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When you’re buying your first home, it’s hard to imagine anything going wrong. But the odds are that you’re in for an unpleasant experience at some point. What does home insurance cover—and not cover? Here’s what you can expect with a standard policy.

What a Standard Policy Covers

The basic policy is called an HO-3. These are the specified situations covered:

Damage To the Home

Your policy will pay to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by:

  • Fire and smoke
  • Windstorms
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Explosions
  • Vandalism and malicious mischief
  • Damage from cars, vehicles, and aircrafts
  • Theft
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Falling objects
  • Explosions

Stolen or Destroyed Belongings

Even if your possessions aren’t in the home, like when you’re traveling, your insurance can reimburse you for their loss. However, insurance companies have dollar limits that may not cover the entire cost. Many homeowners purchase a personal property endorsement or floater to bridge the gap. The items covered include:

  • Furniture
  • Clothes
  • Sports equipment
  • Jewelry
  • Furs
  • Art
  • Collectibles
  • Silverware

What a Standard Policy Doesn’t Cover

Earthquakes

Earthquakes and related movements like sinkholes and land tremors aren’t included in standard policies, but in most states, you can buy coverage for an additional fee.

Floods

You can buy this coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, but it doesn’t come standard with homeowners policies. If you want coverage for the following situations, you’ll need a separate policy:

  • Mudflow
  • Sump pump failure
  • Sewer system overflow
  • Drain backups

Asbestos Removal

Most insurance companies don’t cover asbestos or asbestos-contaminated vermiculite, which are classified as pollutants. If you have a home that was built before 1980, you should make sure it’s all clear, especially before any renovations.

Miscellaneous

The standard HO-3 won’t be any help when it comes to these hazards:

  • Termite and insect damage
  • Bird and rodent damage
  • Rust
  • Rot
  • Mold
  • General wear and tear
  • Smoke from agricultural and industrial operations
  • Spoiled food from power outages
  • Nuclear hazards
  • Effects of war

The tricky part isn’t knowing what home insurance covers—it’s what insurance doesn’t cover. It’s impossible to prepare for all eventualities, but you can do your best by surveying the house’s location and condition before you sign a policy.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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