Eleven Most Frequently Asked Questions About Homeowners Insurance For Southeastern MA & South Coast MA Residents

With almost 70 years of experience helping new and seasoned homeowners all over Southeastern, MA and beyond, the team at Morse, of course, has heard just about every question you could possibly imagine about homeowners insurance, from what it costs to what it covers.

Below are just eleven of our most frequently asked questions as well as their answers, so you can feel better prepared when it comes time to renew your current policy or purchase a new one.

1. What is a homeowners insurance policy?

A homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for your home, compensating you in the event of a loss, such as theft or a fire. In addition, this critical policy offers liability coverage in the event of an injury on your property, such as a slip and fall incident.

2. What does homeowners insurance cover?

A standard homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for a range of perils including property damage, personal property loss, personal liability and additional living expenses. Below is a brief, and generic, description of each coverage type.

  • Property Damage. In the event the structure of your home is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or another covered disaster, your homeowners policy will likely provide sufficient coverage. In addition, most policies also cover your detached structures such as a gazebo, shed or garage. Since most of our clients are residents of New England, and even more specifically Southeastern Massachusetts, and are all too familiar with unseasonable weather, we wanted to share a weather-related scenario to help further explain this essential coverage to you:
    • If a tree were to fall on your roof or knock down your vinyl privacy fence due to a hurricane or a particularly severe winter storm, then your standard homeowners insurance policy will likely cover the damages.
    • However, if that very same tree were to fall on your roof or knock down your new fencing as a result of an earthquake or flood event, then your standard policy will not provide adequate coverage. Which is why it is critical, especially here in New England, to consider purchasing additional coverages and endorsements, such as a separate flood insurance policy or earthquake coverage, to make sure you, your family and your home are properly protected from the unpredictability of Mother Nature.
  • Personal Property Loss includes damage and theft of your personal belongings, up to your set policy limits for covered circumstances, excluding floods, earthquakes and personal negligence. If you own any high-value items, you may want to consider adding a scheduled fine art and jewelry rider to your policy to ensure that your items are properly protected. And don’t let the name of this additional coverage fool you; this special endorsement will protect a variety of your high-valued items, including oriental rugs, silverware, furs, antiques, and, of course, your fine art and jewelry too.
  • Personal Liability covers you, your family and even your four-legged friend against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you may be held liable for, up to the specific limits of your homeowners insurance policy.
  • Additional Living Expenses provides coverage if your home was to become uninhabitable due to devastating damage or a total loss. In the event that you need to make alternate living arrangements, such as staying in a hotel or booking a short-term rental, your homeowners insurance policy may help pay for a percentage of those expenditures that are above and beyond your normal monthly expenses.

3. Is homeowners insurance required?

In Massachusetts, if you finance your home through a bank or mortgage company, homeowners insurance is required. However, loan or no loan, the experienced team at Morse always recommends that our clients purchase this critical insurance to ensure they are properly protected in the event of a loss.

4. How much does homeowners insurance cost?

This is a tricky question to answer, as there are many things that factor into premium costs and no two homes are exactly alike. For example, the overall replacement value of your home plus the amount of coverage you desire will ultimately determine the cost of your policy. Some additional factors are: local construction costs, the state you live in, and number of previously filed claims.

5. How much homeowners insurance coverage do I need?

This too, is a very complicated question to answer, and that’s because the answer isn’t as straightforward as you may think. The truth is, much like cost, there are several factors that come into play when trying to determine the exact amount of coverage needed. What we can say is that a typical homeowners policy consists of coverage for the replacement value of your home, your personal belongings and to protect your personal liability – so let’s explore these three things a bit further.

  • When it comes to the structure of your home, it is important that you insure your home for its full replacement value, or the full cost to rebuild your home in the event of a total loss. It is imperative that you let your insurance agent know about any and all special finishes or features, like crown molding, hardwood floors and granite countertops, because they will need to be factored into your overall replacement value.
  • When it comes to personal belongings, most insurance policies cover your things at 50 to 70 percent of your home’s value. However, at Morse, we strongly recommend that our clients complete a home inventory, so we can accurately determine the appropriate replacement cost of each item and, from there, the necessary coverage. For more expensive items like an engagement ring, family heirloom or a commissioned piece of art, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage, like a special jewelry and fine arts rider, to reduce your financial exposure.
  • Typical liability coverage included in a standard homeowners insurance policy is approximately $100,000 to $300,000. However, if you think you might be at risk for a lawsuit, you may want to seriously consider bumping this coverage to $300,000 or even $500,000.

For additional peace of mind, you could also consider purchasing a separate umbrella policy, which can add an additional $1 million or more in available coverage. This additional policy is not only affordable, it’s a great way to increase your overall liability protection, and is strongly recommended by Morse if you own a pet, have a pool, trampoline, teenage driver, or allow a nanny or caregiver to drive your personal vehicles.

6. Can my homeowners insurance policy be cancelled?

Yes, your homeowners insurance policy can be cancelled.

In the first 60 days of your policy, coverage can be cancelled due to insufficient payment. After those initial 60 days, the reason for cancellation must be due to a specific circumstance such as total number of claims, fraudulent information, non-payment or increased risk. In the event of a policy cancellation, you can expect to receive a notice directly from your insurance carrier at least 10 to 30 days prior to the set cancellation date.

It is important to note that a policy cancellation is different than being dropped by your insurance carrier. When you are dropped by your insurance company, you will need to find insurance through a different insurer. Similar to a policy cancellation, you can expect to receive a notice of non-renewal in the mail giving you sufficient time to secure a new policy.

7. Does my homeowners policy protect me from flood damage?

A standard homeowners policy does not cover any damages related to flooding. So, since weather events common to our area, like downpours and rapid snowmelt, can lead to a damaging flood event, the team at Morse recommends all Southeastern Massachusetts homeowners consider flood insurance. You can count on Morse, of course, to evaluate your property’s specific flood risk, find comprehensive and affordable flood insurance options to meet your needs, and, most important, to provide advice on preventative measures and a home evacuation plan that can help keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of an emergency.

8. Do you have to pay for homeowners insurance before closing on a new home?

In most cases, yes, you will need to pay for an entire year’s worth of premium in order to secure a mortgage or other financing when purchasing a new home. However, your lender may be able to include your first year’s premium into your loan’s closing costs to ensure a smoother process.

9. Is my homeowners insurance included as part of my mortgage payment?

Your insurance premium is only included in your mortgage payment if you opt to escrow your insurance at the time of purchase or refinance.

Today, escrowing both your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance is a common practice and something you can set up directly with your loan officer, banker or mortgage broker.

10. Is homeowners insurance the same as mortgage insurance?

No, mortgage insurance and homeowners insurance are not the same. In fact, mortgage insurance does not insure your home at all; instead, it provides your bank an extra layer of protection in the event of a loan default or foreclosure. If you have specific questions about your current mortgage insurance, we recommend that you consult with your mortgage company or loan officer directly for further clarification.

11. Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?

Every year, millions of people are attacked by dogs, so if you own one or are planning to adopt soon, this is a very wise question to ask. In general, a standard home insurance policy may provide you with important financial protection if your dog bites someone other than a member of your household and you are found liable for this person’s dog bite-related injuries. The liability portion of your home insurance policy is the coverage that typically could help you pay for medical expenses of the person your dog bites and some of the legal expenses if you are sued as a result of your canine’s actions.

It is important to know that the liability coverage in your homeowners policy does have set limits. If the dog bite victim’s medical expenses and your legal fees surpass these coverage limits, you could be responsible for paying the rest of what you owe out of your own pocket. At Morse, we usually recommend that our clients who are dog owners consider investing in the supplemental liability protection an umbrella insurance policy offers. With umbrella insurance, you can get an additional $1 million of personal liability coverage, often for as little as a few dollars a week.

One final, and critical, thing to understand is that your insurance carrier could deny a bite-related claim if you never informed the carrier that you had a dog. So, whether you’ve just adopted a pup or you’ve had a furry friend by your side for years, make sure you let Morse know about this member of your household. Some insurance companies consider certain dog breeds too risky to insure, so we will investigate the best way to make sure you and your pooch are properly covered for bite incidents

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