Homeowner Insurance Perils

What could happen? Answers to this question might match up with the “perils” that can damage your home and personal property.

Your homeowner insurance policy covers many of the most common perils, including: fire, windstorms and hail, the weight of snow and ice, theft and vandalism. But you especially need to be aware of the excluded perils on your policy. Standard HO-3 homeowner policies don’t cover flood, earthquake, and wear and tear.

  • Covered perils in a homeowner policy refer to events that can damage your property.
  • The most common perils that damage people’s homes and personal property are covered, including: fire, lightning, windstorm/ hail, theft and more.
  • Homeowner policies also list excluded perils, which are not covered, such as: flood, earthquake, mold, maintenance issues, and others.
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What perils are covered in a homeowner policy?

The most common covered perils in a standard homeowner HO-3 policy are as follows:

Fire and smokeLightning strikes
Windstorms and hailExplosion
Vandalism and malicious mischiefDamage from an aircraft, car or vehicle
TheftFalling objects
Weight of ice, snow or sleetWater damage*

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the most frequent cause of damage is wind and hail, followed by freezing-related damage, and water. Depending on where you live, you may be more likely to experience different kinds of losses.

Fire and Smoke:
Your home, other structures, and your personal belongings will be covered for both fire and smoke. Smog or smoke from industrial operations is not covered. The policy will reimburse you for expenses if any covered peril requires you to live outside of your home for a period of time.

Lightning strikes:
A lightning strike to your house that causes damage or starts a fire will be covered, as well as a strike that hits a nearby tree or telephone pole that falls into your house. You will also be reimbursed for damaged electronics due to the surge from a lightning strike.

Windstorms and Hail:
Wind damage, whether from a thunderstorm, tornado or hurricane, is a covered peril in homeowner policies. Wind driven rain, which is water that gets into your home after the exterior is damaged by the storm, is also covered. Take note of a separate deductible on your insurance policy for wind/hail (or hurricane).

Homeowner policies cover explosions in your house from most sources such as pressurized products in cans or propane grill tanks.

Damage from an aircraft, car or vehicle:
Yes, it happens! Moving vehicles and aircraft damage homes from time to time. If this happens to you, it will be covered under your homeowner policy.

Theft, Vandalism & Malicious Mischief:

If a thief breaks into your home and gets away with valuables, you will be reimbursed. But note there are “sublimits” to specific kinds of valuable property, including: jewelry, art and guns.
Common sublimits are $1,500 or $2,500, so if you are a collector you should consider a collector’s insurance policy for some of these items. Damage to your home by vandalism or malicious mischief is covered.

Falling objects:
Gravity-related? It’s covered. Usually this is damage from falling tree branches.

Weight of ice, snow or sleet:
Ever seen someone shoveling their roof? We don’t recommend it—seems risky! But the reason is not surprising to most people living in about 40 of our United States. The weight from ice, snow or sleet can cause roofs to collapse and damage the house and its contents. If this happens to your home, you are covered.

*Water damage:
The “water damage” peril is not an all-encompassing definition in a homeowner policy. The water damage in this peril must be from “accidental discharge” which is a burst pipe or water heater. If your water heater breaks or a pipe bursts and floods the basement, damage to your home and contents is covered. Note, Flooding and Sewer Backup are listed as excluded perils.

What perils are excluded in a homeowner policy?

Your homeowner insurance policy lists specific perils that are not covered. The perils vary from insurer to insurer, but below are some of the most likely perils to be excluded. You should consider this list carefully, because in some cases—especially if you live in an area prone to natural disasters—a separate policy is worth it to cover Earthquake or Flood.

Wear and tearMold
Maintenance issuesInsects or pests & Pet or animal damage

Any of the following are excluded: earthquakes, tremors, landslides, mudslides, subsidence and sinkholes. Your best option for earthquake coverage is most likely through a separate insurance company, under a policy that only protects against the Earthquake peril.

Flooding refers to any water getting into your house from outside through: above-ground
floodwaters, rising water table, and sewer/drain back-up. Coverage for sewer/drain back-up may be purchased through an endorsement to your homeowner policy but the rest will most likely need a separate insurance policy.

Wear & Tear / Maintenance Issues / Insects & Pests:
Issues that can be prevented are generally not considered insurable. The normal wear and tear on parts of a house that eventually lead them to break or become obsolete—like an old roof—are not covered. Inherent defects in the property or things that break due to poor maintenance are also not covered. And damage from termites, other insects, birds, rodent damage or other pests is excluded.

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