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As homeowners, our backyards are an outdoor living space and playground for adults and their kids. Whether you've lived there a while or are a new homeowner, you might consider updating your backyard to make it a more comfortable living space.
In fact, 88% of homeowners plan to update their outdoor living space according to a 2018 Houzz survey. Common additions include lounge furniture, fire pits, string lights, and outdoor entertainment elements like wired or wireless speakers and televisions.
With so much money being spent on outdoor upgrades, finding out if insurance will cover your investment is crucial. Home insurance often has special policy limitations on outdoor toys or special needs for insurance on swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. You're on the right track if you're asking yourself, "Do I need to add my hot tub to my homeowner's insurance?"
To help you get the most out of your home insurance and make sure your pools, outdoor furniture, and backyard upgrades are insured properly, here's what you need to know.
There are two guidelines to consider when letting your insurance company know about backyard improvements or additions:
Also, be sure and ask what perils your backyard items are insured for. Some policies may not insure damage due to wind and hail, while others might. These become important factors in choosing the right home insurance when you've invested money into an outdoor living area or entertaining space. Additionally, the coverage may vary based on the type of item. You'll want to ask whether your insurance covers replacement cost or actual cash value.
Some backyard items can have greater liability risks and may or may not be covered if you file an insurance claim. For instance, if you have a spa, you'll need to know how a spa affects homeowners' insurance.
You should call your insurance company to discuss coverage options if you have any of the items on this list or are thinking of adding them to your home:
It is important to find out if your home coverage will still be valid once you've added these items. If in doubt, contact your insurance company, and they can help you make sure you have enough coverage.
Before you install a pool, there's a good chance you will need to comply with local laws about installation. Local municipal regulations usually address pool safety, and insurance companies look at the same kinds of safety factors.
Check your local regulations for:
Normally, you'll be in compliance with what the insurance company will require when following local regulations. However, the insurance company underwriting may require additional safety features or precautions. Always contact your insurance company to let them know about your plans and get guidance.
Home insurance policies may cover an in-ground pool automatically or they may require an additional endorsement to be added to the policy in order to cover the pool.
There are approximately 7.4 million swimming pools and 5 million hot tubs in use in the United States according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Some home insurance companies consider above-ground pools to be personal property, while others require you to add an endorsement. If the insurance company considers your pool an "external structure," then you must list it on the policy or it will not be covered.
Contact your home insurance provider to understand the coverage available to you.
Home insurance can be complicated. To better understand the exclusions and limitations of your coverage, you should ask the following questions:
Some insurance companies will not insure or will exclude pools with slides and diving boards. Always ask to make sure your insurance company will cover you.
Treehouses, decks, sheds, and other additional structures are covered under a homeowner policy as a percentage of the building amount. Items attached to the home such as a deck should be considered as part of the reconstruction cost of your home.
Before you add structures or extensions to your property, such as large decks for entertaining or outdoor living, always contact your home insurance company. You'll want to ask about the limits to make sure they will cover your additional structures.
The coverage terms for landscaping differ between home insurers. In general, you may have some basic protection up to a certain limit of the insured value of your home. For example, a common limit is a value of 5% of your insured dwelling value. A limitation per item can also apply, such as $500 per tree, bush, or shrub, for example.
If this isn't enough, you may be able to ask for an endorsement on your home insurance policy to increase the limit per item. Some insurance policies have the potential for higher limits on landscaping, but you must consult the declaration page of your home insurance policy or ask your insurance representative to be sure.
You may not be aware that you need additional coverage since the policy wording for each company is different and your understanding of the "contents" of your home may not always line up with the insurer's definition. If you have made a significant investment in special items, it is always a good idea to call your insurance company.
A personal umbrella liability policy is also a good idea to supplement your insurance for a very reasonable cost. Even if you'd added your pool, hot tub, or outdoor toys to your homeowner's insurance, an umbrella policy can protect you from litigation and legal costs if you get sued.
In most cases, everything will line up, but it is always best to protect yourself, especially when you are investing in your outdoor living space.
Written by Mila Araujo