If you're like most homeowners, you probably don't think about your property insurance very often. It's common to enjoy the security of knowing your insurance company has you covered.
Or does it?
Sure, your basic homeowners policy will cover you for the run-of-the-mill stuff like fires (the accidental variety, at least). But what if you have the misfortune of suffering a more unusual type of calamity?
In that case, it's important to know whether you have an "open-perils" or "named-perils" policy. Most homeowners policies cover your dwelling on an open-perils basis, sometimes conversely referred to as "named exclusions." With this type of policy, anything not specifically excluded by your policy is covered. A named-perils policy is just the opposite: Everything's excluded except what is specifically listed as covered.
Here's a look at some of the more unusual things that could happen to your home and how your insurance company might react. We'll get some help from Bill Wilson, the associate vice president of education and research for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.
1. FloodingThis is not that unusual, but it is perhaps the most common calamity not covered by a standard policy, which many homeowners discover the hard way.
"Homeowners policies rarely, if ever, cover flood," Wilson says. That means surface waters that accumulate from heavy rains, lakes or streams that overflow their banks, wave- or wind-driven water and surges common in coastal areas, underground water and springs, sewer backups and almost any other kind of flooding that doesn't originate from your home's plumbing system.
Flood insurance can be purchased from most insurance agents, but it is underwritten by the federal government and provided in policies separate from your homeowners insurance.
For more information, visit the National Flood Insurance Program's Web site at FloodSmart.gov.
2. Mine collapsesResidents of the Pennsylvania village of Drifton got a shock last year when the ground opened up and swallowed parts of two homes. The village sits atop old abandoned coal mines, so this wasn't as shocking as it sounds (in fact, the same thing had happened on the same block 30 years earlier).
A mine collapse isn't covered by regular insurance -- insurance for this must be obtained through a special program run by the state, at an average cost of around $250 per year. In the Drifton example, one affected property had this insurance; the neighbor did not.
3. VolcanoesSurprisingly, many homeowner policies actually do cover damage from volcanic eruptions. (Likewise, if you have comprehensive auto coverage and your car gets damaged from a volcanic eruption, you may be covered.)
This coverage is usually limited, however, to damage caused by the material which comes out of the volcano, such as lava and ash. Damage caused by volcanic ground tremors usually isn't covered, unless you have an earthquake policy. In Hawaii, there's a state volcano insurance program that covers homeowners who live in the highest-risk areas.