You wouldn’t think about moving into your dream home without purchasing homeowners insurance. You want to cover your most valuable asset to protect against the costly aftermath of disasters like fires, storms and theft. But you might also be wondering, “What does homeowners insurance cover beyond that?”
Here, we’ll explore where your policy can step in, especially in places you might not expect. This is your go-to guide for surprising things your homeowners insurance covers. We’re highlighting coverages included in all standard homeowners insurance policies, plus some optional additional coverages you may want to add.
Are you ready to learn what kind of things your insurance covers? Some things might surprise you.
Five surprising things your homeowners insurance covers
The average homeowner purchases a home insurance policy to pay rebuilding costs following a natural disaster and to protect their belongings against theft. Because most homeowners have a mortgage, they must carry homeowners insurance to meet their lender’s requirements. Most policies cover much more than the home’s structure, however.
So, what does home insurance cover, exactly? Here are some of the things your policy covers that you might not know about.
When requesting a home insurance quote, the provider likely will ask if you have a dog. That’s because personal liability coverage can help cover legal and medical expenses if your pet nips someone outside your household, like a neighbor or mail carrier.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, nearly nine million dog-bite incidents occur in the United States every year. While homeowners liability coverage can help offset the expenses of a dog bite, insurers usually charge higher premiums to dog owners because households with canines increase their risk of paying claims. You might also pay more if you have a breed that has a statistically high amount of bite incidents.
Most standard homeowners policies cover damages caused by falling objects. So, if an asteroid falls from the sky and crashes into your home, your dwelling coverage likely will cover the damages.
However, read your policy terms carefully to know exactly what types of perils it covers and which ones it excludes. Most standard home insurance policies are HO-3s, which includes most perils, including falling objects. But if you have an HO-1 policy, you could be out of luck.
If you’re wondering what these acronyms mean, we have a brief primer to help.
You may notice “other structures” listed in your home insurance coverage. Other structures coverage pays to repair or replace structures on your property that aren’t attached to your house.
For example, if a drunk driver smashes your privacy fence, you can file a claim through your other structures coverage. Similarly, other structures coverage may cover barns, detached garages, gazebos and sheds.
Hotel expenses and meals after a covered loss
If a fire damages your home, you’ll likely need to find temporary accommodation while a contractor completes repairs. Most standard homeowners policies include “loss of use” coverage, also known as additional living expenses (ALE) coverage. Following a covered loss, you can file a claim through your loss of use coverage to pay for any additional living expenses you incur (up to your policy limits) because you’re displaced. That can include hotel bills and restaurant meals.
Typically, loss of use coverage reimburses you for expenses that exceed your normal costs. For example, if you usually spend $400 per month for groceries but must spend $1,000 in restaurant tabs due to displacement, you can file a $600 claim for meals.
When a guest slips and falls in your home, a court may find you liable for the resulting medical costs. To make matters worse, the victim may sue you for pain and suffering. Typically, the personal liability portion of your homeowners insurance coverage will help pay medical expenses and legal fees, including judgements.
It’s important to understand the limits of your coverage. Many standard home insurance policies include $100,000 to $300,000 in personal liability coverage and some limit medical coverage to $1,000.
Most insurers allow you to increase your liability coverage to a level that fits your needs. If you entertain often, have kids that like to host sleepovers or your home has a potentially dangerous feature, like a swimming pool, you probably need to increase your liability coverage. Some insurers, including Chubb, even write policies with multi-million dollar liability coverage. If you can’t find a homeowners insurance policy with sufficient liability coverage, you can also consider getting a separate umbrella policy.
What else does my homeowners insurance cover?
These are just a few of the surprising things your home insurance covers — but that list is by no means complete.
There’s a reason the question “what does homeowners insurance cover?” is so tricky to answer. Insurers offer all types of optional coverages to provide maximum protection. As a result, your policy might provide you different protections than your neighbor’s.
Here are a few more surprising coverages that you may not know about.
Identity theft (optional)
It’s a hassle when someone steals your identity to commit crimes. Even worse, you can spend countless hours and thousands of dollars trying to restore your credit.
Some insurers include a limited amount of identity theft coverage in standard homeowners policies, but most provide it as an option. For example, Amica Mutual’s optional identity fraud insurance covers up to $15,000 in legal fees, lost wages and notary costs associated with restoring your credit.
Your neighbor’s house (standard, but not always applicable)
Personal liability coverage can get you out of all types of problems. For instance, if a tree in your yard falls on your neighbor’s house, your liability coverage can potentially pay the repair costs. The trick is that you have to be found negligible for not maintaining the tree, resulting in the damage. If the tree limb fell due to a natural cause (like a storm), your neighbor will most likely need to use their own homeowners insurance coverage to pay for the repairs.
Personal liability coverage may also come into play if your child hits a homerun that smashes the window of someone else’s home.
Home office equipment (standard but limited)
Personal property coverage will cover stolen or damaged equipment such as computers, printers and monitors. If you work from home, though, your homeowners personal property coverage might not pay enough to replace the expensive equipment you need to make a living. In fact, most home insurance policies have a cap on how much they’ll pay out to replace business equipment you have at home. Read your policy details to find out if you have enough coverage.
If you don’t, many insurance providers offer optional business equipment coverage, and some provide separate business policies, which you can bundle with your home insurance policy. For example, State Farm sells policies for all types of businesses, like animal care, restaurants and retail shops.
Luggage stolen from a hotel room (standard)
If a thief steals your luggage from a hotel room, most insurers allow you to file a claim through the personal property coverage of your home insurance policy. Some policies also cover personal property damaged in or stolen from commercial storage units.
Clothing and furniture (standard)
Following a covered loss, your homeowners policy can help you replace personal belongings such as appliances, clothing and furniture. Standard homeowners policies limit the amount paid for certain types of property, though, so read your policy details before you assume your antiques and art are covered. For instance, a policy may limit jewelry coverage to $1,500. If you need additional coverage for expensive items, you can add an endorsement (also called a rider) to your policy to specifically protect those items.
Also, find out if your policy pays the actual cash value of personal items or offers replacement cost coverage. Actual cash value policies only pay the depreciated value of your damaged or stolen property, while replacement cost coverage will pay to replace your belongings at current prices. Usually, standard policies only offer actual cash value coverage, but many providers offer optional replacement cost coverage.
Windstorms and hailstorms can quickly cause serious damage to your home’s roof. Luckily, your standard homeowners insurance coverage will help pay to repair or rebuild your home’s roof and other structural elements when damaged by fire, hail, lightning, smoke and other covered natural forces.
Before signing a home insurance contract, understand which perils the policy will cover. HO-2 and HO-3 policies cover the most perils. While some policies claim to provide “all-peril” or “open-peril” coverage, read the exclusions section in the policy’s declaration. For example, most standard home insurance policies exclude damages caused by earthquakes and floods.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best home insurance company?
The best homeowners insurance company for you depends on your house, its location, your coverage needs, your budget and more. All that said, we’ve done quite a bit of research to help you narrow down your options. Check out our guide to the best homeowners insurance companies.
Does homeowners insurance cover structural damage?
Yes. Following a covered loss, your homeowners policy’s dwelling coverage pays to repair or rebuild your home. Most home insurance policies also include other structures coverage, which pays to repair or replace unattached structures on your property such as detached garages, fences and sheds.
Does homeowners insurance cover storage units?
The personal property coverage in most home insurance policies covers items lost, damaged or destroyed in offsite storage units — but policy limits usually apply, and they’re often not enough to cover a full storage unit. Your policy may also cover personal belongings, like cellphones, laptops and luggage while you’re on vacation.
Does homeowners insurance cover injury to owner?
No. While personal liability coverage can help pay the medical costs of guests injured in your home, it does not cover people within your household. If you sustain an injury at home, you’ll need to file a claim through your health insurance policy.
If a fire damages my house, will my home insurance policy pay my living expenses?
Yes, in most cases. Most standard homeowners policies include loss of use coverage, which can help pay expenses such as hotel bills and meals when you’re temporarily displaced from your home by a covered loss. But keep in mind that policy limits apply and your coverage will only pay for the additional costs you incur above your normal expenditures.