Homeowners are always being advised to update their property insurance annually because any home alteration or lifestyle change, such as marriage or divorce, can affect the amount of coverage needed. While it is important to complete that yearly review, it is equally important to know what questions you should ask your agent to ensure you have the right coverage for your circumstances.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are three key questions you should always ask:
1. Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home? – Buying just enough insurance to meet your mortgage lender’s requirements could mean that you are inadequately covered should you need to rebuild your home at current prices. To have real protection, you need to consider the following types of coverage:
§ Replacement Cost Policy – A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality.
§ Extended Replacement Cost Policy – This extends your coverage another 20 percent or more above your stated policy limits. This additional insurance can be extremely important if your home is one of many damaged in a disaster, because a widespread disaster can result in increased costs for building materials and labor.
§ Inflation Guard – This coverage automatically adjusts the policy limits for rebuilding costs as construction costs rise.
§ Ordinance or Law coverage – If your home is badly damaged and requires rebuilding under new building codes, ordinance or law coverage will pay a specific amount toward any additional costs involved in meeting the new code requirements.
§ Water Backup – This coverage insures your property for damage from sewer or drain backup.
§ Flood Insurance – Standard home insurance policies do not include coverage for flooding. Flood insurance is available through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (http://www.floodsmart.gov), but can be purchased from the same agent who provides your homeowner’s insurance. Make sure to purchase flood insurance for the structure of your house, as well as for the contents.
2. Do I have enough insurance to replace my possessions? – Most insurers provide coverage for personal possessions equal to 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount of insurance on the dwelling. The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory. A home inventory is a list of everything you own and the estimated cost to replace these items if they were stolen or destroyed.
You can insure your possessions in one of two ways:
a. Cash Value Policy – This coverage pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation.
b. Replacement Cost Policy – This coverage pays the full cost of replacing your belongings at current prices.
3. Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets? – Homeowner’s insurance provides you with basic liability coverage. This protects you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you, your family, or your pets may cause to other people. Liability insurance pays for the cost of your legal defense and for any damages a court rules you must pay, up to the stated limits of your policy. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance. If the standard liability coverage isn’t sufficient, you may need an excess liability policy, which provides additional coverage over and above what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.