Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Homeowner's Policy

After seeing a TV special about loopholes in homeowner’s policies, I decided that it was time I gave my homeowner’s documentation the once-over to be certain that I was covered in the event of a dwelling mishap. The document, which is around fifty pages, was far more specific than I expected and I immediately became apprehensive after discovering they devoted an entire paragraph to outlining what legally constituted a hovercraft (which is decidedly not covered).

As I expected there were lengthy chapters concerning natural disasters such as tornados, earthquakes, and tidal waves. The paragraph on volcanic eruption was in a category of its own. As a policyholder it is made perfectly clear that any “volcanic eruptions occurring consecutively or concurrently within a 72-period will be considered a single eruption.” I suppose this prevents what is known as the “Mount St. Helens Long Con.”

The next section of interest involved “war.” For insurance purposes, the company clearly differentiates war from a “civil commotion” which I assume could encompass anything from a garden variety race riot to a red tag sale at Dillards. I did feel comforted that they will reimburse me for “shrubbery damage” inflicted in the course or a “riot.” While I have never experienced a riot at my house, I would consider myself fortunate if the only victim was my anemic boxwood hedge.

This splitting of hairs concerning what constituted war was necessary because I am only covered for $10,000 for damages incurred by armed conflict but given more latitude for insurrections. So what constitutes war you might ask? It was somewhat disconcerting that under the “war” rider I found this sentence:

“Discharge of a nuclear weapon will be deemed a warlike act even if accidental.”

 I am fairly certain that if my residence happens to be within the blast radius of a nuclear weapon (accidental or otherwise) a $10,000 check is not going to significantly impact my situation one way or the other. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the gesture but even if I do survive endorsing the check will be difficult with my genetically-deformed ground-hog fingers.

Another fascinating section is the “Property Not Eligible.” These are items that, for one reason or another, do not qualify for replacement. One category defined anything “useless to the insured at the time of the loss.” Depending on the particular situation this could include anything from a Bowflex to a son-in-law, and I am not entirely sure who would be qualified to make such a determination. There are a few people I know who would not get reimbursed for their underarm deodorant under this stipulation.

The best line from that section would be that “replacement cost coverage” does not apply to “items that cannot be replaced” due to antiquity. That is one of the most redundant sentences I have ever read in my life. In practical terms, this means that if you left the burial shroud of Jesus on the seat of your hovercraft, you are hosed.

They are also very clear that structural damage incurred from my meth lab will void the policy. This seems to be in direct conflict with the company’s favorable stance toward small business owners but I will let it slide.

Perhaps the most surprising section involved events that were covered. For instance, if my dwelling collapses due to the “weight of contents, equipment, animals, or people” they have no problem cutting me a check for the whole house. This means that while I am going to top out at 10K after a scud missile hits the sunroom; the company is willing to throw me a financial bone at the total loss of my home due to willful obesity.  

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