If your home were destroyed, is your insurance policy enough to rebuild and replace your possessions? (image via Delaware state fire school)

When was the last time you looked at your homeowner’s policy If you are like most homeowners, you looked at it when you bought it and then you filed it away in your filing cabinet or fireproof box for safe keeping.  But like the other insurance policies you have to protect you, you need to review and reassess your homeowners policy on a regular basis.  June is Home Safety Month which provides a great opportunity to review everything related to the safety and security of your home, including your homeowner’s policy.

Start by reading through your policy to make sure you understand all the terms and conditions and any exclusions.  Don’t hesitate to ask your insurance agent to explain anything that is unclear or answer any questions that come up during your review.  One of the most important things you need to understand about your policy is the type of replacement coverage that it provides.  This makes a big difference in determining the amount of coverage you need and explains how the insurance company will assign a value to your home and its contents if you experience any losses.

There are two primary types of replacement coverage, actual cash value and replacement value.  If your policy provides actual cash value for your losses, the insurance company will value your possessions and your home at the actual cash value minus any depreciation.  If your policy provides replacement value coverage, the insurance company will value your possessions and home at the current cost to replace them.  Understanding the difference between these two types of coverage is critical to understanding how much protection your homeowner’s policy is actually providing.

Let’s look at how the amount the insurance company would pay differs for the same loss under each of these coverage types.  There is a fire in your home that causes damage to the kitchen and the living room.  Both rooms have extensive damage and will require significant work to repair.  The fire destroys your stove, refrigerator, television, couch, and an antique desk.  Here is how the payout would differ.

If you have actual cash value coverage, the insurance company would use the value of the home to calculate the value of the portion of the house that was damaged.  Once that value was established, any depreciation would be subtracted from that value and that is the amount the insurance company would pay out for the damage to your home.  If your policy provides replacement coverage, the insurance company would get an estimate from a contractor on the cost to repair the damage and the payout would cover the cost of the repairs regardless of the value of the home or any depreciation.

The same process would be applied to the possessions damaged in the fire.  If your policy provides actual cash value, the current value of your stove, refrigerator, television, couch and antique desk would be determined and if appropriate, any depreciation would be subtracted in order to determine the payout.  If your policy provides replacement value, the cost to purchase comparable items to replace those that were destroyed would determine the amount of the payout.

As you can see from these examples, if your policy provides actual cash value coverage, you may not receive enough money from the insurance company to repair your home or replace your possessions.  Since most people don’t have the cash on hand to make up the difference in costs, most homeowners should consider having a policy that provides replacement value coverage.

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