trampolines and firearms usually have a coverage limit between $1,500 and $2,500, even if the item is worth more than that.
- High-value item limits: To ensure safety, the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) recommends precious possessions should not be placed in a storage unit away from your house. Family heirlooms, antiques, priceless art and jewelry are some high-value items that call for additional protection, such as scheduled property coverage. This endorsement (or rider) is an optional add-on to a home insurance policy to increase the limits on expensive items not included under standard personal property. The additional coverage may not require a deductible, but your insurer will typically require you to get each listed item professionally appraised before applying for the endorsement.
Self-storage facilities often offer insurance for items stored in their units to have you covered in case of theft or damage. Some facilities make insurance mandatory and might recommend their own policies or direct you to a third-party insurer they are affiliated with if you don’t have adequate insurance of your own to cover items in storage.
Storage insurance typically has a limit to the coverage amount and premiums are calculated monthly. Buying insurance from a self-storage facility comes with its own parameters and exceptions, and the rates can be much higher than what standard property coverage costs. The reimbursement is usually only the actual cash value of the damaged items and not the replacement value. As with all insurance coverage, your reimbursement depends on whether or not the loss or damage is covered or excluded in the policy.
What is typically covered
- Water damage
- Mold and mildew
The Triple-I recommends you discuss storage coverage with your insurance professional to determine what is the best coverage option and price.
Other ways to protect items in storage
Even the most secure storage facility is susceptible to dangers that can permanently damage your possessions. Insurance will only help reimburse you for the lost items but some things are irreplaceable and need greater protection against perils.
A few steps to ensure safety of your belongings in a self-storage unit include:
Choosing the right facility: Self-storage facilities are plentiful across the U.S., but not all of them have high standards for protecting their customers. Before you use a storage unit, confirm whether the paperwork you sign leaves the facility blameless in the event of loss or damage of stored items. This requires you to do your own research before choosing a storage facility. Read about the background and history of the company, as well as customer ratings, reviews and complaints. Also, try to find out how the company handles damages and losses, and if any of the complaints have been resolved.
Theft protection: It is important to know if the facility has had any instance of theft or break-in and what measures are in place to prevent them. Are there 24/7 surveillance cameras? What is required to gain entry to the facility? What kind of locks are used on the individual storage units and are there other forms of reinforcement for additional protection? These are some of the important questions you should be asking when deciding on a self-storage facility.
Water and moisture protection: Your belongings are more vulnerable to flooding if they are in a low storage unit. High humidity and moisture can also lead to mold growth, but protection can be added by keeping all items wrapped in plastic. Vapor barriers, desiccant packs and using a climate-controlled storage unit can minimize chances of water damage. If you are in an area that is warm year-round and has high humidity, make sure you select a self-storage facility that is air conditioned.
Fire protection: Every self-storage facility should have fire protection systems and restrictions on storing flammable and combustible items. When looking for a storage facility, this should be one of your key considerations.
Keeping access codes secret: Do not share the access code to your individual storage unit with anyone you don’t trust. Instead of putting it down in writing, save it on your phone with password protection.
Keeping an inventory: Always have video or photographic evidence of the items stored in your unit. This makes it hard for storage facilities to deny blame in case of stolen or missing items.
Placing your possessions in a storage facility is never completely risk-free but certain situations leave you with no other option. When insuring the contents you put in a self-storage unit, your homeowners policy will typically provide greater coverage than the policy you obtain from the storage facility. Raising the limit of your dwelling coverage also increases the limit of your personal property coverage, and for high-value items you can purchase scheduled personal property coverage in the form of an endorsement (or rider).
Remember that your homeowners insurance coverage will only reimburse the value of the lost or damaged items, but will not prevent the peril from taking place. Therefore, if you have irreplaceable possessions, it is wise to store them where they are least susceptible to fire, theft or weather damage.