When you think ‘home insurance,’ easy-to-read probably doesn’t come to mind. Most policies are confusing, with crazy words like hovercraft and pewterware.
So if you’re asking, what does homeowners insurance cover, exactly? you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to answer the most common Q’s about homeowners insurance in plain English.
What does homeowners insurance cover?
Let’s start with a quick summary: Homeowners insurance includes six types of coverage.
- Dwelling coverage (your home’s structure) – ‘open perils’
- Other structures protection (your driveway, fence, tool shed, etc) – ‘open perils’
- Personal property protection (your stuff) – ‘named perils’
- Loss of Use -This will help with additional living expenses (like hotel bills) if your place becomes uninhabitable due to a peril like a fire, windstorm, etc.
- Liability coverage or personal liability protection insurance refers to bodily injury or property damage to other people (or their stuff) as a result of your actions, at your home, and anywhere else.
- Medical payments can pay for medical bills, under $5,000 in most cases, that happen to guests while at your place.
So what are ‘open perils’ and ‘named perils,’ you ask? Well, let’s start from square one. A ‘peril’ is something that’s covered under your policy.
‘Open perils’ means your insurance company will cover you for anything that happens, unless it’s specifically excluded. Pretty cool, right?
‘Named perils’ means your insurer will cover you for a specific list of 16 bad things (or 15, depending on what state you live in), which are usually these:
So on your standard homeowners insurance policy, your structures (aka, your home, fence, shed, etc) are covered under ‘open perils,’ and your stuff (aka, your phone, laptop, TV, etc) are covered under ‘named perils.’
But of course, there are some bizarre intricacies and exceptions in most insurance policies. So we’re doubling down on these common Q’s about homeowners insurance coverage to set the record straight:
1. Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
2. Does homeowners insurance cover mold?
3. Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
4. Does homeowners insurance cover theft?
5. Does homeowners insurance cover tree damage?
6. Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
7. Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?
8. Does homeowners insurance cover roof repair?
9. How do homeowners insurance deductibles work?
If you’re looking for an answer to a specific question, go ahead and scroll right to that section—or if you’re really in a rush, take a quick glance at the chart below. But if you’d like a broader idea of what your homeowners insurance policy covers, you’ll be an expert by the time you finish this article.
|Event||Usually covered||Sometimes covered||Rarely covered|
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Sometimes – it covers some types of water damage, but not others.
When water damage is covered
Generally, if the cause of the water damage is sudden and accidental, it’s covered by homeowners insurance.
For example, if your dishwasher suddenly goes on the fritz, your pipes burst, or your washing machine supply hose breaks, you’re covered.
Btw, homeowners policy will cover both the structure of your home and your personal belongings in your home if they’re damaged by water. But take note that the thing that causes the damage isn’t covered.
What does that mean? Let’s say your hot water tank bursts, and leaks all over your finished basement. Your household insurance would cover the replacement of your basement, but not the hot water tank.
When water damage isn’t covered
Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage when it stems from:
- Maintenance issues (like a continuous leak)
- Water backup from an outside sewage or drain
- Mold, rot, or corrosion
- A flood
If you’d like flood insurance, you can go ahead and purchase a separate flood policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Does homeowners insurance cover mold?
When mold is covered
Mold is covered only if it’s caused by a covered loss, such as fire, lightning, ice, frozen pipes, etc. The mold has to be hidden in the walls, ceilings, or beneath floors to be covered. Some policies offer mold coverage endorsements, which can extend the coverage.
For example, if your pipe bursts, and that water causes mold, you’re covered. The same applies if an ice dam forms on your roof, causing water to drip into your attic and mold to form.
Take note that these situations are covered if they’re sudden and accidental. So if your pipes burst, and you didn’t do anything about it for a few weeks, that mold won’t be covered due to negligence.
When mold isn’t covered
Cases where mold creeps up over time isn’t covered. So that gross stuff growing in your shower or underneath your sink? You should address it asap because it isn’t covered under your policy. That’d be considered negligence – something that your insurance company won’t cover.
Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
Depends on the cause of the leak!
When roof leaks are covered
Here’s the general rule: Roof leaks are covered when they’re caused by sudden, accidental events (sound familiar?). If your roof leaks because of falling trees, windstorm, hail, vandalism, or weight of ice, sleet or snow, you’re covered.
Let’s say a windstorm blows through, and lifts your roofing shingles on your house, causing rain to leak onto your home. Your homeowners insurance would cover you, since this is a sudden, unexpected occurrence.
Btw – by ‘covered,’ we mean your homeowners insurance will help reimburse you for damages to your home itself, as well as any damages to furniture, appliances, systems, etc. that were caused as a result of the roof leak.
When roof leaks aren’t covered
Generally, roof leaks aren’t covered when they happen because of gradual events, such as:
- Mold, fungus, or wet rot
- Wear and tear/deterioration
- Inadequate maintenance
- Birds, vermin, rodents, insects
Why aren’t these events covered? Well, insurance companies believe people can take steps to prevent roof leaks caused by these events. And like us, roofs need regular maintenance.
So if you’re trying to figure out if your roof leak is covered by homeowners insurance, ask yourself: “Could I have prevented the roof leak?”
The more you show your insurer you maintained your roof and prevented damage, the greater the chance your policy will cover you.
Also, take note: Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover roof leaks that result from flooding or earthquake damage. To protect your home during these events, you’ll need separate flood insurance and earthquake insurance.
If you live in an area prone to flooding (i.e. you own a sump pump or use the word ‘levee’ frequently), check out your community’s flood map and seriously consider getting flood insurance. For more info on flooding, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program has a pretty good Q&A section.
Does homeowners insurance cover tree damage?
It depends on what caused the tree to fall.
When tree damage is covered
Like other things, tree damaged is covered if the cause is sudden and accidental. So if a windstorm causes a healthy tree in your backyard to topple, your homeowners insurance will cover the costs to get you out of this jam.
Bonus: If that same tree was in your neighbor’s backyard, not yours, your homeowners insurance will still cover you.
When tree damage isn’t covered
Let’s say a tree in your backyard wasn’t looking so good. You knew it was rotting, but didn’t do anything about it. Then, a windstorm came about, and totally knocked the tree over, damaging your house. In this scenario, homeowners insurance may not have your back.
Why? Even though windstorm is a covered peril, this situation could have been prevented since the tree’s been rotting for quite a while.
Does homeowners insurance cover theft?
It sure does!
When theft is covered
Homeowners insurance covers theft both inside and outside your home. So if your phone’s stolen in a coffee shop, or someone snatches your bike from your garage, your homeowners insurance policy will cover you.
Take note that homeowners insurance covers both stolen items and structural damage to your home caused by theft. So if a burglar damages your doors or walls (which we hope never happens), you’re covered.
When theft isn’t covered
A few types of items require special attention when it comes to theft: cash, and valuable items.
First off, there’s generally a limit to how much your insurance company can reimburse you for stolen cash – it’s usually around $200. Therefore, not all of your stolen cash may be covered.
Make sure to check your policy so you’re all clear on exactly how much cash is covered.
And if you have valuable items worth over $1,500, such as jewelry, bikes, fine arts, etc, they aren’t covered under your base homeowners insurance policy. But no fret – you can still insure ‘em.
You’ll need to get Extra Coverage for these items, so they’re covered in case of theft (or other ‘named perils’). Bonus: items with Extra Coverage are usually covered for accidental loss and mysterious disappearance as well.
Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
Most of the time.
When dog bites are covered
Homeowners insurance covers you if your dog bites someone inside or outside your home. So if Fido bites his doggy BFF – or your owner BFF – you’re covered.
Bonus: Homeowners insurance also has your back if you or your dog cause damage to other people or property.
When dog bites aren’t covered
There are three exceptions to dog bite coverage:
1. If Buddy bites someone covered under your policy (b/c you can’t make a claim against yourself!)
2. If he has a history of biting
3. If your dog is categorized as ‘high-risk’
Dogs in this category include: Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chows, Great Danes, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Wolf-hybrids.
Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?
When termite damage is covered
If something sudden and accidental happens as a result of termites! So if your building abruptly collapses due to insect or vermin damage completely hidden from view (eek), you’re covered.
When termite damage isn’t covered
In all other cases, termite damage isn’t covered.
Why not? Because termites are usually considered preventable. They don’t arise out of nowhere – homeowners are generally aware of a termite problem before they cause serious damage.
Does homeowners insurance cover roof repair?
When roof repair is covered
Roof damage is typically covered under your policy’s hazard insurance. This includes roof damage to your garage and other structures on your property.
Specifically, your roof is covered for all perils that cause damage, like fire, wind, and hail damage.
So if your roof is damaged by a hail storm (ouch), or a tree that topples onto it during a windstorm, your policy will come to the rescue.
When roof repair isn’t covered
This may sound a bit familiar – roof repair isn’t covered if these things cause damage to your roof:
- Mold, fungus, or wet rot
- Wear and tear/deterioration
- Inadequate maintenance
- Birds, vermin, rodents, insects
And, just like everything else, roof repair isn’t covered if the damage is caused by flooding or earthquake. For these scenarios, you’ll want to purchase a separate policy.
Pro tip: Get your roof inspected every 2 years. And if something happens, wait until your insurance company inspects it so they can assess the damage.
Temporary repairs are covered if you’re trying to prevent further damage from happening, so save your receipts, in a way that doesn’t impact the crime scene (ex. putting a temporary repair on top to prevent further damage).
How do homeowners insurance deductibles work?
Think of a deductible as your participation in the damage or loss. You’re saying, “I commit X dollars to any claim on future losses or damages, and my insurance company will cover the rest.”
When signing up for a homeowners insurance policy, you’ll be asked to choose a deductible. For a homeowners policy, these typically range from $1,000 to $2,500. What you’re choosing here is your participation (the amount subtracted from a claim) in the event that something happens to your stuff.
Here’s how that works if you file a claim:
1. You chose a deductible of $1,000 when you bought your policy
2. Later on, you file a claim for a stolen couch valued at $4,000
3. If the claim is approved, your insurer will pay you $3,000 ($4,000 minus your $1,000 deductible)
4. Keep in mind, this isn’t an annual deductible that you meet—it applies to each claim you file.
The natural follow-up question to this deductible business is: If you’re already paying a monthly premium, why do you still have to participate in the claim? Well, deductibles exist to make you be a bit more careful with your stuff, and keep the cost of policies low for everyone.
So when your claim is approved but you notice there’s $1,000 “missing,” remember, that’s your contribution. You cover the deductible, and the insurance company covers the rest.