When it comes to structural damage and home insurance, the answer to whether or not you’re covered is usually no. The main reason structural damage isn’t included in most home insurance policies is that insurance is designed to cover loss due to sudden, accidental events. Most of the time foundation damage or hidden structural damage isn’t discovered until months or even years after the initial problem started. This creates an issue with identifying which insurance policy was active when the damage started. In most claims with a covered peril, insurance companies also don’t fix things that weren’t addressed within a reasonable time as it’s seen as neglect.
Because it can take so long to detect, structural damage can be considered a maintenance problem, which is not covered by home insurance. However, once you’ve discovered the damage and taken steps to repair it and prevent further problems, your homeowners insurance policy may cover ensuing loss. For example, if cracks in the foundation or damage from plumbing led to water in your home, that damage could be considered ensuing loss if the water damage was addressed early. Insurance companies would look for things like signs of mold before covering that. But the cracks themselves would not be covered under your standard homeowners insurance policy.
How Can Homeowners Protect Themselves with Standard Policies?
To make sure you’re not stuck holding the bag for structural damage, there are a few things you can do. First, check your policy for ensuing loss coverage. Even though it won’t help with initial repairs, it does protect you from additional damage due to the original problem. You can also add extra coverage, or riders, that may help cover costs due to events like natural disasters. Consider adding a flood insurance policy or earth movement insurance policy (earthquake insurance) if you think you might need insurance coverage for events like these.
If your home hasn’t been inspected lately, call a home inspector. Get a professional in to check out your foundation, plumbing, roofing, and more. Then fix small things as a matter of maintenance before they turn into serious structural issues and repairs. If you’re just buying a home, check out the inspection for signs of faulty construction. You might be able to work the repair costs into your contract.
No matter what, be sure to pay attention to the exclusions of your policy. Before buying a home, get a professional to do a thorough home inspection to help you identify any existing or potential structural damage problems.
Talk to an independent insurance agent about your options. They can walk you through the different types of coverage available to you and help you find the right homeowners insurance company for your needs. You might be surprised just how many insurance options are open to you.