Key takeaways

  • Loss of use reimburses expenses incurred when your home is uninhabitable after a loss.
  • Elective renovations and general maintenance are not covered by loss of use.
  • Pet boarding, parking fees, moving expenses and laundry services are just a few of the expense loss of use may cover.

If disaster strikes your home, it may render it uninhabitable. If that happens, loss of use coverage can cover some of your expenses. Most homeowners insurance policies include loss of use coverage, but it is important to understand what loss of use is, what the policy covers, and how to use the policy to get reimbursed for expenses. Bankrate breaks down everything you need to know.

What is loss of use coverage?

Also known as additional living expenses (ALE), loss of use coverage is part of a standard homeowners insurance policy. Your policy also lists this protection as Coverage D.

Loss of use coverage pays for essential costs while you aren’t able to live in your home due to a covered claim. Instead of paying out of pocket for things like an extended hotel stay and daily restaurant visits, loss of use coverage is designed to reimburse you for those expenses.

Loss of use coverage only applies when your home is damaged in a covered peril. For example, if your home was severely damaged in a flood, loss of use coverage wouldn’t apply because home insurance doesn’t cover flood damage and flood policies exclude loss of use coverage.

There are also specific limits for this coverage. For example, your policy may only carry up to 30 percent of your policy’s dwelling coverage, which could be up to $60,000 on a $200,000 policy. Be sure to talk to your insurance provider about your policy and what kind of coverage is adequate for your needs.

How does it work?

Say a major portion of your house gets burned down in a wildfire, rendering it uninhabitable for some time. Your homeowner’s policy would cover the cost of the rebuild, as well as any personal belongings that perished in the fire. In addition, your loss of use coverage would help pay for your temporary living expenses, like hotel or Airbnb stays, food, pet boarding, parking fees and more.

Your insurance company may handle your loss of use payment in a few ways. Some insurance companies like Safeco may be able to offer immediate assistance through an advance against your claim’s settlement, while others may help you find and pay for a rental property or other temporary lodging.

In the meantime, you should keep track of all receipts for your normal living expenses so you can be reimbursed by your insurance company later through your claim’s final settlement.

What does loss of use coverage cover?

Loss of use coverage reimburses you for most living expenses to maintain your normal living standard while you’re unable to live in your home. The basic coverages include:

  • Residency expenses such as motels, hotels, rentals or an apartment
  • Expenses associated with moving your items to storage
  • Fuel expenses if extending your work commute
  • Parking fees if you move to a temporary residence that requires it
  • Laundry expenses if you don’t have access to a washer or dryer.
  • Pet boarding fees if you have to use pet boarding while you await repairs.
  • Excess of normal fees for meals (say you normally cook at home but are unable to at your temporary place and have to eat at restaurants instead)

Every insurer offers slightly different coverage types, so check with your insurance provider to see which items they cover under your loss of use policy. You should also find out if there are any limitations, like a maximum benefit amount for temporary living expenses.

Most insurance companies provide loss of use coverage at 10-30 percent of your dwelling’s insured value. So, if your dwelling coverage (or coverage A) is at $300,000, then your loss of use benefits cap between $30,000 and $90,000. However, a few insurers may have unlimited loss of use coverage limits, so check your policy declarations page to see how your insurance applies.

Loss of use coverage for condos

Loss of use coverage works similarly for condo insurance. If your condo unit is damaged and you have to relocate, you would receive additional living expenses coverage through your HO-6, condo policy. To calculate your loss of use coverage limit, some insurance companies may combine your dwelling’s value with your personal property coverages.

Loss of use coverage for rentals

The same coverage applies to renters insurance policies in that the loss of use coverage helps you maintain your standard of living while you wait to move back into your rental. Insurance companies calculate your coverage limits based on a percentage of your personal property coverage.

In other instances, renters insurance companies may pay you a flat amount as outlined in your policy. It’s a good rule of thumb to speak with your insurance provider to learn more about how they calculate your benefit amount.

What does loss of use coverage not cover?

Insurance companies will typically help you pay for most of the expenses related to your temporary living situation. However, loss of use coverage doesn’t cover everything. Most notably, you can only utilize loss of use coverage if your home is damaged by a covered peril.

For example, damage caused by flooding or an earthquake isn’t covered by home insurance. Therefore, loss of use coverage wouldn’t apply if your home was severely damaged by either event. Loss of use coverage also can’t be used for things like elective renovations or general maintenance.

Most insurance companies have a list of excluded expenses. If you have to file a claim, make sure you know what those exclusions are. That way, you can make informed spending decisions, knowing what is and isn’t covered.

How to get reimbursed for additional living expenses

If you have to use your additional living expense coverage, there are some things you can do to expedite the claims process:

  1. Save receipts for all essential expenses. Expenses including rent or hotel bills and moving costs can be covered by your loss of use coverage. Additionally, expenses like eating out at restaurants, boarding your pets, and any other costs that you incur may also be covered. Include receipts to help expedite the claims process.
  2. Check with your property insurer. When you file a claim, ask your insurance company about its claims process. Find out how long it usually takes to process, approve and reimburse your claim.
  3. Begin your claim. Depending on what your insurer offers, you can start to file your claim either online, in person, or over the phone. Most insurance companies have an online portal that allows you to upload relevant documents in a secure manner.
  4. Upload documentation. Most companies allow you to upload any supporting documentation that may be required, such as receipts and pictures.
  5. Make a checklist. Pay attention to any documentation the insurance company requires, and make a checklist of every step, so you don’t miss anything important.

If you forget a step or don’t provide all the required information, your claim could be delayed.

Frequently asked questions

    • Loss of use coverage is included in nearly every home insurance policy, and the cost is already factored into your home insurance premium. Unfortunately, you can’t drop loss of use coverage to lower your rate.
    • Yes, loss of use coverage is included in most homeowners insurance policies, except the HO-1 policy form. In order to use your loss of use coverage, your home must be damaged by a covered peril. If your claim is denied, you can’t utilize your loss of use coverage.
    • A home insurance deductible generally applies when filing a claim, but you do not have a separate deductible for loss of use coverage. The cost of your living expenses will be reimbursed up to your policy’s limit and insurer’s approval of your expenses.
    • If the part of your home you rent out is included in the claim, you may be able to get fair rental value from the loss of use coverage. The fair rental value is the rental income amount you may lose by the house being uninhabitable. There may be exclusions and limitations on your policy, so be sure to speak with your insurance agent about the correct coverage if you rent out a portion of your home.
    • If access to your home is prohibited by a governmental authority, this is included as part of your loss of use coverage. For example, if your neighborhood is affected by a tornado or hurricane, but your home is not affected, you may be prohibited from entering the neighborhood until cleanup efforts can be completed. This differs from additional living expenses coverage, which requires your home to be damaged in a covered loss. With prohibited access, your home is not damaged, but your neighbors’ are. You can still file a claim under your loss of use coverage for expenses you incur staying elsewhere until you are allowed back into the neighborhood.