Homeowners Insurance: What Does and Doesn’t It Cover?

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated January 13, 2022
The exterior of a house with a garden
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Homeowners insurance covers structures, possessions, and liability on your property.

  • Some natural disasters, like earthquakes or floods, aren’t generally covered.

  • Coverage for other items like tree removal or HVAC systems depends on the policy.

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You bought your first home and purchased homeowners insurance to protect it. If anything happens, you should be covered, right? Unfortunately, no. While homeowners insurance does protect against many calamities, there’s a list of exclusions that could leave you high and dry if you don’t get a supplemental policy. Here’s what homeowners insurance does and doesn’t cover.

What Homeowners Insurance Covers

It’s essential to understand your homeowners insurance policy so you’re clear on what’s covered. Although there are some exclusions that homeowners insurance policies have, many things are covered to give you some peace of mind. 

Structure

The main item homeowners insurance covers is your home, but more specifically, the structure of your home. This means if your home is damaged by a fire, hail, lightning, or other disaster, your insurance will pay to rebuild a portion of your home, with the amount specified in the policy.

You may see a line on your homeowners policy referencing “other structures'' coverage. Other structures are detached structures on your property, like a garage or toolshed.

Personal Property

The belongings in your home, such as your electronics, furniture, and other items, are covered under your homeowners policy. In the event of a theft or fire, your policy will pay to replace those items. However, pay attention to the amount covered in your policy—some are written for actual cash value and some pay a percentage.

Injury (Liability)

Suppose someone gets injured on your property, such as falling down the stairs or slipping on ice. In that case, your homeowners policy will usually cover a percentage of the medical bills. Using an umbrella policy (which is like an add-on), you can sometimes increase the percentage of coverage if you don’t feel there’s enough.

Vandalism

If your home gets vandalized, your homeowners insurance policy will cover the cost to fix it. This applies even if your home is unoccupied when the vandalism occurs, but not if you leave your home vacant for an extended period of time, which is usually specified in the policy.

Additional Living Expenses

If something happens to your home, like a house fire, and you have to stay in a hotel for a period, your policy will typically cover hotel bills, restaurant fees, and other expenses. The amount of coverage varies from policy to policy, so read yours thoroughly if you’re unsure.

What Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover

A family relaxing in the living room
Photo: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images

While homeowners insurance will reimburse for damage to your home and belongings caused by certain calamities, there are specific exceptions to many policies. 

Flooding

Most homeowners policies have a clause about covering damage due to an “act of nature.” However, most policies also exclude flooding from the list of events they’ll cover. If you live in an area that’s a flood risk, you can get insurance through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. Just 1 inch of water can cause up to $25,000 worth of damage, so keeping your home covered is definitely worth it.

Earthquakes

Earthquake coverage isn’t generally covered in a standard homeowners policy. You need to obtain a separate policy to insure your home, specifically in the event of an earthquake, which is very important if you live in the handful of states where earthquakes are a real danger. 

Sewer Backups

Sewer backups can happen for several reasons, like tree roots growing into the pipes, outdated systems, and blockages. Most policies don’t cover the damage caused when sewers get backed up.

Jewelry, Fine Art, Collectibles, and Cash

Your homeowners insurance policy will account for a certain amount of your personal belongings. However, most policies don’t cover expensive jewelry, collectibles, or more than $200 of cash. If you have expensive jewelry, art, or collectibles in your home, get separate insurance policies so you don’t lose their value in the event of a burglary or weather event.

Simultaneous Events

Homeowners insurance policies cover weather events, such as rain, wind, hail, and so on. However, if your home should experience flooding and hail damage at the same time, for example, your policy might not cover either one. Essentially, a combination of causes can void your policy in some cases. In insurance terms, this is an “anti-concurrent causation,” so talk to your agent if you see that phrase in your policy.

Other Things That Aren’t Covered

There’s a pretty extensive list of items and events that aren’t covered under homeowners insurance policies, including: 

  • Maintenance

  • Trampolines and treehouses

  • Pools

  • Vandalism while vacant

  • Car damage

  • Government action

  • Nuclear accident

  • Intentional neglect

  • Termites

What’s Sometimes Covered (Depending on the Policy)

Depending on the type of policy you have, you may have coverage for the following items: 

  • Dog bites

  • Mold

  • Roof leaks

  • Water damage

  • Plumbing

  • Tree removal

  • HVAC system

  • Foundation repair

  • Fences

It’s best to get to know your homeowners insurance and not assume anything about your policy. If you have questions or are unsure about your specific coverage, check your policy or talk with your agent.

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