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Need Home Insurance? Be Sure You Protect Both The Home And The Contents

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If you're in the market for home insurance, you might consider looking into both standard home insurance, sometimes referred to as building insurance, and contents insurance. The first protects the structure and property and the second protects the movable contents within. In some cases, when both are purchased at the same time, it's less expensive.

Standard Property Insurance

Standard property insurance covers your home, permanent fittings in kitchens and bathrooms, hardwood or tile floors and the garage. In some cases it protects outbuildings, walls, gates and fences. Insurance advisers recommend that you insure the home for the amount it would take to replace it.

Most Common Items Covered

  • Fire, explosion, lightning or earthquake damage. The latter may require a rider. 
  • Flooding and ground movement due to storms, with exceptions.
  • Damage done by vandals, a riot or other violent actions. 
  • Damage done during a burglary.
  • Water or oil damage from a burst pipe, water or oil tank. 
  • Vehicle damage to buildings, fences, gates and walls. Animal damage to these items is usually covered.
  • Damage from fallen trees or branches.

Items Not Usually Covered

  • Gates and fences damaged by storms. 
  • Flood damage in a known flood zone. In some cases a rider is available.
  • Damage to the inside of a home, such as that caused by a broken pipe,  leaking shower or other mechanical defect.. 
  • Someone doing repairs in the home. Any contractor or service company working in your home should have their own insurance coverage.
  • No claim that is less than the deductible on your policy.

Contents Insurance

Contents insurance is a separate policy that may be purchased on its own or with a regular home insurance policy. This type of coverage is also available to renters who want to protect their belongings but don't have to worry about insuring the building. Contents insurance policy holders are advised to insure their items for what it would take to replace them.

Items Usually Covered

  • Household goods, including appliances, computers and televisions are covered, as are furniture, curtains and carpets. 
  • Valuables, including jewelry, cell phones, watches, art pieces and cameras are covered. Clothes, shoes, wallets and handbags are covered. 
  • Money, either in the form of cash or checks, bonds and travel tickets and documents are protected.

Items Not Usually Covered

  • Contents insurance does not cover lost or stolen property in homes that are left empty for a pre-agreed time, usually over 30 days. 
  • Stolen valuables or money that was not properly protected, such as in a home safe.
  • Coins, medals, deeds, documents, stamps and manuscripts are not covered. Neither are deeds, bonds and promissory notes. 
  • Cars, trucks and vehicle accessories are not covered.
  • Items that are usually carried on your person, such as a cell phone or iPad, are not covered. Exceptions are items that are added to the policy at the time of signing.

New For Old Contents Replacement

Items that are stolen or damaged may be replaced on what's called a "new for old" basis, with restrictions. For example, if your TV is stolen and it is fairly new, it may be replaced with a new one. Insurers do take normal wear and tear into account, but they also weigh that against the cost of replacing that item. Some items, such as clothing and house linens, are usually exempt.

Making a Claim

Making a claim on homeowners insurance usually involves an adjustor coming to assess the damage. They arrange for estimates from approved vendors or may allow you to contact your own repair firms for estimates. The deductible is subtracted from the final total, the claim is paid and the damage repaired and/or replaced.

Contents insurance works a bit differently. To make things easier, insurance adjustors advise homeowners to take photos of their personal possessions and keep the pictures in a safe place, such as a home safe or even a safe deposit box. It is one way to prove you owned the item, and may help police in its recovery. Another option is to hang on to receipts for the items, or credit card statements.

An adjuster may or may not come to the home, depending on the type of item and the circumstances of its loss. For example, if it was an onsite burglary that also resulted in residual damage, or if the loss is substantial, an adjustor may visit the site. Any item that is reported as stolen must have a copy of the police report attached to the claim.