Texas Home Insurance
Homeowners insurance protects you from financial losses caused by storms, fire, theft, and other events outlined in your policy. It is important to know what´s in your policy. Make sure you read your policy carefully and understand your specific coverages. It´s also important to know your rights. Texas has a Consumer Bill of Rights for homeowners and renters insurance. Your company must send the Bill of Rights with your policy or renewal.
Don´t wait until you have a claim to review your policy.
Texas Home Insurance Policies
You can buy a dwelling policy that covers only the structure of your house. Or, like most Texans who own their homes, you can buy a homeowners policy, which combines five different types of coverage:
Dwelling - pays for damage to your house and any outbuildings, such as detached garages and storage sheds.
Personal property - pays when household items, including furniture, clothing and appliances, are damaged, stolen, or destroyed.
Liability - protects you against financial loss if you are found legally responsible for someone else´s injury or property damage. A homeowners policy automatically provides $25,000 in coverage. You can buy up to $1 million in coverage for an extra premium.
Medical payments - pays medical bills for people hurt while on your property. It also pays for some injuries that happen away from your home, such as your dog biting someone. A basic homeowners policy pays $500 in medical bills. You can pay extra and get up to $5,000 in medical payments coverage.
Loss of use - pays living expenses if your home is too damaged to live in during repairs. The most common policy pays up to 20 percent of the amount for which your house is insured.
Types of Texas Home Insurance Coverages
Insurance companies may sell several types of policies in Texas, each with a different level of coverage. Three of the policy forms available for sale in Texas - the HO-A, HO-B, and HO-C - are standardized. This means the policy language and coverages provided by these policies are the same, regardless of the company writing the policy. Although an HO-B policy written by one company will be exactly the same as an HO-B policy written by another company, the two companies may charge different rates.
Companies may offer alternative policy forms, if approved in advance by the Commissioner of Insurance. These policies are not standardized and usually provide varying coverages. Read your policy carefully to know exactly what coverages are included. Some companies may sell more than one policy form. In general, however, a company will offer only one form to its customers. If a company offers you a policy with less coverage than you´d like, ask if other policy forms are available. You also may be able to add additional coverage by buying endorsements to your base policy.
Following is a brief description of the types of policies sold in Texas:
Generally, HO-B policies provide the most coverage for the price, but some companies do not offer the HO-B policy. For a side-by-side comparison of the coverages provided by the policy forms approved for sale in Texas, visit the website of the Office of Public Insurance Counsel
What Texas Homeowners Insurance Policies Do and Don´t Cover
Companies may exclude coverage for certain losses. For example, if you live on the Gulf Coast, you might receive an endorsement that excludes coverage for wind and hail damage. In areas with a history of hail storms, some companies provide only actual cash value coverage for roofs instead of full replacement cost. Actual cash value pays for damage minus depreciation on the roof, depending on its age and condition.
Most policies will not cover mold remediation beyond that necessary to repair or replace property damaged by a water loss otherwise covered by the policy. The HO-A policy offers no coverage for mold remediation or for damage caused by water leaks, although some companies may offer coverage for sudden and accidental water leaks as an endorsement to the base HO-A policy. Some of the other approved policy forms also cover sudden and accidental water leaks, while others may not. Read your policy or ask your agent whether your policy covers water leaks and mold remediation.
Insurance companies are required to offer you mold remediation coverage. Depending on the company, this coverage will be offered in dollar or percentage increments up to 100 percent of your policy´s limits. If you have questions or concerns about how a mold claim is being handled, or if you need information about how to minimize mold losses, ask your insurance company for a set of guidelines regarding mold claims.
Other Residential Policies
Buy enough coverage to avoid a major financial loss if your home is severely damaged or destroyed. This means keeping a realistic dollar amount of coverage on your house.
Replacement Cost Coverage of Your House
The standardized HO-B and HO-C policies provide replacement cost coverage for your house, up to your policy´s dollar limits. Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Replacement cost is different from market value. It does not include the value of your land. If you are not sure of the amount it would cost to rebuild your home, your company or agent usually has construction cost tables to help you figure the cost.
To receive full payment (minus your deductible) for a partial loss, such as a hail-damaged roof, you must insure your house for at least 80 percent of its replacement cost. If you insure your house for less than 80 percent of the full replacement cost, the insurance company will pay only part of the expense of a partial loss.
Unless you buy an endorsement increasing your coverage, HO-A policies only provide actual cash value coverage. Actual cash value is the replacement cost of your property minus depreciation. If your home is destroyed and you only have actual cash value coverage, you may not be able to completely rebuild it.
If you have an HO-A amended policy or an approved alternative policy, read your policy carefully to know whether it offers replacement cost coverage or actual cash value coverage.
Your Policy´s Dollar Limits are Important
If you insure your house for $100,000, that´s the most you will get if it is destroyed, even if it would cost more to replace it. The Declarations Page on the front of your policy shows how much coverage you have. Talk with your agent or company representative if you have any questions about your insurance limits. If a fire destroys your home, Texas law requires the insurance company to pay the full amount of the policy - even if this amount is more than the replacement cost.
Don´t wait until you have a claim to learn your policy´s limit.
Coverage for Your Personal Property
HO-B policies automatically cover household contents - furniture, clothes, appliances, etc. - up to 40 percent of the amount your house is insured for. This means if you insure your house for $100,000, its contents are insured for up to $40,000. You can get more coverage by paying a higher premium. However, this automatic coverage pays only the actual cash value of damaged, stolen, or destroyed household goods. Actual cash value is an item´s replacement cost, minus depreciation.
You may be able to pay extra and buy replacement cost coverage that ignores depreciation and pays for a new item like the one you lost.
Replacement cost coverage gives you more protection than actual cash value coverage. The following example illustrates why: A burglar steals your six-year-old television set. With actual cash value coverage, you get only what you would expect to pay for a six-year-old television set. With replacement cost coverage, the insurance company pays to replace your TV with a new set similar to the stolen one.
Companies generally want proof you replaced an item before paying your claim in full. However, if you have an HO-B policy, the company must advance you the first $1,500, plus the depreciated value of any other damaged property, without requiring proof of replacement. After that, the company must pay you within five business days after receiving proof you replaced, restored, or repaired the property. A company can offer to replace the items instead of paying cash, but the choice is yours.
Inventory Your Property
Many people learn after a fire or storm that they didn´t have enough personal property coverage. Making an inventory will help you decide how much insurance you need. It also will simplify claims.
Your inventory should list each item, its value, and serial number. Photograph or videotape each room, including closets, open drawers, storage buildings, and your garage. Keep receipts for major items in a fireproof place.
Homeowners insurance on certain items like jewelry and furs is limited. You may be able to buy more coverage for an extra premium.
Texas ranks at or near the top of the nation in weather-related property damage each year. A large portion of this damage is due to flooding.
Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage. However, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood coverage in many areas. Local insurance agents sell NFIP flood policies and can tell you about the program in your area.
For more information, call NFIP
If a lender determines that a property is in a special flood hazard area, the borrower is required to purchase flood insurance. A special flood hazard area has a 1 percent chance of being inundated by flood.
Hurricanes and Windstorm Insurance
The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) is the state´s insurer of last resort for wind and hail coverage in the 14 coastal counties and parts of Harris County on Galveston Bay. TWIA provides wind and hail coverage when insurance companies exclude it from homeowners and other property policies sold to coastal residents. You can buy TWIA coverage through local insurance agents if you need it.
When a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico (80 degrees longitude and 20 degrees latitude), you can no longer change or purchase new Windstorm coverage.
If you plan to build, add to, or renovate a home or other structure and want TWIA coverage, you or your builder should request an inspection by a TDI windstorm inspector or a Texas licensed professional engineer appointed by TDI. Your agent can tell you how to get an inspection.
If you are concerned about earthquakes, you can get coverage with a separate policy. The cost is relatively low because earthquakes are rare in Texas.
Extra Coverage (Endorsements)
You might want more coverage for certain items than your policy provides. For an extra premium, you may be able to buy endorsements that expand or increase the coverage on these items. Some of the most common endorsements expand or increase coverage for jewelry, fine arts, camera equipment, coin or stamp collections, computer equipment, and radio and television satellite dishes and antennas.
(For more info please visit the Texas Department of Insurance)