Surprising Stuff that Is NOT Covered by Basic Home Insurance
FACT: Nearly 25 percent of homeowners have never read their insurance policies. And while we certainly understand why the ISO HO series is not best-seller material, we do believe everyone who owns property should carefully review the terms and coverages they pay for. In many cases, big-time gaps exist. And as you’ll see below, optional coverages can often fill these gaps if you take the time to discuss them with an agent.
Here are just a few examples of surprising stuff basic home insurance doesn’t cover:
Fallen Trees (In Many Cases)
Tree damage can happen any time during the year. It’s important to be ready for the high winds and precipitation that can lead to fallen branches or completely unrooted trees. Part of being prepared means knowing what would happen if one of your mature trees landed on your house, your neighbor’s garage, your driveway, etc. (Hint: it depends on what caused the tree to fall.) You should also assess the trees around your property seasonally, looking for signs of disease or instability. Surprisingly, insurance won’t always step in to help you pay for tree damage or tree removal. Here’s more info to answer the question: does insurance cover tree damage? If you have concerns about tree damage, contact us at 508.339.2951. Some carriers have an endorsement that offers increased coverage for the removal of fallen trees.
While there are some exceptions to the rule, most companies will not insure your home if you have a trampoline in the yard. If you already have home insurance and you buy a trampoline after the fact, be advised that the company will likely catch on as part of its renewal application process and/or periodic inspection—at which point your policy would be non-renewed.
If a trampoline is in your family’s future, we recommend calling us beforehand to make sure you know the terms and potential costs involved. Here at C&S, we work with at least three carriers who do allow trampolines on your property, provided there is safety netting.
A significant number of people assume that flood insurance is part of a basic homeowner’s policy. Except that it isn’t. As a result, nearly three-quarters of folks surveyed lack proper flood insurance coverage. This means they have no protection against rising water or flooding (e.g. seepage of underground water into a home, leaky roofs, and fallen trees from saturated soil). If you’re concerned about water damage after heavy rains or sudden thaw, you need to purchase flood insurance separately. We recommend at least asking your agent about flood insurance in Massachusetts. It never hurts to get a quote.
Most homeowners aren’t aware that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of underground pipes that connect their homes to the town sewer main (usually located under the street). Lots of things can go wrong with these pipes in the short distance they run beneath your yard. Tree roots, ancient piping materials, combined lines for storm water and sewage… All of these are potential causes of sewer backup. And in fact, the Civil Engineering Research Foundation reports that the number of backed-up sewers is increasing at a rate of about 3 percent annually. Meanwhile, damage caused by sewer backup (ruined flooring, electrical, drywall, etc.) is NOT covered by a standard home insurance policy. Ask your agent about adding an endorsement, so you’re prepared to clean and restore your basement if your pipes ever back up. Be careful, too, about settling for an endorsement limit of $5,000 or so. Sewer backup damage typically costs between $10,000 to $80,000 to repair. To bridge this gap, ask your agent about protection in the tens of thousands versus baseline endorsement coverage.
Home insurance is designed to protect you from the forces you can’t predict or control—e.g. a fire or a tornado tearing through your neighborhood. Termites, on the other hand, are considered preventable. According to the insurance companies, they’re a risk every homeowner should be addressing as part of routine home maintenance and repair. Ditto for mice, rats, squirrels in the attic, etc. Here’s more info on termites in Massachusetts and what you can do to keep them away from your property.
Full-Time Babysitter Injuries
If a guest in your home falls down the stairs or slips in your driveway, your home insurance will probably step in to cover your personal liability. But, when it comes to a regularly-scheduled babysitter or nanny—i.e. anyone you employ for 16 hours per week or more (in Massachusetts)—you may be looking at a serious coverage gap. That’s because this person would be considered an employee, not a guest (and you would be considered an employer). In this case, workers’ compensation insurance is required. Here’s more info on nanny insurance (a.k.a. workers’ comp for nannies).
Have we inspired you to take a closer look at your basic home insurance policy? Do you have questions about other common gaps—like personal property limits, replacement cost value, or lack of umbrella coverage? Call our team today: 508.339.2951. We’re truly happy to explain the little (but important!) details.