What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

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The most common perils along the South Coast of MA & RI that your homeowners insurance should cover.

Throughout your home insurance policy, the word “peril” is often used to describe an event that could result in damage to—or a total loss of—your home, other structures on your property, like a tool shed or gazebo, and your belongings.

For example, a situation that might be considered a homeowner peril could include a grease fire caused by an unattended frying pan, a home break-in where jewelry, sports memorabilia, and computers are taken, or a wicked coastal storm that leaves pieces of your roof strewn across your lawn.

Knowing the definition of a peril is an essential step in fully understanding what your home insurance covers, but it’s only half the battle. What’s equally important is finding out whether your standard homeowners policy is designed to protect you and your property against these types of events.

The most common perils covered by home insurance

The BayCoast Insurance team explains eight of the most common perils that your homeowners insurance should cover. As you will read, the threats most likely to impact your home are typically included in your home insurance coverage. However, it still makes sense for you to do everything you can to prepare your property and belongings for these events and potentially prevent some of them from occurring in the first place. For this reason, we’ve also provided tips on how you might be able to minimize the damage to your home and valuables that a peril can cause.

Fire and Smoke

Whether a fire is contained to just one area of your home or ends up resulting in a total loss, your standard home insurance policy is typically designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, repairing, or replacing most of the things that were affected by the fire’s flames and by the water used to put them out. In addition, your home insurance coverage should pay for the removal of any dangerous chemicals, lingering smoke odors, and residual soot and ash, which are often the remnants of a home fire.

Plus, if your home is deemed unlivable while it’s being cleaned up and restored, your homeowners policy should help you pay for the additional costs related to staying in a hotel or rental home, as well as any other incremental expenses you incur while being displaced, such as eating out, pet care, and more. As you’re looking for a place to temporarily house your family and belongings, the emphasis should be on comfort and convenience, as your insurance allows you to maintain your current standard of living but not exceed it.

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The most common causes of fire in a home are human error and outdated or broken equipment. A fire caused by leaving a candle burning, improperly disposing of fireplace ash, using a toaster with a frayed cord, or plugging into a faulty electrical outlet can destroy one room in your home or, if help doesn’t come soon enough, ruin your entire house. Here are five simple things you can do to limit the risk of a fire in your home:

  • Keep at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home, including the basement and attic.
  • Install smoke alarms throughout your home, including every bedroom, outside of each sleeping area, and on every level.
  • Before you leave a room, turn off or unplug equipment that is a fire risk, such as space heaters, extension cords, holiday lights, coffee makers, etc., and blow out candles.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney and have it cleaned frequently to avoid a buildup of creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of fire.
  • Don’t be a distracted chef — multitasking while cooking is a recipe for disaster, so keep an eye on that pot you have on the stove and set timers to alert you when items are ready to come out of the oven.

Lightning Strikes

While your house is one of the safest places you can be during a storm, lightning is still a danger to your home and everything inside. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, 1 out of every 200 houses will be struck by lightning, per year. If lightning hits your home, it can send shockwaves through the whole house and cause both structural and surge-related damage. Your roof, windows, chimney, and foundation, as well as gaming systems, televisions, computers, large appliances, and pool and irrigation equipment, are just a few of the things that are very likely to suffer lightning-related damages. Lightning strikes can also spark a fire or cause charring to your home and property.

As long as a lightning strike makes its way through your home or property while passing from the atmosphere to the ground, your homeowners policy should provide coverage to repair the parts of your house and the belongings that are damaged. Your standard home insurance should also pay to fix damages to other structures on your property, like a garage or shed, if hit by lightning. Finally, your policy typically covers any additional living expenses you might incur due to being displaced from your home because of lightning strike damage.

However, you may not be successful filing a lightning strike claim if it’s for damages caused by a close-call lightning strike—one that doesn’t hit your home directly—or a ground surge caused by a significant electricity spike in your area.

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Whether our area is being hit with a passing thunderstorm or something more severe, like a tropical storm or a hurricane, lightning is often part of the mix of these weather systems. Here are five smart things you can do to minimize the impact and stay safe should lightning threaten your home:

  • Hire a professional to install a lightning rod, a device that is electrically bonded to the earth, on the highest point of your home.
  • Do not bathe, shower, or wash dishes while a storm is passing through your area since lightning strikes to your home can travel through the plumbing of your house.
  • Turn off computers and other electronics and appliances during a storm, as a lightning strike also travels through a home’s electrical systems.
  • Avoid leaning against or standing or lying on any concrete surfaces in your home, as lightning can pass through metal wires and steel bars in concrete flooring and walls.

Stay inside when you see lightning or hear thunder—a lightning strike on your property can cause an electrical current that runs along the top of the ground and can be deadly from over 100 feet away.

Wind and Hail

The speed and intensity of high-force winds can be extremely punishing to your home and to other structures on your property, like a garage, outdoor entertainment area, or shed. Shattered windows, torn-off roof shingles, and dented and destroyed siding are just some of the damages a strong windstorm can leave in its wake.

When a windstorm is accompanied by hail, you have double trouble. Hail can break glass, severely dimple your gutters, and make deep indents in clapboard or siding. Both wind and hail can damage a swing set, gas grill, deck furniture, and anything else you may have in your yard during a storm.

The standard home insurance policy typically includes coverage to repair your home and other structures on your property and may also replace indoor and outdoor belongings if damaged by wind or hail. However, if your property is located in what insurers consider to be a high-risk coastal community, then your homeowners policy may exclude protection against windstorm damage or you may be required to have a separate, much higher windstorm deductible. In coastal areas like ours, it is crucial to work with a knowledgeable local agent who can help make sure you have the proper coastal home insurance in place to help you protect your property should a wind or hailstorm hit.

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The storm systems that we get along the south coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island often come with forecasts of hurricane-force winds and gale warnings. Here are five critical steps you can take to prepare and protect your home and belongings from a wind or hailstorm:

  • Hire a professional to inspect your roof and repair or replace loose shingles.
  • Put away garbage cans, gardening tools, flowerpots, grills, outdoor furniture and umbrellas, and anything else not securely fastened to the ground, so they don’t become dangerous projectiles.
  • Keep tarps on hand in case the storm overpowers the defenses you created, and you need to drape them over a hole in your roof, a broken window, or an unhinged door.
  • Survey the trees around your property on a regular basis; have a professional trim back any branches that hang over your roof and cut down dead branches or trees.
  • Invest in windows that have tempered glass on both the inside and outside pieces, as well as glass that has steel reinforcements throughout.


You might think home break-ins would be a thing of the past with all the home security technology available today, but, unfortunately, they still occur with some regularity. So, it’s good to know that your homeowners coverage should respond if your house ever gets burglarized.

A standard home insurance policy typically will provide you with coverage for much of the damage and losses that can be caused by a home break-in. From small electronic devices like laptops and gaming systems to personal firearms and fine jewelry, your homeowners policy should provide the coverage to help you replace these commonly stolen items and more. In addition, your home insurance should provide coverage to repair any damage caused by an intruder, like a shattered window or a broken door handle or lock. Your coverage also typically extends to other detached outdoor structures that may have been broken into, like a pool house, tool shed, or garage.

Your policy does likely include a deductible, which you will have to pay before your insurance kicks in. In addition, many of the items that a thief is generally looking for, such as jewelry, collectibles, cash, and other high-value possessions, typically have a coverage limit. Since there can be a significant gap between the amount these belongings are insured for and what their real monetary value is, you may want to consider adding additional financial protection against theft, such as a scheduled personal property endorsement. Finally, we recommend you confirm with your insurance professional that your home insurance policy has replacement cost coverage for your belongings, rather than actual cash value, so you can replace stolen belongings with new and like ones at today’s market prices.

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Theft is a particularly devastating peril because it is intentionally malicious—not a random act by Mother Nature. Not only are many valuable possessions taken during a break-in, but homeowners often feel an emotional pang knowing that someone has violated their home and family. For this reason, we are sure you want to be as proactive as you possibly can in protecting your home and personal property from theft. Here are five smart steps you can take to make your home less vulnerable to this peril:

  • Don’t “invite” thieves to your home by posting on social media that you’re on vacation, out of town on business, or away from your home for any reason.
  • Keep doors and windows locked at night and when you are away from home, particularly in the summer months, when home break-in rates tend to rise.
  • Make sure you have bright exterior lighting, as thieves don’t like to be in a spotlight.
  • Create barriers to your home by installing fencing or planting shrubs and hedges around your perimeter.
  • Install a home security system that can be monitored via an app on your smart phone, even when you are traveling.

Weight of Ice and Snow

When a winter storm passes through the area, it can bury your home and everything on your property in snow and ice. In the aftermath of a heavy snowstorm, it’s understandable that you would just want to stay inside until temperatures warm up and things thaw out. However, if you don’t move quickly to uncover your home from the weight of all that ice and snow, irreversible harm can be done to its structural integrity. Snow can overload your roof, causing it to collapse, and ice can build up and tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up into your house.

Since ice and snow can cause serious problems, you will be glad to know that these issues are typically covered by your homeowners insurance. If you must replace a roof that falls under the weight of snow and ice, repair structural damage caused by an ice dam, or clean up water damage resulting from melted snow or ice, your policy should provide the financial protection you need.

Your home insurance may not always include coverage for your personal belongings in these situations, so before winter comes, it would be smart to confirm the specifics of your coverage with your local insurance agent.

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Perhaps one of the least understood but most dreaded homeowner hazards related to snow and ice is the ice dam. You may wonder how an ice dam forms in the first place. It typically starts with some amount of snow accumulation on your roof. Then, heat from the sun or from inside your home must warm the roof, except at the eaves. This situation will lead to the snow on your roof melting and, as the water trickles down, freezing in the cold eaves. Ice then will accumulate all along the eaves, forming a dam. Any further water flowing from the melting snow on your roof will likely back up behind this ice dam and get under the shingles and into your house. You can make your home an unwelcome place for ice dams by keeping the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves with these five tips:

  • Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor to minimize the heat that enters from the living space below.
  • Keep cold air circulating under the entire roof by pairing a ridge vent with a continuous soffit vent.
  • Make sure that your attic hatch or whole-house fan is sealed, and heat is not escaping from these openings.
  • Check that ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls, but never through your home’s eaves.
  • Seal and insulate all HVAC and exhaust ducts, bridge any gaps between your chimney and house framing, and caulk and seal any other areas where hot air might be passing through to the roof.

Vandalism and Malicious Mischief

When someone takes a bat to your mailbox, eggs your house, or goes four-wheeling across your lawn, it’s not only heartbreaking to think another person would do this to your property but also a real headache to clean up the mess.

Thankfully, your standard home insurance will generally include coverage to replace the items that have been damaged or destroyed by vandals. In addition, if you need to replant flowers and trees, repair fixtures, paint over offensive words or drawings, or clean up smashed eggs, your insurance company should provide you with the funds to hire a professional to do all this and more.

One critical thing to know is that your vandalism claim might be unsuccessful if the mischief happened while you were not occupying the house. For example, if you’re a snowbird and head down south for the entire winter, or you and the family go to your vacation home for the whole summer, your insurer may not provide coverage.

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The team at BayCoast Insurance knows it’s very frustrating when someone intentionally damages or destroys something on your property. Sadly, this type of deliberate destruction is one of the most common crimes against households. However, here are five things that you can do to help limit the impact of these types of losses:

  • Clean up damage from vandals as soon as possible because it discourages perpetrators, who take pleasure in their work and love to boast about it, from hitting your house again.
  • Add security lighting with motion sensors to your property, so it turns on as soon as someone approaches your home.
  • Invest in shatter-resistant windows and light fixtures, which will make it more difficult—and less fun—for vandals to damage your property.
  • Make it hard for vandals to know if someone is home by keeping blinds, curtains, and drapes closed but the lights on.
  • Update your local insurance agent if you are going to leave your home unoccupied for more than 30 days in case you require additional vacant home insurance coverage.

Falling Objects

If you’re trying to picture what a falling object might be, consider anything above or outside of your home that could come down on your roof or through a window or wall, or cause your house any other type of damage. From more common objects like a tree, a contractor’s ladder, or your teenage neighbor’s drone to less expected items like space debris or a dislodged part from a plane, these objects could fall onto your home, creating chaos and requiring a significant number of expensive repairs.

You will be glad to know that if a falling object hits your home and causes damage, your homeowners policy should typically provide coverage to help you return your house to its normal state. Your home insurance should cover the cost not only of any related repairs but also the removal of the culprit object.

A scenario that homeowners should be aware of, though, is one in which a falling object lands in your yard but does not cause any structural damage to your home or other structures on your property. In that case, unless the object is obstructing your driveway, a wheelchair ramp, or an entrance to your home, your homeowners policy is not likely to provide coverage for removing the fallen object or cleaning up any related debris.

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Of course, most of us don’t expect to see an asteroid, a satellite dish, or a random wheel from a 747 come crashing down in our yards anytime soon. Instead, what homeowners are more likely to experience along the south coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island are downed trees, limbs, and branches. Here are some tips to help you keep trees surrounding your property healthy and minimize the likelihood they will fall and damage your home:

  • Hire a certified arborist to check the level of rot in your trees using a Shigometer, a machine that can detect how thick rot is inside a tree and indicate whether you have a hazardous situation.
  • Keep the limbs of your trees trimmed and remove all dead or dangling branches. Since pruning trees incorrectly can damage them, you may want to consult a professional.
  • Look for mushrooms growing at the base of your trees, as the fungi are an indication of rot within.
  • Hire a professional if water pools beneath your trees, failing to drain, as this can kill root hairs that are critical to a tree’s health.
  • Protect your trees from attacks by insects such as gypsy moths and Japanese beetles, as they can cause a tree to deteriorate.

Water Damage

A pool of water on your basement floor, a water spot forming on the ceiling, or a damp, musty smell in your bathroom can all be indicators that your home has water damage, and possibly a related mold issue, as well. It goes without saying that this problem needs to be dealt with immediately to ensure that your carpets, furniture, walls, family possessions, and more are not permanently ruined.

If your home and items do end up with water damage, though, your home insurance should help you cover the reparations work, but only if the water damage is the result of a sudden, internal, and accidental event, such as burst pipes, frozen plumbing, or an overflowing appliance or fixture, like a toilet, washing machine, or bathtub.

It is important to know that while the cost of the related cleanup in these cases is likely to be covered, the expense of repairing or replacing a machine that malfunctions in your home, such as a water heater, is probably not going to be covered unless your insurance policy includes an extra Home Systems Protection Coverage endorsement. Standard home insurance coverage also does not generally extend to water damage or related mold issues that are the result of ground seepage, water or sewer backups, poorly maintained pipes, or flooding.

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Water can do sudden, irreparable damage, as well as quietly cause rot and decay over time. It’s a powerful adversary for you and your home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come out on top. Here are five key tips for fighting against losses due to water damage:

  • Closely monitor your water bill for any unusual jumps in monthly usage, as this is often the only way to identify that you have a leak somewhere in your home.
  • Regularly replacing washing machine hoses—a cracked, leaking, bubbling, or burst washing machine hose is among the most frequent causes of water loss for homeowners.
  • Place water detection devices near water heaters, sump pumps, washing machines, dishwashers, and toilets, which should alert you to moisture before it causes extensive damage and mold growth.
  • Remove or closely prune large shrubs that are close to the foundation of your home, as their roots can wrap around your plumbing and cause blockages and breakage.
  • If you are going to leave your house for an extended period, you may want to shut off your water main or at least show a neighbor where it is just in case a peril like your pipes bursting occurs while you’re away.