With regional flare-ups, new variants of COVID on the rise, and shutdowns keeping many businesses closed, many of us are spending more time at home.
You may have wondered how coronavirus affects your insurance coverage, or if you’ve been affected financially by COVID or its economic effects, you may need to find out if there’s any financial relief to help with insurance costs.
Here are some common questions (and answers) about how coronavirus affects homeowners insurance.
Should I change my home insurance coverage limits?
Most insurers recommend a policy review once every 12 to 18 months. A policy review gives you a chance to compare your coverage against your current situation and be certain your policies provide the protection you need.
However, there’s no need to change your liability coverage limits because of coronavirus risks specifically. All home insurance policies exclude certain risks from coverage, meaning claims do to those risks won’t be covered by the policy. Most homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude communicable diseases from coverage, which would include transmission of coronavirus or similar illnesses.
While most policies don’t cover liability related to communicable diseases, industry experts indicate the risk of lawsuits due to coronavirus infection is low, at least in a home environment. This is because it is difficult to know with any certainty where anyone was exposed to COVID-19.
If the pandemic forces you to work from home, however, you may need new equipment or maybe even need to convert part of your home into a home office. These changes are worth discussing with your insurance advisor, particularly if you’ll be storing business equipment at home, making structural changes to your home, or adding new furniture and supplies to outfit your work-at-home office.
How do I document the changes I’ve made to my home?
In a covered claim, the process of recovering your loss and making repairs where needed can move ahead more smoothly if you have records of changes you’ve made to your home or new equipment you’ve purchased. Save your receipts, and if you choose to save your receipts digitally, be sure to back up copies to a reliable cloud service provider.
Receipts can be a useful tool when you need to demonstrate a loss during a claim. However, a home inventory offers a more robust solution, covering all the important items of value in your home.
How do I make a home inventory?
As you might expect, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are now several good apps available to help you build a home inventory that documents what you own as well as the value of your personal property. use your smartphone or tablet to search the app store. Highly-rated apps with the most reviews offer a good starting point.
You don’t necessarily need an app, though. If you’re handy with a spreadsheet or even a word processor, you can build a home inventory without paying for an app or depending on a third-party provider. You’ll still need your smartphone or a digital camera to take photos of personal belongings, home improvements, and receipts for items You’ve purchased.
Here are some basic tips to help you build your home inventory:
- Take clear photographs of your belongings.
- Avoid using stock photos or online images; take pictures of the real item in your home.
- Consider overlapping photographs to create a panoramic view that shows the contents of a room or area.
- Consider taking a video to show items in your home, but be sure you have a steady hand and move the camera slowly.
- Take pictures or scan receipts or appraisals.
- Back up your home inventory files to a trusted cloud service provider.
Should I increase my property coverage limits?
In most cases, you won’t need to change your coverage limits for personal property for the coverage limit for your home itself. But if you’ve made major changes, reach out to your insurance advisor to discuss your coverage needs.
For many households, building an up-to-date home inventory is the best way to prepare for potential losses. This is true even regardless of coronavirus concerns. Pandemics don’t last forever, so risks surrounding COVID-19 will pass eventually. However, building or updating your home inventory is always a wise move, with or without a pandemic.
How will COVID-19 affect claims or service?
Because of risk of contagion, many in-person services have now become virtual services. This affects claims as well, but often only in superficial ways. For example, if you have damage to your home or property, your insurer may ask for your help by asking you to send digital pictures of damage. In many cases, insurers have been moving in this direction anyway, as seen in mobile apps that let you report a claim through your phone or tablet.
In some cases, you may also see slightly slower response times due to staffing changes and location of staff. Remember, many of us are working from home for a while — and the same is true for many workers in the insurance industry.
What can I do If I can’t afford to make insurance payments because of COVID-19?
If you have a mortgage on your home, it’s most likely that your home insurance premiums are paid as part of your mortgage payment. Many banks can provide forbearance or other solutions, but eligibility may vary based on the type of loan you have or the rules your bank has in place. Home insurance and property taxes are typically made from the escrow account connected to your mortgage.
If you pay your home insurance directly or for other insurance types, reach out to your insurance provider. Many insurers offer assistance for customers experiencing hardships due to COVID-19. However, it’s important to reach out to your insurer to learn your options rather than skipping a payment. Missed premium payments can cause your policy to lapse, possibly ending your coverage or affecting rates in the future.
If you can’t make payments or your premiums are too high based on your current finances, reach out to your bank or your insurer to ask about possible solutions. Many households face similar challenges and there is often a way to keep the coverage you need during a challenging time.