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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homeowners — just what are you buying?

The idea is so simple. You pay a premium and the insurance company protects you. Yeh, right! When you go out shopping, you read the labels before you buy, don’t you. Well, the same should be your habit when you’re buying a homeowners insurance policy. Never just use a site like this to get online quotes and then buy a policy because it’s low cost or affordable. You should read it before you buy.

So what are you looking for? Well, let’s get technical. The insurance company protects you against “perils” except where there are “exclusions” telling you that there may be limitations on that cover. Often, those exclusions are the smaller print coming near the end of the policy when the insurer hopes you’re attention is wandering. Check out exactly what is covered. If it’s not clear, ask someone before you buy. The first part of the home insurance policy usually deals with “property protection”. So that covers the structure of the place you call home together with everything permanently attached like the plumbing, the electrical wiring and all the other “stuff” (sorry another technical term including your air-conditioning, heating system, and so on). All the other buildings and structures on the land will be included so long as they’re all used for domestic purposes. That covers the garage, shed, patio and fences/walls. Pay special attention to any “loss of use” provisions — that should cover your out-of-pocket expenses if you cannot live in your home while it’s being repaired.

Then we get into the everyday personal property (usually called the “contents”) owned by you and the family who live with you on a permanent basis. Depending on the wording, you may be covered for the cash value or replacement cost. But watch out. If you have anything unusual that’s more expensive or difficult to replace, that’s got to be specially endorsed on the policy. Some things may be excluded like a firearm, the car covered under your auto insurance policy, and so on. Other things may be included like the charges the local fire department may claim if it is called out, the cost of removing fallen trees or other debris after a storm, and so on. Everything else will have to be separately negotiated and added on to the policy as an endorsement

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