What if a tree fell on your deck, destroying the railing and one corner of the deck? Or what if you burned the siding on your house from having your grill too close? Would your homeowner’s insurance cover the damage to your deck and/or your home? What if a visitor walked out on your deck, slipped on an icy spot and was injured in the fall?
Whether or not you’re covered all depends, of course, on your homeowner’s insurance and what changes you made to it prior to, or after building your deck. If your new deck is attached to your home, it is probably covered under the “dwelling” portion of your homeowner’s insurance. If the deck isn’t attached to your home then it would most likely be covered under the “other structures” portion of your policy. Injuries to guests or family members using the deck would fall under your personal liability policy.
According to Nationwide Insurance, personal liability “occurs in the event an accident, in or out of your home, on or around your deck, that results in bodily injury or property damage that you are held legally responsible for.” That’s why personal liability coverage is an important component of your homeowner’s insurance or renters insurance policy.
Because every homeowner’s insurance policy is unique, it’s best to check with your agent before anything happens. Make sure to ask about damage from falling trees—either your trees or the neighbor’s trees as tree damage can pose a different issue in the home insurance world.
Typically your homeowner’s insurance policy outlines how much coverage you have for covered losses. You are only covered for the specified amount that is listed on your policy. Most policies let you change your limits, or add more coverage for new additions to the home—be it an extra room, or a new deck.
It’s important to note that the specifics of how your policy covers your home is outlined in your policy contract. Any coverage you add for your deck should be the same. That’s why it’s important to notify your insurance company of any improvements to your property before you make them. This ensures your new addition is properly insured, but it helps you avoid building or doing something that might not be covered by your insurance plan. This is also a good time to sit down with your agent and go over your policy so you understand what protection you have, or don’t have.
Many people think that their dwelling is the space that they live in and that their dwelling insurance might not cover anything else but this space. However, as long as the structure whether it be a garage or a new deck is attached to your home, it falls under your dwelling coverage.
If any damage should happen to your attached deck due to a covered hazard, the costs of repairing it or rebuilding it would likely be covered through the dwelling portion of your homeowners policy and therefore your insurance provider will step in to help cover the repair or replacement even though you don’t typically dwell out on your deck on a regular basis.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the kinds of things that homeowner’s insurance covers vary from state-to-state and policy-to-policy, but in most scenarios, the following damage to your home or deck are covered:
- Smoke or fire
- Lightning strikes
- Falling objects
- Damage by a motor vehicle
- Damage by an aircraft
- Snow, ice or sleet accumulation causing damage
Trees are often the villain in natural disasters. Is tree damage covered? According to Angie’s List experts, “ If your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, the basic rule is that the insurance policy of the property that was damaged pays for the loss. In other words, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance covers the damage to your neighbor’s house.”
However, there are states and policies that don’t cover these events unless you pay extra to add them to your policy. Check with your agent and ask them to show you exactly what your homeowner’s policy covers—especially if you live in an area prone to high winds, fire, flood, hail or lightning strikes.
Why Insurance Claims For Decks Are Often Denied
Understanding why some insurance claims for deck damage are denied is important. Insurance agents often deny a claim if the structure was unpermitted, built by an unlicensed contractor, or was incorrectly installed or not maintained properly. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover problems that result from general wear and tear, so proper maintenance is critical.
Most all-risk policies provide the following types of inclusions and exclusions from coverage:
- Ice dams: Most insurance companies will not pay for ice dam removal. They will, however, typically cover interior or exterior (deck) damage caused by an ice dam. They will also pay for tree damage to your home or deck, but not for the cost of removing trees that pose a hazard to the home.
- Snow removal: Your homeowner’s insurance will not cover injuries that you sustain during removing snow from your property. In addition, you will not have coverage for the cost of snow and ice removal, but you will have coverage for damage caused by snow and cold. Ice and snow damage to your yard and driveway typically will not be covered.
- Frozen pipes: Some insurance companies will pay to have frozen pipes thawed by professionals, but many will not. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover pipe replacement and water damage due to frozen pipes.
- Power outage: A typical homeowners policy will exclude coverage for damage resulting from power outages, unless the power outage is a result of a covered peril (wind, hail, lightning, etc.). Damage caused by a power outage that results from winter weather will likely be covered.
- Weight of snow: If the weight of ice and snow cause your roof, porch or deck to collapse, your homeowners’ policy will probably cover damage caused by such a collapse. Structures that are not buildings, such as fences, swimming pools, or septic tanks are not covered if winter weather causes them to collapse
- Fallen trees or tree limbs: A typical homeowners insurance policy will cover structures that are damaged due to a fallen tree or tree limb. If a tree or limb falls and does not cause damage to an insured structure, there will be no coverage for replacing the tree itself. You may have limited coverage for tree removal.
There’s no reason to worry about whether or not you’re covered as long as you take an hour or so to contact your insurance agent and go over your coverage. If you’re considering building a deck, or just built one and are wondering, call them today and find out for sure what your coverage is.