Ask the average homeowner what their property insurance covers and they will probably say “not much”. All too often homeowners make claims against their property insurance for common occurrences that simply aren’t covered by the policy.
There are many things covered by property insurance: fire, lightning, explosion, smoke, windstorm, hail, riot, civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles, vandalism, sprinkler leakage, sinkhole collapse, volcanic action, falling objects; weight of snow, ice, or sleet; water damage (in the form of leakage from appliances); and collapse from specified causes (unless, of course, any of these are specifically excluded).
However, there are some specific exclusions you should be aware of since claims for any of these will not be covered under your policy.
Vermin & Animals
The specific property exclusion in the Homeowners 3 – Special Form (HO3) policy form looks like this:
Vermin includes lice, fleas, roaches, bed bugs, and rodents. Damage or infestation by these pests is not a covered peril under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Damage to the home and subsequent repair and treatment of the home would be an out-of-pocket expense.
So what is considered a rodent? According to Wikipedia, the most well-known rodents are mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and capybaras so damage by these would not be covered.
What about skunks, bats or raccoons? None of these are considered insects or rodents, so coverage would most likely apply to damage made by these creatures. However, check with your broker or insurance policy for a complete definition.
As for part (h) – “Animals owned or kept by an ‘insured’” this means any animal owned or kept by anyone who could be considered an insured on the policy, including a spouse or family members living in the home. This includes all varieties of pets such as dogs, cats, snakes, pot-bellied pigs, etc. If they damage the home, there is no coverage for property damage under the policy.
Wear & Tear
The property exclusion in the HO3 for wear and tear looks like this:
If parts of the home suffer damage due to wear and tear or deterioration, there is no coverage on the policy. Parts of the home will naturally deteriorate over time with and without proper care and maintenance. A home warranty company or regular maintenance are the best way to prevent or handle this sort of damage.
Flood & Earthquake
It should come as no surprise that these items are not included in a standard homeowners policy, but some policyholders are still caught by surprise. Flood and earthquake insurance are almost always excluded and written as separate policies.
Flood can be written through the National Flood Insurance Program or private insurers. Earthquake coverage may be included by endorsement (rider) or written on a separate Difference in Conditions policy.
When purchasing or renewing homeowners insurance, please be sure to review all exclusions with your broker. While some coverage can be added back as an endorsement for an additional premium, others may not be covered at all.