By Samantha Alexander
If you’re like many homeowners, you bought your home insurance policy, got standard coverage and haven’t given it another thought. Unfortunately, that type of thinking could lead to gaps in your coverage.
A standard homeowners policy offers coverage for a wide variety of perils — theft, vandalism, fire, wind, lightning and ice, among others — but not for everything. Here are six situations where you need to bolster your policy to get help.
Mold in your home is bad news. It can cause major health problems for you and your family, and can even make your house uninhabitable. Insurance providers handle mold in a variety of ways. Some limit coverage for damage caused by mold, while others don’t cover mold at all.
Every state except Arkansas, New York, North Carolina and Virginia has adopted an ISO mold limitation for homeowners insurance coverage, which allows insurers to exclude coverage unless the condition results from a covered peril. For example, if the water from a burst pipe in your home causes mold, your insurer might cover it.
The solution: If you find out that you aren’t sufficiently covered for mold, you can purchase a separate rider to cover mold in your home.
From mice and rats to termites and bed bugs, standard home insurance policies do not cover damage from pests. That means if a rat chews through your electrical wiring or termites destroy the wood support for your roof, you’re on your own.
The best way to tackle this issue is through prevention. Keep an eye out for signs of pests around your property. If you see something suspicious, call an exterminator before the problem gets out of control.
The solution: Schedule annual termite inspections. By the time you see damage, it could be too late.
Backed-up sewers can wreak havoc on a home, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Most agents will ask you about this coverage when you’re buying a home insurance policy, but many consumers ignore the topic.
The solution: Add this coverage to your policy — it generally only tacks $40-$50 onto your premium, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
That’s right, standard home insurance policies do not provide coverage for flood damage. For flood coverage, homeowners must purchase a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.
While many mortgage lenders require flood coverage as a loan condition, homeowners in moderate- to low-risk flood zones have the option to forgo it altogether.
Before you decide to take a chance, you should know that 25 percent of all NFIP claims come from people outside of mapped high-risk flood areas.
The solution: Purchase a flood insurance policy; they start at as little as $129 a year in low-risk areas.
When the earth shakes, don’t expect your home insurance provider to pick up the tab on damage to your home. Earth movement or earthquakes are not covered by standard home insurance. Homeowners who live in shaky parts of the country should see if their insurer offers a rider on their current homeowners policy, or search for a separate policy all together.
The solution: Add earthquake insurance — the cost varies widely according to the risk in your region.
Common in states like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, sinkholes can cause cracks in walls, floors and even in your home’s foundation. However, sinkholes are not covered by standard home insurance. Sinkholes are defined as earth movement and, therefore, would fall under earthquake coverage.
The solution: Add earthquake coverage. In some states, insurers offer specific coverage for sinkholes, but you should talk to your insurer to see if it’s an option.
If you aren’t sure what’s covered by your specific home insurance policy, call your provider and review your coverage with a licensed agent. An agent can not only help you better understand your policy, but also assist you in adding coverage if necessary.