Home insurance for disasters
What disasters are covered?
There are always slight differences between policies as companies assess and describe risks differently. So the only way to be sure exactly what types of disaster are covered in any given home insurance policy is to read the small print. In some cases, this will be confusing. Some companies do not believe in being completely straightforward when it comes to defining the disasters covered. So what follows is a broad generalization as to coverage trends. Most policies cover the damage caused by fire and explosion such as those caused when gas escapes. Weather perils include wind and rain, lightning strikes, and losses caused by ice, hail and snow during the winter months.
Water damage vs. flooding
This is a difficult area. Most insurers now exclude flood damage in all lower lying areas. There’s a federal National Flood Insurance Program and the private sector leaves the liability to government because it has the money and resources to take preventive action. This may be by draining the area or installing levees to protect areas where there is sufficient housing. But in areas not usually affected by flooding, the standard policy can cover the possibility of water damage when snow melts or a local stream unexpectedly overflows its banks. Within the home, you are usually covered against the escape of water from the plumbing system. This can be caused by ice or from the escape of water from a heating or air-conditioning system.
Sewers The standard home insurance policy excludes liability if the sewers backup during heavy rain. More importantly, this is not covered under flood damage. It’s cover you usually have to pay for separately. In this, remember you are responsible for the maintenance of the pipe between the main drain in the street and your own home. If the leak is caused in this section of pipe, there’s no claim because it has been caused by your failure to maintain.
Almost all home insurance policies exclude damage caused by earthquakes, land and mudslides, sinkholes and other problems caused by the local geology. In areas where the land is potentially dangerous, the state will provide some cover. But, as in the policy provided by the California Earthquake Authority, there’s a high deductible. People who know the land but still decide to live there must carry a high part of the risk.