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Summer is the perfect time for barbecues, pool parties and outdoor get-togethers with family and friends. Unfortunately, if you’re not properly insured, an injury on your property could be the end of your summer fun. Learn when and why you may want to consider updating your homeowners insurance policy.
Whether you’re hosting a barbecue, garden party, pool party, or family get-together, there’s nothing quite like entertaining outside in the summer. Many people, recognizing the value of an outdoor entertaining space in the warmer months, have upgraded their decks and patios to enjoy with guests in the good weather.
With all this outdoor entertaining, it’s important to ensure you have the proper homeowners insurance to cover your property in case of damage, and to help protect against any injury liability claims.
“The outdoor space is something that people don’t think about much. If they think about home insurance, they think mainly about their house structure,” says Amy Danise, editorial director of Insure.com.
You may want to review your homeowners insurance policy this summer if:
1. You’ve made recent outdoor improvements and they might not be included. If you’ve added a hot tub, pool, outdoor kitchen, gazebo, or storage shed, check to see if it’s included under your current policy.
Generally, other structures are covered as a percent of your dwelling coverage, Danise says. For example, if your house is insured for $200,000, the other structures on your property are typically insured for 10 percent of that amount.
2. Your outdoor property is in bad condition; you could be on the hook financially if someone is hurt on your property. Check the condition of your outdoor property to help protect yourself from injury claims against your homeowners insurance policy. Make sure your deck and stairs are in good shape. Look for any wood decay, which can weaken the structural integrity of your deck. Fix any areas that need work, and perform ongoing maintenance.
Be aware that some outdoor damage to your property may not be covered under your homeowners policy, especially if the damage could have been avoided with routine maintenance. Damage from termites, insects, birds, rodents, rust, rot, or mold may not be covered.
3. You may not have enough coverage to protect you in the event someone is injured during a summer get-together. Figure out how much liability protection you have, as this can protect you against property damage or bodily injury claims if, for example, someone is injured at your barbecue or hurt in a pool accident. The standard coverage amount is from $100,000 to $300,000. Talk to your insurance professional to determine if this is enough coverage for your situation.
4. You think it may be time to purchase additional coverage. Consider purchasing personal liability umbrella coverage. Because astronomical lawsuits are not uncommon, personal liability umbrella insurance provides additional coverage—on top of your existing auto and homeowners policies—in increments of $1 million.
“It’s a pretty cheap way to buy extra liability,” Danise says. “And it generally goes on top of your home and auto insurance.”
Umbrella policies go into effect after the main liability limits on your homeowners or auto policy are exhausted. So you will need to have a high liability, like $300,000, in your main policy, and then you can buy an umbrella policy to extend the amount, she says.
5. You aren’t taking advantage of available savings. Review your homeowners policy periodically to make sure you are familiar with its coverage and to ensure you are taking advantage of any applicable discounts. Don’t get caught by surprise. “Check on your deductibles to make sure you’re aware of how much you would have to pay out if you have property damage, like a fire,” Danise advises.
This summer, enjoy your outdoor entertaining space—just make sure it’s adequately covered under your homeowners insurance to prevent a dreamy summer day from turning into a nightmare.
A Chicago-based writer and editor, Eve Becker writes about personal finance, health and other topics. She is a former managing editor of Tribune Media Services.
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