What to Know About Your Homeowners Policy and Fires
June 1, 2021
It’s fire season again in California. And if you live in a high-risk area, you’re probably a pro at evacuation preparation. But are you confident that your homeowners insurance has you covered in the case of fire? Here are some important factors that will help you protect your home adequately in case of fire.
Many home owners think their home is insured at its retail value but in fact, coverage is more likely based on the cost to rebuild the home—a cost that’s locked in at the time the policy is signed. In California, it’s currently recommended to insure your home at a value of at least $350 per square foot—the average cost to rebuild a home with standard materials in Northern California right now. If you haven’t looked at your policy in years, speak with your insurance agent to see if your coverage may need to be adjusted. And if you’ve recently added value with a remodel or an addition, now is a great time to update your policy to properly protect your upgraded home.
Extended Replacement Costs
Another consideration when determining your cost to rebuild is where you live. If you live in a densely populated neighborhood or a high-risk area, ask your agent about extended replacement cost coverage. When a fire destroys an entire neighborhood, it creates high demand for building materials and labor, which increases the cost to rebuild. Extended replacement cost coverage could pay a benefit ranging from about 120 to 150 percent of your policy’s limit and that can help protect you from inflated costs after a major disaster.
Most insurance policies cover the everyday contents of your home and personal items. But there are some items that may be covered only by a small sub-limit of $2,500 or less. If you own a high-end bicycle, a valuable piece of jewelry, a rare antique, or any other special property that you want to make sure is adequately protected, speak with your agent and have them specifically schedule coverage for those items.
Some home owners get stuck with inadequate homeowners insurance based on where they live and the risk level associated with the property. For instance, many carriers won’t insure properties in rural and remote areas with dense vegetation. If that’s your case, you may be paying high premiums to lesser-known carriers—and still not have strong enough coverage. To show insurance carriers you’re working to protect your property, you can clear vegetation so you have a 200-foot perimeter around your home (make sure no branches touch your roofline) and install fire-friendly landscaping.
Loss of Use
If you get evacuated from your home due to nearby fires, you’ll appreciate a Loss of Use provision in your homeowners policy. This provision covers your family’s living expenses if you can’t live in your house due to repair or reconstruction. And in some cases, it covers living expenses incurred during evacuation as well. Save your receipts and make sure your expenses are reasonable and meet the terms of your policy. If you’re not sure if you have a Loss of Use provision or what it specifically covers, check your policy or ask your agent. The cost to include this provision is nominal and well worth the cost if you are evacuated during wildfire season.
It’s a good idea to look at your homeowners insurance policy with your agent annually to make sure you’re properly covered in case of fire or any other disaster. If it turns out you need to upgrade your policy, the cost is usually less than a few hundred dollars per year and you have peace of mind knowing you’re covered.
Insurance products are not deposits of Redwood Credit Union (RCU) and are not protected by NCUA. They are not an obligation of or guarantee by RCU and may be subject to risk. Any insurance required as a condition of an extension of credit by RCU need not be purchased from RCU Insurance Services (RCUIS) and may be purchased from an agent or an insurance company of the Member’s choice. RCUIS is a wholly owned subsidiary of RCU. Business conducted with RCUIS is separate and distinct from any business conducted with RCU. License no. OD91054. NPN no. 7612227.