Homeowners insurance protects you from financial losses caused by storms, fire, theft, and other events outlined in your policy. It is important to know what's in your policy. Make sure you read your policy carefully and understand your specific coverages. It's also important to know your rights. Texas has a Consumer Bill of Rights for homeowners and renters insurance. Your company must send the Bill of Rights with your policy or renewal.
Texas Homeowners Insurance Policies
You can buy a dwelling policy that covers only the structure of your house. Or, like most Texans who own their homes, you can buy a homeowners policy, which combines five different types of coverage:
Types of Texas Homeowners Insurance Coverages
Insurance companies may sell several types of policies in Texas, each with different level of coverage. Three of the common policy forms available for sale in Texas - the HO-A, HO-B, and HO-C - are standardized.This means the policy language and coverages provided by these policies are the same, regardless of the company writing the policy.Although an HO-B policy written by one company will be exactly the same as an HO-B policy written by another company, the two companies may charge different rates.
Following is a brief description of the types of policies sold in Texas:
What Texas Homeowners Insurance Policies Do and Don´t Cover
|Most Policies Cover Losses Caused by||Most Policies Do Not Cover Losses Caused by|
|Fire and lightning||Flooding|
|Aircraft & vehicles||Earthquakes|
|Vandalism and malicious mischief||Termites|
|Theft||Insects, rats, or mice|
|Explosion||Freezing pipes while your house is unoccupied (unless you turned off the water or heated the building)|
|Riot and civil commotion||Wind or hail damage to trees and shrubs|
|Smoke||Losses if your house is vacant for 60 days or more|
|Windstorm, hurricane, and hail||Wear and tear or maintenance|
|Sudden and accidental water damage||Water damage resulting from continuous and repeated see page|
Other Residential Policies
Maintain Adequate Coverage
Buy enough coverage to avoid a major financial loss if your home is severely damaged or destroyed. This means keeping a realistic dollar amount of coverage on your house.
Replacement Cost Coverage of Your House
The standardized HO-B and HO-C policies provide replacement cost coverage for your house, up to your policy´s dollar limits. Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Replacement cost is different from market value. It does not include the value of your land. If you are not sure of the amount it would cost to rebuild your home, your company or agent usually has construction cost tables to help you figure the cost.
To receive full payment (minus your deductible) for a partial loss, such as a hail-damaged roof, you must insure your house for at least 80 percent of its replacement cost. If you insure your house for less than 80 percent of the full replacement cost, the insurance company will pay only part of the expense of apartial loss.
Unless you buy an endorsement increasing your coverage, HO-A policies only provide actual cash value coverage. Actual cash value is the replacement cost of your property minus depreciation. If your home is destroyed and you only have actual cash value coverage, you may not be able to completely rebuild it.If you have an HO-A amended policy or an approved alternative policy, read your policy carefully to know whether it offers replacement cost coverage or actual cash value coverage.
Your Policy's Dollar Limits are Important
If you insure your house for $100,000, that's the most you will get if it is destroyed, even if it would cost more to replace it. The Declarations Page on the front of your policy shows how much coverage you have. Talk with your agent or company representative if you have any questions about your insurance limits. If a fire destroys your home, Texas law requires the insurance company to pay the full amount of the policy - even if this amount is more than the replacement cost.
Coverage for Your Personal Property
HO-B policies automatically cover household contents - furniture,clothes, appliances, etc. - up to 40 percent of the amount your house is insured for. This means if you insure your house for $100,000, its contents are insured for up to $40,000. You can get more coverage by paying a higher premium. However this automatic coverage pays only the actual cash value of damaged, stolen, or destroyed household goods.Actual cash value is an item´s replacement cost,minus depreciation.
You may be able to pay extra and buy replacement cost coverage that ignores depreciation and pays for a new item like the one you lost.
Replacement cost coverage gives you more protection than actual cash value coverage. The following example illustrates why: A burglar steals your six-year-old television set. With actual cash value coverage, you get only what you would expect to pay for a six-year-old television set.With replacement cost coverage, the insurance company pays to replace your TV with a new set similar to the stolen one.
Companies generally want proof you replaced an item before paying your claim in full. However, if you have an HO-B policy, the company must advance you the first $1,500, plus the depreciated value of any other damaged property, without requiring proof of replacement. After that, the company must pay you withinfive business days after receiving proof you replaced, restored, or repaired the property. A company can offer to replace the items instead of paying cash, but the choice is yours.
Inventory Your Property
Many people learn after a fire or storm that they didn´t have enough personal property coverage. Making an inventory will help you decide how much insurance you need. It also will simplify claims.
Your inventory should list each item, its value, and serial number. Photograph or videotape each room, including closets, open drawers, storage buildings, and your garage. Keep receipts for major items in a fireproof place.
Homeowners insurance on certain items like jewelry and furs is limited. You may be able to buy more coverage for an extra premium.
Other Types of Insurance You Might NeedFlood Insurance
Texas ranks at or near the top of the nation in weather-related property damage each year. A large portion of this damage is due to flooding. Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage.
If a lender determines that a property is in a special flood hazard area, the borrower is required to purchase flood insurance.Hurricanes and Windstorm Insurance
The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) is the state´s insurer of last resort for wind and hail coverage in the 14 coastal counties and parts of HarrisCounty on Galveston Bay. TWIA provides wind and hail coverage when insurance companies exclude it from homeowners and other property policies sold to coastal residents. You can buy TWIA coverage through local insurance agents if you need it.
When a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico (80 degrees longitude and 20 degrees latitude), you can no longer change or purchase new Windstorm coverage.Earthquake Insurance
If you are concerned about earthquakes, you can get coverage with a separate policy. The cost is relatively low because earthquakes are rare in Texas.Extra Coverage (Endorsements)
You might want more coverage for certain items than your policy provides. For an extra premium, you may be able to buy endorsements that expand or increase the coverage on these items. Some of the most common endorsements expand or increase coverage for jewelry,fine arts, camera equipment, coin or stamp collections, computer equipment, and radio and television satellite dishes and antennas.Personal Umbrella Liability Insurance
If you want more liability coverage than a homeowners policy provides, you can buy a separate umbrella policy. Because policies vary, make sure the agent or company fully explains the coverage.