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3 Big Reasons to Review Your Home Insurance

3 Big Reasons to Review Your Home Insurance

Your policy should be sized up on a yearly basis (at least), but these life events warrant an immediate review.

When a disaster strikes your home—flood, burglary, fire, or worse—the last thing you want to worry about is whether your homeowner’s insurance is up to date. Even if you review your coverage annually, there are several life-changing events that may require policy modification—big purchases, home renovation, or family changes. With a little help from local homeowner’s insurance experts, we explain how and when to make the necessary adjustments. If one of these changes happens in your life, calling your agent and discussing the situation is the best way to ensure everyone and everything will still be covered.

Big Purchases

Homeowner’s insurance is not just meant to protect your physical home (the bricks, walls, and roof). It should also cover what’s inside your home—everything from furniture to designer handbags. “It is extremely important to check in with your insurance agent when you make significant purchases to ensure everything is covered,” says Christina Trapani, senior branch manager at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Valley Stream.

“For high-valued items, like engagement rings, artwork, consumers should look into ‘scheduling’ the property,” Trapani suggests. “Scheduling is an insurance term meaning the item is on a ‘schedule’ and insured separately—it is not covered under the general personal property limit.”

A vacation might also warrant a change in policy. “Say you have a big trip coming up this summer, maybe overseas. We should talk about if you have off-premise theft (coverage). Meaning, if you’re in the airport and your luggage is stolen, where does your coverage end and begin?” offers Christina Shaw, an Allstate agent in Wantagh.

Making a purchase that could be considered high-risk—such as a pool or a new trampoline—is another reason to review your policy.

Another example? A pet. “Getting a dog is a good reason to call your agent because you want to make sure your liability coverage on your homeowner’s insurance policy includes if your dog bites a neighbor or something like that,” explains Kelly Qu, homeowners insurance agent for Allstate in Manhattan.

Home Renovations

A renovation should absolutely trigger a policy review—what if the construction itself damages your property or someone gets hurt on the job? Even if your neighbor trips over lumber that was left in your yard from your kitchen extension, liability coverage can help pay for the medical costs.

Another policy to re-read before renovating your home is your umbrella policy—which is excess liability that sits on top of your home (and auto) insurance and will kick in if your homeowners insurance runs out before the issue is financially resolved, according to Shaw. If the neighbor who fell over some lumber in your backyard ends up needing an ambulance, an overnight stay in the ER, and additional medical care, your liability coverage might be spent before you can even think about the legal fees you’ll have to pay if he sues you for pain and suffering.

“If your liability is exhausted, the umbrella policy will kick in for an additional million [dollars] or more, depending on what you purchase,” explains Shaw, noting that those with equity in their home or large incomes should be aware of it. “Really, it’s a shield between you and your assets.”

Finally, if your home reno includes upgrades that will greatly increase your overall home value, you want to make sure your ‘new’ residence is not underinsured. For example, if you recently replaced your cabinets, make sure a claim will cover the new ones, not the 30-year-old cabinets that were there when you first [purchased the policy],” Qu says.

Family Changes

You should review your policy if you get married, divorced, or if your spouse passes away.  “The policy should have the same names as the title of your home,” says Rosa Mejias, exclusive agent at Allstate in Yonkers.

And take a look at your plan when a new baby joins the family, or even a few months before. A new baby can mean new furniture, toys, electronics, and other expenses that might put you over your current coverage limits. If this is the case, consider a rider—an optional addition to your homeowner’s policy, which can be used to cover things that aren’t covered by your standard home policy, according to Trapani. A money-saving trick? Bundle. Some insurance companies will allow you to purchase bundles for a discount on your home and auto insurance, per Shaw.

No matter what is going on in your life, homeowner’s insurance does not stop at the end of your driveway. It should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially if any life-changing events have occurred. And if you’re unsure about whether changes should be made, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your agent to discuss them.

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Melissa Wickes

Author: Melissa Wickes is a graduate of Binghamton University and the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. She's written hundreds of articles to help New York parents make better decisions for their families. When she's not writing, you can find her eating pasta, playing guitar, or watching reality TV. See More

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