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What is homeowners insurance? Back

Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it.

Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.

Damage caused by most disasters is covered but there are exceptions. The most significant are damage caused by floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance. You must buy two separate policies for flood and earthquake coverage. Maintenance-related problems are the homeowners' responsibility.

What is homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it. Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or mem...
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What is in a standard homeowners insurance policy?
A standard homeowners insurance policy includes four essential types of coverage. They include Coverage for the structure of your home, coverage for your personal belongings and Liability protection. Additional living expenses in the event you are temporarily unable to live in your home because of a fire or other insured disaste...
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Are there different types of policies?
Yes. A person who owns his or her home would have a different policy from someone who rents. Policies also differ on the amount of insurance coverage provided. The different types of homeowners policies are fairly standard throughout the country. However, individual states and companies may offer policies that are slightly diffe...
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What type of insurance do I need for a co-op or condo?
If you have purchased a condo or co-op, the bank will require insurance to protect its investment in your home. You may, however, need more insurance to cover your personal items, liability or fees that may be charged to you regarding shared areas of the building like the lobby. You will need two separate policies to protect you...
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What type of disasters are covered?
Disasters not covered
  • Floods
You can purchase flood coverage directly from your homeowners insurance agent. However, the policy is provided by the Federal Flood Insurance Program ( 800-427-4661).
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Can I own a home without homeowners insurance?
Unlike driving a car, you can legally own a home without homeowners insurance. But, if you have bought your home and financed the purchase with a mortgage, your lender will most likely require you to get homeowners insurance coverage. That’s because lenders need to protect their investment in your home in case your house burns down or is badly damag...
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What is renters insurance?
Renters insurance provides financial protection against the loss or destruction of your possessions when you rent a house or apartment. While your landlord may be sympathetic to a burglary you have experienced or a fire caused by your iron, destruction or loss of your possessions is not usually covered by your landlord’s insurance. Because in most c...
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How do I take a home inventory and why?
Would you be able to remember all the possessions you’ve accumulated over the years if they were destroyed by a fire? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance. Start by making a l...
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What's the difference between cancellation and nonrenewal?
There is a big difference between an insurance company canceling a policy and choosing not to renew it. Insurance companies cannot cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except when:
  • You fail to pay the premium
  • You have committed fraud or made serious misr...
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Do I need separate coverage for jewelry?
A standard homeowners policy includes coverage for jewelry and other precious items such as watches and furs. These items are covered for losses caused by all the perils included in your policy such as fire, windstorm, theft and vandalism.

However, there are special limits of liability for certain items, meaning that the insurer will not p...
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How much homeowners insurance do I need?
You need enough insurance to cover the following:
  • The structure of your home.
  • Your personal possessions.
  • The cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere during repairs.
  • Your liability to others.
The stru...
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Where can I buy insurance?
You can buy insurance through your local insurance agent and through insurance companies that sell through their own employees, over the phone, by mail and over the Internet. Consult your state insurance department, the yellow pages of your phone book, and friends or relatives for the names of insurance companies doing business in your state.

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How do I pick an insurance company?
There are many insurance companies, so choosing between them can be a challenge. Here are the main points to keep in mind when selecting an insurance company:
  • Licensing
    Not every company is licensed to operate in each state. As a general rule, you should buy from a company licensed in yo...
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How much will it cost?
There are many factors an insurance company uses to determine the price of your policy:
  • The square footage of the house and any additional structures.
  • Building costs in your area.
  • Your home's construction, materials and features.
  • Amount of crime in your neighborhood....
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How can I save money?
The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of your house and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some ways to save money.

Shop around
Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three ...
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What information do I need to provide to my agent?
Your agent will ask you what kind of home you own or rent, roughly how much your possessions are worth, and what kind of liability coverage you will need. The agent will also want to know how many people live in your household, what pets you own, and the general condition of your house. You should also tell him if you own any particularly valuable items t...
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What if I can't get coverage?
If you live in a home that is considered "high-risk" or plan to move to a high-risk location, you may have difficulty obtaining an insurance policy. What constitutes high-risk?
  • Your home is located in an area prone to severe weather such as hurricanes, windstorms, tornadoes o...
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How often should I review my policy?
There are four events that should trigger a review of your policy: 1. When your policy comes up for renewal
Don’t just automatically send a check to your insurance company. Take the time to review your coverage and call your agent with any questions or concerns that you may have regarding your homeo...
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Should I purchase an umbrella liability policy?
If you are ever sued, your standard homeowners or auto policy will provide you with some liability coverage, paying for judgements against you and your attorney's fees, up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have an extra layer of liability protection. That's what a personal umbrella liability policy provides. ...
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How do I file a homeowners claim?
If someone has become injured on your property or if a violent storm destroys your home, you will need to file a claim with your insurance company. Remember, a homeowners policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. And there are rules and procedures that you and your insurer must follow. Read your insurance policy to see what your responsib...
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How does the payment process work?
An adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount. It is not the final payment. If you're offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later on, i...
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How is the settlement amount determined?
The settlement amount depends on which type of policy you have. Having inadequate insurance can affect the amount of compensation you get. Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value
Replacement cost provides you with the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one of similar kind and quality witho...
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What can I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?
If you are unsatisfied with how your insurance company is handling your claim, you have several options: Talk to the agent or company representative who sold you the policy
Let the agent know that you are dissatisfied and explain the specifics of your problem.
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What is a public adjuster?
Your insurance company provides an adjuster at no charge to you. Adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company and charge a fee for their services also may contact you. These are known as public adjusters. You may use a public adjuster to help you in settling your claim.

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How can I avoid scams after a disaster?
If your home was destroyed by a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster, be cautious. Unfortunately, there are dishonest service providers that prey on disaster victims. They know that people who have lost their homes and valuables may not be thinking clearly. If you have suffered this type of loss, don’t make any rash deci...
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Dog bite liability
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites per year. These bites cost the property/casualty insurance industry roughly $320 million in 2003. Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. The following tips can help reduce the chances ...
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Surviving severe cold weather
Much of the country periodically experiences severe and sustained cold weather, with snowfalls interspersed with periods of melting and freezing. This can inflict considerable damage on homes. Here are some tips and steps you can take to make insurance losses less likely during extended severe weather.
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Grilling Safety
Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year. But barbecuing can be dangerous, even deadly, if you are not careful. The following tips can make your grilling experience safer:
  • When ready to barbecue, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits hi...
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Home security
Burglars won't find your home an "easy mark" if they are forced to work in the light, if they have to take a lot of time breaking in, or if they can't break in without making a lot of noise. Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break into a home, the burglar will go elsewhere.
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Lawnmower safety
Each year, approximately 75,000 people are injured seriously enough by lawnmowers to require emergency room medical treatment. Only a small percentage of the injuries are caused by mechanical failure; most are the result of human error. Here are some tips to follow before and while mowing your lawn:
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Pool safety
Every year about 43,000 people are injured in and around swimming pools and more than 600 people drown in home or public pools. Half of the pool fatalities occur in the yards of single-family homes. Here are some pool safety tips you should follow:
  1. Never leave small children unsupervised–even for a fe...
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Protecting your house from mold
When it comes to keeping your home mold-free, a strong offense is definitely your best defense. To prevent mold, eliminate moisture from your home and be on the lookout for signs of possible growth, such as musty smells or watermarks on walls and ceilings. Caught early, mold can usually be removed by a thorough cleaning with ble...
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Protecting your bike from theft
The National Bike Registry estimates that one million bicycles are stolen each year in the U.S. and only a small percentage of them are ever recovered. The annual cost to American families is more than $200 million.

The following tips can help lower the risk of having your bike stolen:
Lock your bike.
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Remodeling your home
If you plan to remodel your home, make sure that the house, the contractor and the subcontractors have adequate insurance coverage. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until an addition or extra room is completed to increase the insurance coverage on the structure of your home. If the new addition is destroyed or damaged be...
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Winter weather preparation
Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences on your home. The time to winterize is when the leaves begin to turn and not when the snow begins to fall. Homeowners should take the following precautions: Maintain gutters
Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris fro...
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