When it comes to homeowners insurance, typical policies cover such hazards as fire, vandalism, and lightning strikes.
And while every policy is different, there are also a variety of surprising or unusual items and accidents that your coverage provider may very well foot the bill for. Everything from hitting someone with a golf ball when enjoying a day on the greens to the costs associated with identity theft could be part of your plan.
Unfortunately, few consumers understand the full scope of their coverage. A study from the Insurance Information Institute found that while consumers understand the major areas that their house insurance covers, they often have gaps in their knowledge about policies.
“Consumers can—and should—educate themselves about their coverage, recognize that they may have gaps in their coverage and seek guidance from an insurance professional when they purchase or renew a policy,” states the report.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the lesser known items and accidents that home insurance often covers.
Damage Caused by Wild Animals
Few people relish the idea of coming home to an uninvited furry guest, but it’s been known to happen on occasion, particularly in areas with dense deer or bear populations, says Christopher O’Rourke, a vice president of property claims with Mercury Insurance.
“Bears, in particular, are resourceful and can enter homes through open windows or by manipulating a door handle simply following the scent of food, so be sure to keep windows and doors closed and locked,” said O’Rourke.
The good news is that any damages an animal may cause while in your home are covered by your homeowners insurance policy, O’Rourke added.
Golf Injuries and Damage
Do you live on or near a golf course? Those who have experienced broken windows, roof damage, or divots to exterior walls caused by stray shots can expect to have such damage covered by a home insurance policy, said O’Rourke.
“Also, many recreational golfers are admitted to emergency rooms each year after accidentally being hit by a golf ball or flying club head,” O’Rourke added. “If you’re the golfer with the faulty swing in one of these scenarios, your homeowners, condo owners, or renters insurance policy will cover the cost of injuries or property damage.”
Property Loss at College
For those who have children living away at college it may be helpful to know that your home insurance policy has them covered – at least when it comes to items that are stolen or damaged.
This typically applies to a child or other immediate family member under the age of 24, explained Jeff Snyder, vice president of insurance for Matic, a digital homeowners insurance marketplace.
“This coverage can come in handy when an expensive laptop goes missing from a dorm,” said Snyder, pointing out that liability insurance is also automatically extended on your policy to cover your child while away at school.
“This protects your child from any non-criminal property or medical damages they could be liable for,” Snyder continued. “Knowing you have this protection can help you sleep easier at night. Check with your insurance carrier prior to sending your child off to college to make sure they have adequate coverage.”
Airlines are notorious for losing luggage. In October 2018, the most recent data available, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 132,187 mishandled baggage claims.
And of course, flying isn’t the only travel related instance in which your luggage may get lost or stolen. As it turns out, your home insurance may come in handy in such situations.
“If your luggage or other property is stolen, lost, or damaged while on a trip, this may actually be covered under your homeowners insurance policy,” Snyder explained. “Most policies offer protection for your belongings away from your property.”
Planning on moving to Hawaii or any other area known to have active volcanoes? The good news is your home insurance has your back.
“Although homeowners insurance policies do not cover you for a flood or earthquake, most policies will cover damage caused by a volcanic eruption,” said Snyder.
We all love our pets. But the reality is, sometimes those pets can get you into trouble. Christopher Earley, an attorney who has been handling homeowners insurance claims for 15 years, says many people are not aware that home policies will cover dog bites.
“For example, if you own a dog that bites someone, and that person is injured as a result, your homeowners coverage will be triggered if a claim is made. The dog bite does not have to occur on your property for homeowners coverage to apply,” Earley explained.
Almost 90 million dogs are owned as pets in this country and 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also points out that nearly one in five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners and renters insurance policies generally cover dog bite legal expenses up to the liability limits, which are typically $100,000 to $300,000. In the event that a claim exceeds such limits, it is the dog owner who will be responsible for remaining charges.
But do your homework. Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs that are viewed as more dangerous, including pit bulls.
DIY Projects Gone Awry
Some home improvement projects are best left to the professionals. Whether it’s replacing kitchen appliances or expanding structures on your property, watching instructional YouTube videos and then tackling the project yourself isn’t always the best approach, said O’Rourke.
Many losses associated with such projects are covered, said O’Rourke. But he suggests checking with your insurance company before embarking on any planned remodeling to be sure the coverage is adequate.
If a houseguest is injured while visiting, your homeowners insurance may provide coverage. The coverage applies even if you were not the one at fault for the injury, said Christi Houser, an agency manager for Country Financial in Clackamas, Oregon.
“For example, if the insured is hosting a slumber party and the kids get rambunctious resulting in a fall off the bed and a broken arm, the homeowners insurance policy may pay for expenses related to that injury with no deductible,” Houser explained. “Most polices come with a minimal limit, but more can always be purchased. The homeowner should reach out to their agent to determine how much coverage they have and consider increasing it, especially if they have children, pets, or invite guests over often.”
Additional Living Expenses
This little-known category involves expenses incurred should you have to vacate your home for some reason. Additional living expenses pays the extra cost of a place to live if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered claim, said Houser.
“This coverage generally includes the extra cost of “other living expenses” such as eating out at restaurants or having laundry done, which you would not have incurred had you not had the covered loss,” Houser explained.
Items in a Storage Unit
The next time you sign up to rent a storage unit, don’t buy the insurance policy they often try to sell you to make extra money each month. Your home insurance has you covered, says Kirby McClanahan, agency manager for Country Financial in Seattle.
“Many people might not realize that their personal property in a storage unit has coverage from a homeowners policy,” said McClanahan “A lot of storage units like to sell ‘extra insurance’ for contents in the storage unit, but personal property at a storage unit is typically covered as if it was in your home.”
Objects Falling from the Sky
One last item worth noting: While it’s highly unlikely that a meteorite, defunct satellite, or other piece of space debris will come hurtling into your home any time soon, your insurance policy will indeed cover the damage if it does, said O’Rourke. Good to know right?
Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. She has worked for some of the nation’s best-known news organizations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune.