Wednesday, July 6

Your personal property is covered under homeowners insurance, but there are a few exceptions

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, like American Express, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • There are three components to homeowners insurance: dwelling, personal liability, and personal property coverage.
  • Personal property covers you if your belongings are lost, damaged, or stolen.
  • Some items like specialty jewelry, fine art, and high-end electronics require add-on coverage.
  • See Insider’s picks for the best homeowners insurance companies.

Homeowners insurance protects your dwelling and your belongings, and offers liability coverage for injuries that happen on your property.

There are three components to homeowners insurance: dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, and personal liability coverage. Your possessions are covered under personal property coverage.

What is personal property insurance?

Homeowners insurance protects your belongings and furnishings from damage due to covered events, known as insurance perils. A peril is an event that may damage your home or belongings. Common insurance perils include: theft, fire, lightning, hail, and vandalism.

There are limits to standard personal property coverage depending on your policy and insurance carrier, usually $100,000.

*Available as add-on coverage if not part of policy

**Flood insurance is available through the NFIP and approved insurers

***If you live in hurricane or tornado areas, additional windstorm rider may be required

Specialty items may not be included or require an add-on rider

Specialty items like high-end electronics, special jewelry, furs, fine arts, firearms, and cash may not be covered. According to Steve Wilson, senior underwriting manager at Hippo Insurance, these items may need a “personal article” endorsement or add- on rider.

With personal jewelry insurance, you can ask your homeowners insurance to increase your limits, but “the amounts are still limited for both individual pieces and overall losses,” according to the Insurance Information Institute.

*Subject to liability limits

**Depends on policy

Data from Jewelers Mutual

A second option is purchasing a floater policy as an add-on to your homeowners insurance. The Insurance Information Institute notes that although this is more expensive, it offers the broadest coverage, including coverage your standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t include. Your jewelry and fine art must be appraised before purchasing a floater.

Another option is to purchase personal jewelry insurance. Bryan Howard, director of product management for Jewelers Mutual, told Insider that unlike a homeowners policy, “a standalone jewelry policy is a comprehensive, all perils policy, meaning it covers every type of loss unless specifically excluded.”

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost

Homeowners insurance policies typically use “replacement cost” when paying out for covered damage. Replacement cost is the cost to replace the item with a new or used product.

Actual cash value (ACV) takes into consideration depreciation of the item. For example, if a five-year-old leather is damaged by fire, the actual cash value considers the age of the sofa. Actual cash value is usually lower than the replacement cost value.

Flood insurance policies typically use actual cash value, but you can pay extra to use replacement cost. Check with your homeowners insurance to see which is used. Some providers offer “guaranteed replacement cost” as a perk.

For specialty jewelry and fine art, you will be covered for the appraised value minus any deductible.

It’s a good idea to take inventory of your furniture and personal possessions. Some homeowners insurance companies will have inventory lists for you to complete. If you have riders for fine art and specialty jewelry, you will be required to catalog and provide appraisals for them.

How to file a claim if your belongings are damaged or stolen

Treat stolen or damaged possessions like a car accident and follow these steps to report and file and claim.

  1. Notify the police and file a police report if it is due to theft. Your insurance company may request a copy of the police report.
  2. Take pictures of damaged possessions and what caused the damage (fire, storm, etc).
  3. Contact your homeowners insurance company. Failure to timely notify your insurance provider can result in denying the claim.

Ronda Lee is an associate editor for insurance at Personal Finance Insider covering life, auto, homeowners, and renters insurance for consumers. She is also a licensed attorney who practiced litigation and insurance defense.