Home insurance is more complex than it seems on the surface. As far as claims go, you can file for a wide variety of differing causes. If your home was damaged in a house fire, it’ll mean something very different for your claims process than if your home was damaged in a burglary, or if you get a leak in your roof. We know, that sounds unnecessarily confusing. But in general, home insurance claims can be split into five main types:
- Weather Damage
- Water Damage
- Liability Claims
- Fire Damage
- Roof Damage
First on our list is the most common type of insurance claim: weather. This is a pretty wide category — hurricanes, tornadoes, and hailstorms all fall under weather claims. In fact, wind and hail are the most commonly filed types of claims. Chances are, you’ll have at least one weather incident during your time as a homeowner. But because these are very common claims, the process for filing should be very clearly outlined in your contract.
What’s not covered:
It’s important to remember, though, that weather claims aren’t quite as all-inclusive as one might think. Floods and earthquakes aren’t covered here. So if you live in an area that’s particularly prone to either natural disaster, it may be worth it to take out some extra insurance. And even for things that you think are fully covered, like hurricanes, you’ll need to check your specific contract to be sure. Some insurers will only cover hurricane damage up to a point, or will technically cover it but exclude any flooding that occurs as a result.
Finally, you should remember that almost all insurance policies exclude normal wear-and-tear from their coverage — so you can’t exactly file a home insurance claim if your front door has worn down over time from the rain just because it’s old. Instead, save those weather claims for the extreme events, like a broken window from a hailstorm or the hard winds of a hurricane.
One in four homeowners will experience water damage — it’s no joke. That’s why it’s important to be protected. Water damage comes in many different forms. For example, your home could be harmed during a heavy storm or hurricane (in that case, it’d also fall under a weather claim). Or you could suffer some kind of sewer problem, where a toilet or a drain gets backed up. If an appliance leaks or a pipe suddenly breaks and sprays water all over your home, that would also count as a water-related claim.
The key to water claims: act fast
Homeowners should also be advised that treating water damage quickly is extremely important. You might not think it’s a big deal, but that broken pipe or leak in your roof could lead to mold and other issues faster than you might think. Plus, mold is not just expensive to fix. It could be dangerous for your health.
What’s not covered:
It may seem counterintuitive, but flood damage is not considered a water claim. It usually requires a separate insurance rider. Furthermore, many insurance policies won’t cover water damage if it results from normal wear-and-tear, like everyday rainstorms over the years, old crumbling pipes, or from a longstanding problem that was never fixed. You usually need to notify your insurer pretty quickly.
Home insurance may cover expenses related to injuries people sustain on your property.
You might not know this, but if someone is injured while on your property, you could be liable if the cause had something to do with an unsafe or unmaintained element of your house. For example, if someone slips and falls into your pool because you don’t properly cover and clean it, you could be looking at a potential liability suit. Fortunately, home insurance covers liability, as well as its related expenses. This includes any of the medical or legal bills you might have to pay if someone is accidentally injured in your home.
Liability claims can be split into two main types: dog bites and everything else.
Dog bites are self-explanatory, but the rest of liability claims are a grab bag: maybe someone slipped on an icy sidewalk or tripped on a loose rug on your floor. Or maybe someone got hurt in or around your pool or trampoline. (Note: pools and trampolines are some of the riskiest items you can have in regards to home insurance. If possible, it’s probably better to either avoid them completely or to be very, very careful.) Regardless of the cause, if an accident happens on your property, it’s your responsibility.
Some dog breeds can affect your insurance rate.
Finally, yes, having a dog can affect your insurance rate [HYPERLINK TO DOG ARTICLE]. That’s because dog bites are a huge liability issue — they made up about a third of all liability claims paid out in 2017. If you have a small dog or one from a typically friendly breed, like a labrador, you may not end up paying much more in terms of premiums. But having a dog from a breed with a slightly more dangerous reputation, like a pitbull or a rottweiler, will almost certainly affect your premiums or your coverage. In some cases, home insurers won’t cover dog bites at all. So if you have a dog or plan to have one in the future, this is one area of your contract you should pay special attention to.
Fire claims are both the most expensive kind of claim and the entire reason home insurance was invented in the first place. It makes sense, right? What could possibly be a bigger headache than your entire house burning down in a fire? Furthermore, these claims are generally large and complicated, because the damage doesn’t just stop at the initial fire. Smoke, water, and mold could all damage your property during and after the fact if you have a house fire.
Because fire claims present such a large and complex problem, they can take a long time to resolve. If it’s a big fire and your home is unlivable, you may incur living expenses — temporary lodging, groceries, even medical bills — until your home is fixed and safe to return to. Your home insurance policy almost certainly covers those living expenses, but there may be a cap on the payout or similar caveats to look out for.
The type of roof you have can dramatically affect how much you pay for insurance, or even whether or not you’re able to get it in the first place. Roofs are an expensive component of your house, they require regular maintenance and they cause a lot of claims. If you have a metal, slate or tile roof, you probably won’t have a problem getting insured. Wooden roofs and sometimes asphalt roofs might give insurance companies pause, simply because they’re riskier to insure. If you live in a dry area that’s prone to fires, having a roof made of wooden shingles could make finding insurance very hard.
As mentioned before, most insurers won’t cover normal damage from age. So if your roof develops a leak over time or if you fail to maintain it properly, it’ll likely be on you to replace or repair it. On the other hand, if your roof is damaged from fire, a windstorm, or hail, filing a claim might be a good idea.