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Time to review homeowner insurance coverage

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The dawn of the New Year is a good time check out the details of your homeowners’ insurance policy for proper coverage. Homeowners’ insurance generally offers several different kinds of coverage.

Policies ordinarily set a replacement value on your home with 20 percent additional coverage to account for specialized local conditions and inflation. Most homeowner’s policies have deductibles which must be surpassed before insurance pays anything. Make sure that the deductible on your policy is something that you can afford.

Higher deductibles make premiums go down, but may leave you holding a much bigger bag before your family is protected. Do you have a personal reserve fund to meet the deductible? Policies insure your home against most ordinary perils. These probably include tornado, fire, windstorm, theft and others. It will not protect against floods, sometimes earthquakes, or acts of war. Read your policy and become alert to specific unusual exclusions.

Check with your county building department to assure your home is not located in a flood plain. A flood is unlikely, but flood insurance is available from the federal government should you feel the need. Many mortgage companies insist you carry this coverage in areas likely to flood.

Earthquake insurance is probably not necessary in the Kansas City area, but new questions have been raised recently concerning oil exploration by “fracking” and atypical seismic activity in the area. A catastrophic, series of earthquakes happened in 1811 and 1812 at New Madrid MO, just a couple hundred miles to the east. The 1811 and 1812 earthquakes were felt as far away as Washington D.C. Scientists believe an earthquake on the New Madrid fault system will happen again at some future date and may affect Kansas City.

Sewer backups and failures of underground piping remain rare, but are more likely than floods or earthquakes for us. Sewer coverage is not ordinarily included in most homeowner’s policies, but can be purchased as riders to your general policy for around $10-$20 per month. An ounce of prevention is worth hundreds of pounds of sludge when it comes time to dig out.

Video inspection and maintenance of sewer pipes that run from your street to your house is now available and should be performed every three or four years. This may save you from a big cleanup in the future, tearing up your lawn, and ruining the possessions you've stored in the basement.

Your policy also covers general liability problems. The contents of your home are insured under a separate section of the policy. Have you acquired something of value that is stored at home? Have you been the beneficiary of a bequest? Has some item appreciated significantly? If so, you may want to address the amount of coverage you have on this portion of you insurance or even take out a separate policy on the exceptional items. You should keep an inventory of your belongings against potential loss and have digital records of the items.

All homeowners policies have provisions that allow for living expenses should you not be able to live in your home because of a loss. Make sure that the amount allowed is adequate to take care of your family’s needs in event of disaster. It may be time to buy more coverage.

Questions should be referred to your personal insurance agent. You may not be able to do much about homeowner’s insurance rates, but you can review your home and belongings to assure proper coverage on your home sweet home.

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