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The hidden coverages of homeowners insurance

Many basic policies cover extras that policyholders don’t realize

  • 3 min to read
tree on house

UNEXPECTED BENEFITS — Some basic homeowners policies will cover fallen tree debris removal, a coverage some policyholders may not be aware.

Some homeowners may be pleasantly surprised to find that their home insurance policy covers more than they think.

According to Abby Burnett, insurance agent at Hobson Insurance, many basic policies will reimburse homeowners for costs associated with certain events, like fallen tree debris and the loss of refrigerated products caused by an electrical outage. Burnett said homeowners should check with their agents to see if these might be covered.

“There are some things that people don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m going to call my homeowners to claim this,’” she said. “But they are things that are covered under a lot of policies that people don’t know about.”

With fallen tree debris removal, Burnett said she had a lot of claims for this at the beginning of the summer when strong storms knocked down trees, causing them to land on fences, houses, and cars.

In these instances, if fallen tree debris is covered on a policy, the insurance will reimburse the customer for having the tree and its associated debris removed. The only part the customer is responsible for is the stump; that will not be removed.

Another unexpected coverage is on refrigerated products that may be lost due to an outage. During the 2016 tornado when some residents were left without power for days, Burnett said some people found out that their refrigerated and frozen goods weren’t a total loss. They could claim them through their homeowners policy.

“A lot of people don’t know they have it on their policy, but most policies have that, which was a big thing during the last tornado when people lost power for an entire week. There were some farmers that had entire freezers full of meat that they just got,” she said. “So a lot of policies actually have that.”

In addition, a sewer and water backup endorsement likely will be on a homeowners policy, she said. At Hobson Insurance, they specifically add it to policies, unless a customer requests not to have it, due to the number and frequency of incidences of backups in the area.

This endorsement doesn’t cover flood damage, but it covers any backup that comes up through drains.

On the flip side, there are also coverages that some policyholders think they have that they actually don’t. One has to do with siding and roofing. Unless an endorsement is added, a customer may not get their siding or roofing repaired up to par. Following the tornadoes of 2013 and 2016, an endorsement option was introduced in regards to siding and roofing repair.

Typically, when an insurance company goes to replace siding or roofing due to storm damage, they replace the siding or roofing that has been damaged. When some area homes sustained siding damage from recent tornadoes, the colors of the siding were no longer being made, so the damaged siding was replaced with a similar color, leaving the house looking mismatched.

“A lot of people were upset because it just didn’t match,” Burnett said. “It was a huge deal with the insurance companies. They were like, ‘We’re only replacing what’s damaged,’ and they tried to match it as close as possible, but a lot of people didn’t have an exact match.”

Now, homeowners can add an endorsement to their policy called “undamaged siding or roofing,” and it ensures that, in the event of damage, all of the siding or roofing will be replaced, ensuring that a house isn’t left with patches of mismatched siding or roofing.

As for jewelry, Burnett said people don’t often think to schedule expensive items. Most policies, she said, have a jewelry limit of around $1,500. If people own pieces that are more expensive, she said those should be scheduled into the policy to ensure they’re covered.

In addition, the “other structures” portion of a policy covers structures such as sheds and barns, but it only covers a percentage of what the dwelling cost is. Burnett said people often don’t realize that they have the option to increase that amount should they have more expensive structures on their property, such as a pole barn.

In the long run, the insurance agent said she finds the endorsements to be worthwhile for the customers who need them.

“It’s never anything too high, so the coverage is well worth it,” Burnett said.

In addition, there are some discounts that homeowners may not be aware of. For instance, if a homeowners gets a new roof, Burnett said they should call their insurance agent to have that updated on their policy. Other discounts may be offered for having a security system or paying off a mortgage.