At ICNE, Insurance Center of New England, we are always striving to be more than just your insurance agent and to do more than just find you comprehensive and affordable home insurance coverage. Our team is also here to provide you with information about anything and everything related to your homeowners insurance policy.
That’s why the ICNE team decided to compile a list of the most frequently asked questions that we’ve received from MA and CT homeowners just like you. We hope our answers provide you with lots of insight and information about the home insurance process.
Matching your property and budget needs with the right carrier is one way to lower your insurance premium. ICNE has access to a wide variety of top-quality insurance carriers, so we can thoroughly evaluate your needs to uncover not only the right policy for you, but also discounts you might be eligible for, including Bundling your Auto & Home Policies with one insurance carrier. Another way to reduce your costs is to let your insurance professional know if you’ve recently added a security system, deadbolt locks, or smoke detectors, all of which typically will get you a small reduction on your premium. One more way that ICNE can help homeowners like you lower their home insurance premiums is to take a look at the factors that could be affecting your home insurance cost now and/or impact them in the future. For example, adding special features such as a pool or hot tub can drive your insurance rate up, while replacing an old roof, especially if it is made with fire and/or hail resistant materials, can result in a discount from some carriers.
Your home is unique, so it’s only fitting that your home insurance costs are as well. While cost is not one size fits all- it is possible to get an idea of what you may be paying by looking at what factors into the cost of home insurance.
In some cases, your homeowners insurance will pay; for example, if a tree were to fall in a storm and strike an outdoor air conditioning unit, it is typical for an insurance company to accept your claim. What your insurance will not pay for is normal wear-and-tear of home systems like furnaces, water heaters, central air, pool pumps, and solar energy panels. So, should you experience a sudden and accidental mechanical or electrical breakdown of any of this type of equipment, you are going to have to dip into your own wallet for repairs or replacement. However, there is an alternative to shelling out thousands of your own dollars; it’s an endorsement that you can add to your homeowners insurance, called Home Systems and Service Line Protection Coverage. This added protection for your home systems covers the gap in your homeowners insurance for general wear and tear of equipment, including even some computer equipment and permanent appliances. It’s an extremely affordable endorsement to add to your homeowners policy – typically about $35 a year – and it can provide up to $100,000 coverage.
Homeowners insurance does include coverage for your personal belongings, like clothing, sports equipment, and electronics, in case of theft (or destruction by fire, severe weather and other insured disasters). Even if your personal things are not in your home, they are still included in the personal belongings coverage of your homeowners policy, which means if you’re traveling and someone grabs-and-goes with your backpack, you are covered! However, there is a coverage limit for personal belongings and your standard homeowners policy is going to cap coverage based on a percentage of the amount of insurance you have for the structure of your home. To ensure that this coverage is enough should you suffer a total loss and have to replace all personal belongings, you may want to conduct a home inventory. This process will not only help you understand exactly what you have under your roof, but also illuminate those expensive items, like diamond earrings, collectible antiques, or signed sports memorabilia, that may require more protection than what your homeowners policy allows. To insure these higher priced items to their full value and to make sure that you can replace them for losses that are excluded from your standard home insurance policy, like losing your wedding band while swimming in the ocean, you may want to consider a special insurance endorsement called Scheduled Personal Property.
When you make updates to your home, whether it’s a new finished basement, custom-built kitchen cabinets, a total master bathroom remodel, or the perfect outdoor patio, you are making your home a more beautiful, welcoming, and enjoyable version of its original self. You are also potentially increasing the value of your home by thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus, you may also be significantly increasing the cost to repair or replace your home in the event of a fire, severe weather, or other catastrophe. Even home improvements that are less visible to the naked eye, like lowering your home’s energy costs with better insulation and top-tier windows, are potentially going to add dollar signs to your home’s replacement cost. This is why it’s critical, as you make changes to your home, that you keep your insurance agent informed so they can make sure your home insurance policy coverage is adjusted to keep up with the value of the new home you are creating. By keeping your policy up to date, you can have peace of mind that, should something unexpected happen to your home, you can have it rebuilt or repaired with the same workmanship, design and quality of materials used for any renovations.
Water damage accounts for almost one quarter of all homeowners insurance claims, so it’s not surprising to us that our clients would ask this question. Even a small amount of water can cause serious damage to your home, so it is critical to have the proper type and amount of insurance in place to cover the costs of repairs, clean-up, and more. Your standard homeowners insurance will provide coverage for damages caused by burst pipes, wind-driven rain, and resulting from ice dams on your roof. Even water damage caused by a leaky roof is generally covered, especially if it’s due to an accident such as a tree crashing through your attic. However, if the leak is determined to be due to gross negligence on your part, like you ignored a hole in the roof and rain seeped through, then your insurer is most likely not going to pay. In addition, most policies do not cover plumbing issues like sewer and drain backups – and your town will only cover issues with these systems out to the street, not what’s on your property – so you might want to consider investing in a Home Systems Protection and Service Line Coverage endorsement. Adding this extra protection to your homeowners insurance for as little as $35 a year is a no brainer when you consider what it could cost you if raw sewage backed up into your home!
Our clients who have an umbrella insurance policy tell us that it provides them with something extremely valuable – peace of mind. Generally, these homeowners have high risk factors that the ICNE team has identified as putting them at more risk for an accident to happen at their home and/or to be subject to a lawsuit. Really, no homeowner is completely free of this type of exposure, but there are some scenarios that make you more vulnerable, such as having a trampoline, swimming pool, or hot tub, hosting large parties or being a well-known public figure, and having a teenage driver or a dog in the home, to name just a few. While a standard homeowners insurance policy does provide a basic level of liability coverage, it’s important to work with your local insurance agent to understand what that amount is and how likely it is to fully or partially cover situations where you, a family member, or a pet is found to be responsible for personal injury, property damage, or libel/slander. After a thorough risk assessment, you and your agent might agree it’s smart to have supplemental insurance in place by purchasing an umbrella policy.
While the best way to find out whether or not specific items or situations are covered is to work with your local insurance agent, here is a run-through of some of the things that many homeowners probably think are covered, but, in general, are not:
There is also very limited coverage in a standard homeowners policy for things like cash that you keep tucked away in your house for rainy days. And, for those that work out of their home, you probably don’t want to rely on the minimal coverage that home insurance provides for business property losses. Now, if the idea that one or more of these items is not covered by home insurance is unsettling to you, we want you to know that there’s no need to worry. Most of these situations can be covered by a separate policy or an endorsement that can be easily and affordably added to your homeowners policy.
Over the past decade, the U.S. has been hit with some devastating storms that have caused significant flooding and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes. It’s probably not surprising that the financial impact of these flood events has been substantial; we’re talking billions of dollars being spent on repairing and replacing property and belongings of victims of floods. Even a flood event that causes just one inch of water in an average home can cost a homeowner close to $30,000 in repairs. It’s understandable that you might think that damages caused by flooding will be paid for out of your home insurance. However, in reality, your standard homeowners policy does not provide coverage for flood damage, making you responsible for the financial repercussions of any physical damage to your home and any personal property losses in the case of a flood. This is why, at ICNE, we like to have a conversation with all our home insurance clients about their flood risk and the benefits of having a flood insurance policy in place.
We hope that you never have to experience a loss to your home or belongings, but, if you do, it will take some of the stress out of the situation if you know what to expect from the claims process. Should an event like a tree falling on your home, a fire, or a break-in occur, the priority is to make sure you and your loved ones are safe and to call the proper emergency personnel for help. Next, when it’s safe, return to your home and survey your property and belongings for damage. Then, reach out to your insurance carrier to inform them of the situation and they will walk you through the steps to have your claim resolved quickly and effectively.
These home insurance questions are a compilation of the ones that our team has heard most commonly from our clients, and our answers are the typical information we would provide to you as our insured.
However, each and every individual home and homeowner is different, so the best way to make sure that you are getting accurate information about your insurance, and that it is specific to you and your situation, is to contact us. Our team of personal insurance specialists is here to help you with all your home insurance needs and to make sure that everything under your roof is properly protected.
If you are ready for a more personal relationship with local, trusted insurance professionals, call us today at (800) 243-8134 or stop into either of our two convenient Massachusetts offices.