When a peril leaves you with structural damage, it can be hard to come to terms with its destruction. Most homeowners quickly make a call to the insurance agency to schedule an assessment and begin the claim process. Before doing so, it is important to understand whether structural damage is covered by homeowners insurance.
If the structural damage in question is due to a collapse or a sudden and unexpected cause, this is often covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. If the structural damage is at the foundation level of a structure, then a standard homeowners insurance policy will not cover the damage in most cases.
Structural damage, in general, can be confusing when it comes to insurance coverage. This is because there are many caveats in the fine print that the insurance will use to determine eligibility. Keep reading to understand these caveats and get a clearer picture of structural damage coverage.
- Homeowners insurance will cover structural damage for certain unexpected and unforeseen events.
- Additional endorsements can be purchased to cover structural damage from natural disasters.
- Negligence is automatically disqualified under most standard homeowners insurance policies.
When structural issues are covered
Homeowners insurance is very particular about the structural coverage it provides when damage is involved. Due to this, it can feel almost impossible to find out what truly is covered. While it can be frustrating to do the research, it is essential because it will help you determine whether you need to purchase additional endorsements.
In the event that your home collapses due to structural problems, homeowners insurance typically covers the collapse if the cause of the collapse is something unexpected or unknown to the homeowner. If the porch appears to be leaning, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to notice issues with the foundation.
Often, collapses are caused by aging and weathered homes. However, certain causes are covered. These are:
- Unforeseen and unexpected incidents. For example, if you had wood-eating pests such as carpenter ants or termites slowly gnawing away your structural support beam or your foundation, which results in a collapse, this would be a covered event. This is only in the homeowner had no prior knowledge of the problem in advance.
- Fallen Objects. If your roof caves in due to too much ice or the wind knocks a tree over and causes the roof to collapse, this will be covered by a standard policy.
- Collapse due to weather. Homeowners insurance has 16 named perils on the average plan and most of those perils are nature-related. You will be covered for most weather-related damage such as rainstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice damage, and others. The only exception is floods and earthquakes which can be purchased as a separate endorsement.
- Accidents. If a car rams into your home and causes the roof to collapse, or a contractor rips out a supporting wall and causes a cave-in, these incidents may be covered by homeowners insurance. In this situation, you can also use their liability insurance to pay for your damage since contractors carry business insurance.
It is not covered by homeowners insurance when a house collapses due to negligent behavior on the part of the homeowner. What this means is you cannot knowingly overload your attic and not expect a collapse to occur. Additionally, you cannot ignore a visible termite problem and hope that the insurance company will fix it later, so you don’t have to pay.
Standard homeowners insurance will not cover foundation damage unless a very specific instance occurs. This instance is water damage. For example, if your home has a leak in an underground pipe, and the water crawls over to your foundation and damages it, this is considered a covered peril. This is because it is a sudden and unforeseen event caused by water.
In contrast, if an earthquake shakes your home and cracks its foundation, your homeowner’s insurance standard policy will not cover the damage. This time of damage is considered earth movement. Earth movement requires separate endorsement in order for it to be covered. In some geographic locations, earthquake endorsements are separate from earth movement endorsements. Be sure to discuss this with an agent before selecting a policy.
What additional structural coverage can I buy?
If you do not like to leave the structural integrity of your home covered by standard insurance, you can opt to buy additional endorsements. These endorsements will cover structural damage due to specific types of events. Some examples of these endorsements are:
- Flood Endorsement. If a flood occurs and destroys the foundation or structure of the main dwelling due to water damage and severe currents, this endorsement will cover the cost to repair the damage.
- Earth Movement Endorsement. If you live in an area with landslides, mudslides, or other similar events that can cause shaking and structural damage due to such movement, then this insurance endorsement is a must-have.
- Earthquake Endorsement. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes or near a fault line, then earthquake endorsements are highly recommended. These endorsements will cover structural damage in the event of a damaging earthquake.
Having additional endorsements is never a bad idea when it comes to insuring your home. Life can always through the unexpected at you, and when it comes to structural damage, it is best to stay proactive.
Deductibles for structural damage claims
The deductibles for structural problems tend to be fixed and range between $500-1,500, depending on your insurance. The insurance company will allow you to pick a deductible amount and pay higher or lower monthly premiums as a result.
If your claim is approved, you’ll have to pay this deductible and the insurance company will pay for the rest of the damage once you receive a quote from a contractor. Note that once you claim your insurance payment you’ll be responsible for any damage that exceeds your maximum policy limits. Keep this in mind when you review your current policy and raise the limits accordingly.
Note: If any of these structural problems appear due to a lack of maintenance on your end, you will not be covered. Insurance companies only pay for innocent cases where you had no idea the accident was coming. When you’re filing a claim, the decision will be made entirely based on the circumstances that lead to the structural problem.
Preventing Structural Damage
In most cases, the best way to prevent structural damage from occurring is by taking measures to ensure your home is up-to-date and monitored regularly. Some simple ways to help prevent structural damage are:
- Inspect your roof regularly.
- Remove ice and snow after storms to prevent collapse.
- Replace batteries in fire alarms for better fire response.
- Fix leaking or aging pipes as they appear.
- Inspect the crevices of your home for sawdust-looking residue, this may be a sign of termites.
- Perform regular tree maintenance to ensure all dead or dying trees are away from your home or secondary structures.
- Inspect your foundation for new cracks and take note of their length and depth.
These small tips can help ensure your home does not suffer from unnecessary structural damage. In many cases, the basic maintenance needed is much less than a typical deductible.
Top 5 types of structural issues
Structural problems are defined as problems to the supporting structure of the home including the foundation, walls, roof, and patio. Most structural damage problems are visible and you’ll instantly know when you see them.
There are numerous structural problems a home can experience, from large cracks in the foundation to roof leaks. We’ve narrowed them down to 5 main types of structural damage:
Foundation structural problems
The foundation structural problem is the most dangerous a home can face because the entire home structure is built on foundations. The foundations must be solid in order to keep your home from collapsing. There are many things that can go wrong with a foundation and some of them are covered while others are not. Most small cracks won’t be covered because they are easily fixable, and you’ll need to show real damage if you file a claim for foundational problems.
It can take a long time to detect structural problems so make sure you carry out an investigation after every storm to find out if you have cracks in the foundation. If a named peril such as a rainstorm causes structural damage to your foundation and leads to cracks, you will be covered.
Wall structural problems
Wall structural damage is the easiest to fix and it’s also easy to identify because you don’t have to actively look for the damage. If you have cracks and ruptures on the wall, you will be covered depending on the circumstances that lead to the cracks. The sole factor that will decide if your insurance company covers you is the reason that led to the crack.
Was it unexpected such as a lightning strike or a tornado? You’ll be covered for such unpredictable events. The only reason you may be rejected is if this crack occurred a year ago and you didn’t do anything to fix the damage. Wall structural coverage is only for unexpected events. Events such as earthquakes usually don’t cause a collapse but they can shake the building and cause the walls to rupture. Most homeowners plans don’t include earthquake coverage and you’ll have to purchase a separate earthquake endorsement.
Roof structural damage
The roof is always exposed to the elements and it can fall under pressure with rainfall, hail, snowfall, and ice. The biggest threat to the integrity of a roof is storm damage. In some cases, a tree can fall over and damage your roof. Make sure there are no trees hanging over your roof or trim them if they reach it because they can collapse and cause a hole in your roof, costing thousands in shingle replacements. Most of these events including falling objects will automatically be covered by home insurance.
If you have stormy weather, strong winds can carry flying objects at more than 150 mph and launch them directly at your roof. Flat roofs are increasingly popular in recent years with modern home designs and they are actually harder to maintain. The surface on a flat roof tends to wear out faster which means it requires constant maintenance. If the damage to the roof was caused by Mother Nature, your insurance company is going to cover you. Replacing a roof can cost thousands of dollars which is why you must have insurance for any structural problems here.
Patios/deck structural damage
Patios and decks are directly attached to the main home which is why they’re considered part of the main dwelling. This entitles them to full-dwelling coverage as part of your home insurance plan. To install a new deck you can pay as much as $20,000, which is why you must be reimbursed for all storm damage to your deck.
Outbuilding structural damage
Many Americans have guest homes and secondary buildings on their property such as sheds, garages, workshops, and other buildings. These are called “outbuildings” by insurance companies and they have limited coverage compared to the main dwelling. If any of these experience structural damage, you can file a claim not exceeding 10% of your main dwelling coverage limit.
Your home insurance policy will also cover everything which could be considered a permanent part of a property. This includes doors, windows, locks, and security measures. This also includes bathroom and kitchen fixtures such as sinks, showers, and toilets: anything which you wouldn’t take with you if you moved.
Many policies cover outbuildings, like sheds and garages, but some will require you to purchase additional coverage. Your insurance typically won’t cover things like outdoor swimming pools or saunas. You can usually arrange coverage with your insurer, but it will cost more than a standard policy.
Choose insurance that meets your needs
Selecting homeowners insurance can feel overwhelming. There are many different policy options and add-ons you can select, and it can be hard to decide which is best. Talk to your insurance agent about your concerns and match your budget to different plans. Selecting the insurance that fits your needs is the best option overall.