You know your home insurance policy has your back in case a burglar breaks in, a fire breaks out, or a number of other disasters—listed in the fine print—overtake you. But what happens when minor catastrophes strike? Who pays for the costly damage from a power outage or a wild animal?
Before you assume that your home insurance policy has that covered too, do your homework. The nitty-gritty of what is—and isn’t—covered varies by state and provider, says Billy Van Jura, owner of Birchyard, an insurance planning firm and brokerage in Poughkeepsie, NY. Sure, you might get lucky with a particularly generous policy, and you can always shell out for additional coverage for those what-if moments. But in most cases, you might just be SOL.
Here are five times your home insurance provider probably won’t be cutting you a check to cover the damage.
1. Zapped gadgets
Computers, tablets, phones, etc., fried during a power surge might not be covered, Van Jura says. “It all depends on the cause of the power surge.”
Power surges are considered to be a normal event and a faulty power line is often viewed as the responsibility of the utility provider, Van Jura explains. But since a lightning strike is viewed as “an act of God,” the gadgets and appliances would most likely be covered in that case, he says.
2. Pet damage
This may come as no surprise, but home insurance providers won’t pick up the check if your schnauzer knocks over an expensive vase, your Chihuahua chews up your new carpet or your semi-feral cat claws holes in your upholstery. There’s no rider or add-on that will cover pet-related damage to personal belongings, Van Jura says. That’s for you and Cujo to settle.
“However, if your dog runs through the sliding glass door or a window and does damage, a home insurance policy may cover that,” Van Jura says.
But as with any claim, applicable deductibles would have to be met.
3. Spoiled milk
It’s great to have a well-stocked fridge and freezer. But should the power go out and hundreds of dollars in meat, fish, dairy, and more end up in the trash, your home insurance policy won’t pay to restock the items. That is unless you added “refrigerated property” coverage—which specifically insures the contents of your refrigerator and/or freezer in the event of a power outage or mechanical defects, Van Jura says.
That policy add-on runs around $20 a year, and the coverage usually comes with a cap—about $200 to $500—depending on the insurance provider.
4. Code upgrades
Repairing your home after fire or storm damage might require you to upgrade the construction to current municipal standards.
But don’t be surprised if your insurance policy doesn’t foot the total cost involved for you to follow the rules.
“Your homeowner’s insurance policy will pay to put you in the same position you were in prior to the loss,” Van Jura says. “The rest is an out-of-pocket expense.”
But if that position is no longer up to code, the insurer will pay only up to 10% for the upgrades. For instance, if your outdated electrical wiring is damaged, the local building code enforcer could require you to replace all the wiring before approving a final permit—even if only a repair is needed. And if that costs $5,000, only $500 will be covered by a standard home insurance policy.
5. Wild animals
To you, a squirrel or raccoon scampering around your yard might seem (sort of) cute, but your home insurance provider simply sees them as rodents. And should a rodent find its way into your home and cause damage, including chewing electrical wires or leaving excrement, the cleanup and repairs won’t be covered.
But some damage is covered.
“If a deer crashes through a door or window, a raccoon makes a mess in the attic, or another nonrodent animal wreaks havoc on your home, that claim should be covered,” Van Jura says.
The best way to avoid being caught off-guard in these instances is to have a little chat with your insurance agent.
“It’s common to talk about the big, catastrophic things like fire or a hailstorm,” Van Jura says. “But it’s wise to ask about smaller potential claims and expenses you might not be prepared to pay for should they arise.”