A Home Insurance Guide For Multigenerational Families During Covid-19
In 1940, about one-quarter of the U.S. population lived in homes with three or more generations of their family, forming what is known as a “multigenerational home.” But after World War II, the significant expansion of suburban housing developments and the concept of the “nuclear family” took hold. At that time, it became customary for children to move out of the home after reaching adulthood and for older relatives to move into assisted living communities. In fact, by 1980, just 12% of Americans lived in a household with three or more generations.
However, by 2016, that number increased to include one in five Americans stating they lived in a multigenerational household. There are two key reasons for this change. First, economic factors have played a substantial role. Many adult children with families of their own are moving back into their parents’ homes because of their difficulties accessing childcare and rising rent and mortgage costs.
Similarly, many senior parents began moving in with their children because of the skyrocketing costs of eldercare. For example, in 2019, the average cost of an assisted living community in the U.S. was $4,000 per month, with cost reaching $9,266 in some states.
Meanwhile, health risks attributed to in-home and nursing home care during the pandemic have also forced many families to move older parents back home for safety.
These changes have significant implications for home insurance. If you have multiple generations living under one roof, it may be time to reevaluate your coverage. Whether you’re forming a multigenerational home now or looking for new ways to protect your current extended family living with you, this guide will help you navigate the important steps involved in obtaining an adequate and dependable homeowners insurance policy.
What does homeowners insurance typically cover?
A standard homeowners insurance policy covers three things:
- Personal liability
- Goods and personal property
Liability coverage provides financial protection if someone who doesn’t live with you is injured on your property. For example, if someone slips and falls in your kitchen, they may incur medical costs due to bodily injury. Your insurance should help cover their medical costs, or legal expenses if they decide to sue you.
In some cases, liability coverage can even help you pay for damages you cause to someone else’s property.
Personal property protection provides financial protection for the personal property you keep in your home—including furniture, home electronics or appliances. If any of these items are stolen or damaged in a fire, you could be compensated for their loss. You can also extend your coverage to cover expensive items like jewelry.
Structural protection provides coverage for damages to your home’s structures, such as the foundation or roof. You can also cover other structures on your property. If you have a garage or shed, make sure you have them covered with homeowners insurance.
How does a multigenerational home impact your home insurance policy?
If you’re taking steps to move your senior parents or adult children into your home, you’ll need to revisit your homeowners insurance policy. New in-home assets, such as your adult child’s furniture, may require additional coverage.
It’s a good idea to inform your insurer if your senior parents or adult children are moving in too. In most cases, they’ll be covered under your policy if they are a member of your family. However, their presence may change some of the risks involved in your insurance policy.
For example, if your senior parents are living with you, they may require in-home nursing care. Because individuals outside of your family will be regularly going in and out of your home, you may wish to expand your liability coverage if they injure themselves on your property.
You also may be considering making renovations to your home to accommodate your expanding household. Keep in mind that some updates (i.e., roof replacements, security system installation, etc.) can provide discounts on your homeowners insurance policy and could reduce your rates.
How should your policy change?
In a multigenerational home, there are three changes you should consider making to your homeowners insurance policy:
- Increasing your liability coverage.
- Obtaining coverage for valuable personal items
- Making renovations to improve the safety of your home or to add space for additional family members.
Renovations could also help you save on your insurance premiums in the long run.
Coverage for valuable personal items
When multiple generations live under the same roof, the number of valuables in the household tends to increase. Family heirlooms, jewelry, art and expensive electronics like computers and televisions are just a few of the items you may wish to cover under your insurance policy.
Your first step should be to conduct a home inventory and gain an appraisal of all your assets. This should give you an understanding of just how much value you have contained in your household.
Next, you’ll have to choose whether to upgrade your existing policy or add on what’s known as a “floater insurance.”
Floater insurance covers property that can be easily moved, such as jewelry. However, floater insurance generally covers one specific item per policy. If you have an insurance policy specifically for a wedding ring, you could consider this floater insurance.
Your other option is to increase your liability on your existing homeowners insurance policy. This has the effect of covering anything valuable within your household without covering anything specifically.
There are pros and cons to each approach. With floater insurance, an item is covered regardless of whether it’s stored in the home or not. If you only have one or two pieces of jewelry to cover, you may wish to take out floater policies just for them.
However, if you have several valuables that you want to insure under your roof, you could simply upgrade your homeowners insurance policy. Just keep in mind that homeowners insurance generally provides limited coverage for jewelry. If you lose your wedding ring at the beach, your homeowners insurance probably won’t cover the loss.
Finally, if you have friends or family members renting space in your home, you could encourage them to get renters insurance to cover their valuables. Although they are technically covered as family members under your homeowners insurance policy, they may not have as much coverage as they’d like. Taking out a renters insurance policy would allow them to control the policy themselves and prepare an inventory of their valuables to ensure they get the right coverage.
If your family members are renting a separate property from you in which you don’t reside, your homeowners insurance policy won’t apply to them. It only covers the property where you live. If this is the case, they should certainly take out a renters insurance policy.
Coverage for personal liability
If you’re interested in increasing liability coverage, your first step should be to check what type of coverage you already have. Most homeowners insurance policies include a personal liability coverage portion. This protects you and your family if you are legally responsible for harm to someone else on your property.
If you have additional family members moving into your home, you’ll want to evaluate the potential risks associated with each with your insurer. For example, if your new houseguest is also bringing a dog with them, your risk of someone getting bitten on your property would increase. Or if more visitors or caregivers are expected to enter the home, or if you’re about to do extensive renovations and expect builders to be entering and leaving your property, you may wish to expand your coverage. You can usually raise your limit by shopping for a new plan or working directly with an insurance agent.
If you’d like, you can also purchase what’s known as a personal umbrella policy. This is the type of personal liability insurance that provides additional liability coverage beyond your existing home insurance policy.
If you intend to make extensive renovations to your home, you should also consider increased liability coverage. Builders and other construction workers will be on your property doing potentially dangerous work. Although construction companies may have their own insurance, an increase in your homeowners insurance liability coverage could help with legal fees if one of them gets injured on your property and decides to sue.
When insurance companies see their customers take steps to make their homes safer, they consider them a lower risk investment. Therefore, some home renovations like the following could help you save on your insurance policy:
- Upgrading your plumbing
- Renovating your roof
- Upgrading your electrical wiring
- Adding a home security system
- Installing an emergency generator
- Removing a wood-burning stove
- Strengthening your foundation or home exterior
Before making these types of renovations, contact your insurer and ask an agent if specific renovations can help you save and by how much.
If your home is too small to accommodate a senior parent or adult child, you may need to add space. This can be expensive, but it may be necessary for some family members.
Before moving a senior parent into your home, consider enlisting an occupational therapist to check your house. They can tell you what changes you’ll need to make to ensure an older parent is safe and comfortable.
Some potential renovations could include:
- Widening doors and passageways
- Installing push-open doors
- Adding swing-clear hinges
- Adding ramps
- Adding safety rails to bathrooms and showers
- Reflooring and retiling
Some renovations may increase your liability and require new types of coverage. For example, if you’re renovating or adding a basement, it could increase your flood potential. Discuss any renovation with your insurer to determine your liability.
We understand that being part of a multigenerational home has implications beyond the themes we’ve discussed here. Here are some additional considerations and resources.
It can be challenging to live with multiple generations in a single home when you’re used to a certain level of privacy. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries for anyone living in your home while making them feel comfortable.
- Full House: A Guide to Surviving Multigenerational Living — Next Avenue
- Tips for Living in a Multi-generational Household — The Simple Dollar
- Handling the multi-generational household — The Chicago Tribune
- Moving a Parent In: Creating Boundaries and Expectations — Care.com
- Creating an intergenerational household — The Beacon
- Managing a multigenerational home — Sharp
Emotional concerns in the home
Living with multiple generations under one roof can also lead to emotional concerns. It can be stressful caring for both children and older parents at the same time. Furthermore, everyone in your household may have different habits, schedules and lifestyles.
- Generational Boundaries — Psychology Today
- Caregiver Stress and Burnout — HelpGuide
- How to ease the stressors of living in a multigenerational household during the pandemic — PBS
- The Four Rs of Inter-generational Relationships — Michigan Family Review
- Packed House: How to Stay Sane with 3 Generations Under One Roof — Stormont Vail Health
Although the pandemic has necessitated many families to move in together, it has also created additional challenges.
Grandparents and older relatives are at high risk for infection, so they may not be able to interact with other members of the family who must leave home for work or get supplies. According to the CDC, social distancing requires us to limit face-to-face contact with others. This can be challenging in a multigenerational home, but it isn’t impossible.
If possible, only one member of your household should go grocery shopping once each week, and they should wear protective clothing like a face mask when doing so.
If a family member grows ill, you must isolate them from the rest of the household to avoid spreading the illness. Don’t allow visitors to enter your home unless their visit is essential. Even caregivers should limit physical contact with those who are ill, and they should wear protective clothing when in their vicinity.
If possible, designate a bedroom and bathroom for the sick person’s use. Ensure everyone in the household knows that they are not to enter those areas. Don’t share dishes or other household items with anyone who is ill.
To clean your household, the CDC recommends you “clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).”
Meanwhile, in the bedroom and bathroom dedicated to someone who is ill, “Consider reducing cleaning frequency to as-needed (e.g., soiled items and surfaces) to avoid unnecessary contact with the ill person.”
Here are some additional resources that can help:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) CDC Home Page
- Households Living in Close Quarters — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Cleaning and Disinfection for Households — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Keeping your home safe — Coronavirus.gov
- COVID-19 Home Safety Information Center — United States Consumer Product Safety Commission
- How to Self-Isolate in a Shared House if You or Someone You Live with Has Coronavirus — Health.com
Building a safety net
While homeowners have a responsibility to manage their insurance policy as it pertains to their multigenerational family, every member of the household must play their part. For example, grandparents can play a significant role in caring for children while their parents work. Meanwhile, young adults living at home can assist with household chores and finances.
Overall, your household can benefit from multigenerational living if everyone in the home feels protected and valued, and your homeowners insurance coverage plays an essential role in keeping both your family and your property protected.
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