Although home insurance is something every homeowner should have — and most are required to have by their mortgage company — what it covers and does not cover is often misunderstood.

Home insurance covers damage to your home and separate structures, such as a detached garage, caused by wind, fire, vandalism and other losses. Home insurance also covers:

  • Your personal property, regardless of whether it’s in your home or located elsewhere. This includes items stolen from your car. Such losses are not covered by auto insurance.
  • Personal liability for injury or property damage affecting someone else, on or off your property. It includes injury or damage caused by you or members of your household, including injury or damage caused by your pets. Pets that have been deemed “vicious” may be excluded.
  • Medical costs for people injured at your residence (other than residents of your household), regardless of who is liable.
  • Depending on policy type, additional living expenses (up to 12 or 24 months) if a covered loss makes your home unfit to live in.
  • Sudden and accidental discharges of water — freezing pipes, for example — are generally covered. Leaks that occur over time and cause mold or other damage occurring over time generally are not covered. We are one of the few agencies to offer a “slow leak” endorsements to cover this type of damage.

Optional coverage available as part of home insurance:

  • Although property is covered under home insurance, the amount of coverage for expensive items such as jewelry, silverware, cameras and guns is limited. You can buy optional “floaters” to provide additional coverage for expensive items specifically listed in your policy.
  • Backup of sewer lines and drains is not automatically included in home insurance but can be added as an optional item.
  • Identity theft, credit card and public-records monitoring, and identity or travel-document replacement can be added as optional coverage under some home policies, but are not included in basic home insurance coverage.
  • Home insurance limits coverage for property used to generate income. So, people who work from home should consider adding coverage of business property and liability coverage.
  • Homeowners with surrounding wild lands should consider additional liability coverage in case people using your property (even without your permission) for hiking, four wheeling, hunting, snowmobiling and other activities are injured or suffer property damage.

Home insurance does not cover:

  • Earthquakes or floods, which can be covered with separate insurance. Flood coverage is provided by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program. Sudden water damage from broken pipes generally is covered by home insurance. Slow leaks that cause mold and other damage over time typically are not covered.
  • Claims exceeding the limits of your policy. Extensive damage to a neighboring property in addition to extensive damage to your own property, for example. An umbrella policy provides additional liability protection. Umbrella policies are a good idea for anyone with sizeable assets or income that could be seized to fulfill a sizable liability exceeding the limits of your home or auto insurance.