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Does home insurance cover me if I cause damage to my own home?

By SmartCoverage Team on February 1st, 2018

Different types of coverage

First, your level of coverage will dictate what is covered by your insurance policy. Depending on what happens to your property when you damage it, the damage will fall into either a named peril, broad level or comprehensive level occurrence which all have their own particular stipulations.

If you have comprehensive coverage, you will be covered against all risks (some exclusions apply), and if you have the basic named peril coverage, you will be covered against up to 16 common events, including smoke damage and water damage. For more information on the differences between policy types, see our explanation guide on the 3 major types of home insurance.

Since all insurance policies are different, you need to consult your own documents from the get-go so you know what can be claimed and what cannot.

If you’ve just broken a window or stained your carpet, it’s a good idea to deal with it yourself. Minor damage like this won't meet the deductible requirements for the insurance company to be interested.

Also, your deductible will dictate how much payment you are responsible for before the insurance company steps in. Therefore, you need to get a quote on damage costs before contacting your insurer. If your deductible is $500, and the repair costs $550, there’s no point; unless you want to see your monthly premium go up.

If you really can’t afford the damage costs, then you need to call up your insurance provider so they can guide you toward the appropriate claims process.

Some of the most common claims where you may be at fault include things like water damage, damage to exterior structures and fire (let’s hope not). These are some of the big-ticket items that will be worth claiming to your insurance provider because they cost the most to repair or replace.

Different types of claims

To have a claim covered, you need to be able to prove they were caused by a sudden and accidental event. If your insurers can tell something that caused the damage was due to negligence or lack of maintenance on your end, your claim will be denied.

Beware. If you decide to attempt to fix the damage by yourself and instead cause even greater damage to your property, your insurance claim will be denied. Read some common claims below.

Accidental water damage

A common instance is water damage caused by a malfunctioning appliance. The specific named peril falls into something like “water damage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning overflow,” “accidental water discharge or overflow” or, “freezing/burst pipes.”

Overflowing washing machines, dishwashers, tubs and showers may damage floors and walls. Your insurers will pay to fix the damaged property but will rarely cover the broken appliance. Again, it has to be sudden and accidental damage.

If your insurers can tell that the damage was caused by a slow leak or avoidable circumstance, you’ll be left on the hook.

Oddly enough, you need additional coverage in the event of a flood. You can see if you need flood coverage by checking if you live in a flood zone.

It’s in your best interest to read over the water damage section of your policy to avoid any surprises down the road. The pricier your policy, the more it will cover.

Accidental property damage

Ever back your car into your garage door? It’s more common than you think. You should get a quote for repair costs before you make any calls to your insurer. If the damage you cause is small, consider paying to have the impacted panels replaced, it might not be worth your deductible nor worth raising your monthly bill.

If your entire garage is beyond simple repair, you need to call in the professionals. Also, handle any damage to your vehicle with your auto insurance provider (bundling your home and auto policies is good practice in this case).

Next, the type of reimbursement you receive will depend on whether you've signed up for actual cost value insurance or replacement cost insurance.

Guest damage

What if your guest --your best friend or your cousin-- does something haphazard and accidentally breaks your pool’s diving board, starts a fire at the grill that spills onto your patio, or forgets to lock a door and your property gets damaged or stolen?

If a guest damages your property, it’s not you it’s them. They are 100% liable for the cost of repair or replacement. Because they’re your guest and likely have some sort of relationship with you, this situation is always tricky; they may be reluctant to pay a cent.

They do, however, have the legal responsibility to repay you for your out of pocket costs in any event. If they are refusing payment, you have grounds for further legal action.

If they hurt themselves on your property (while sober), your liability coverage will step in and defend you against any medical costs they are seeking. Guests are expecting to enter a safe environment when they are on your property. Make sure to document everything by taking photos of the scene and filing police reports if it's a big accident.

Last word

A lot of your coverage depends on your policy-type and its deductible. Some damage claims may not be worth filing once you consider the price. Plus, once you file that claim, your premiums are apt to increase because you’re considered a bigger risk to insure.

Make sure you review your terms so you know exactly how to navigate a freak accident. If you're seeking help from your insurer for a definitively sudden and accidental occurrence, the damage costs should be above your deductible.

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