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Imagine you took the roof off your house, turned the whole thing upside down and started shaking. Everything that hit the dirt is what your insurance company calls “personal property” – hence Personal Property Coverage (Coverage C) on your homeowners, condo or renters policy.

Some people call it “my stuff coverage” because, in the event of a covered loss, such as a fire, theft or weather-related damage, it helps you recover, at least partially, the investment you’ve made in some of your key possessions. This includes furniture, artwork, jewelry and more.

However, in my experience, hardly anyone understands the restrictions and limitations of this coverage, and that can lead to potentially devastating consequences. So, let’s explore six reasons why your personal property may not be as fully covered as you think it is.

  1. You don’t have an updated home inventory.
    On a standard policy, your personal property is covered at a percentage of your dwelling coverage. So, you may have $500,000 of coverage for the dwelling and $250,000 of coverage for personal property. But, is that enough? To know for sure, you need to know the value of your stuff. Having a home inventory – a list of all your stuff, the value of each piece and other details, such as model numbers – tells you how much coverage you need. If your home inventory shows you’re lacking coverage, be sure to purchase more.
     
  2. You have Actual Cash Value coverage instead of Replacement Cost coverage.
    Say you purchased a brand new, top-of-the-line TV five years ago. Today, that TV is only worth a fraction of what you paid for it. Now say the TV has been stolen, and your insurance policy covers the loss. How much will you get?

    With Actual Cash Value Coverage, your policy will typically pay the depreciated value, and, no, it won’t be enough to purchase another top-of-the-line model at current prices. For that, you need Replacement Cost Coverage, which typically pays the purchase price of a similar model that’s available in stores right now.

    Think of it like this: Replacement Cost gets you the new; Actual Cash Value is back in with the old. Your policy will tell you which of the two coverage types applies to your personal property.
     
  3. Your policy has sublimits for certain item types.
    Other types of property, such as jewelry, silver, furs, firearms and collectibles, won’t settle at either Actual Cash Value or Replacement Cost if their value is above a certain threshold. You may have a $20,000 Rolex and $50,000 in Personal Property Coverage at Replacement Cost. If the watch is destroyed in a fire, your claim should be a slam dunk, right? Wrong. Your policy may only cover each piece of jewelry for $500 to $1,000 total. This is known as a “policy sublimit,” which can vary widely from item type to item type, policy to policy or state to state.
     
  4. You haven’t scheduled high-value items.
    When you do have an item, such as the Rolex, valued above your policy sublimits, you can “schedule” it. This designates separate coverage for the full appraised value of individual items. You can schedule as many items as you like to help offset your policy sublimits. It’s simple to do so. Just provide your local insurance agent with a recent appraisal and purchase that amount of coverage. Your agent will advise you on any special requirements.
     
  5. You tend to lose or drop things but don’t have Special Personal Property Coverage.
    It’s important to know which losses are covered and which aren’t, as outlined by your policy. Personal property destroyed in a fire? Likely covered. Personal property that mysteriously disappeared? Likely not covered, unless you had Special Personal Property Coverage on your policy. This extends your coverage to many other different types of losses so you’re protected for a wider array of scenarios, such as dropping your new TV.
     
  6. Your belongings are destroyed in an earthquake.
    Here, we’ve hit a brick wall. Your policy does not cover earthquake damage. However, you are able to purchase earthquake coverage for an additional fee, such as through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). You can choose higher personal property limits to cover as much as you can, but you will likely still face coverage caps for certain items, such as jewelry. For example, your earthquake policy may cap jewelry coverage at $3,000 total, with no more than $1,000 per item. You also won’t be able to schedule items. Still, some earthquake coverage is better than none, so it’s certainly worth entertaining a discussion with your agent.
     

Armed with the above information, I trust you’re now motivated to check up on your personal property coverage through your homeowners, condo or renters policy. If you’re not sure what to make of it or you find you may not have enough, be sure to talk with us so that we can help.  We review and shop all of our clients' policies at each renewal to make sure they are adequately covered and have the most competitive price available.

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