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What Does My Home Insurance Cover?

5 unusual claims that can test the limits of your policy

En español | If your house is damaged by fire, it's a pretty sure bet that your homeowners insurance policy will cover the cost to repair it. But what if the damage results from something less common, such as mold or a meteor falling from the sky? Chances are you're also covered. Homeowners insurance policies vary, as do state laws, but typical policies cover many atypical claims. Here's a look at five of the more unusual things for which your homeowners insurance should foot the bill.

Dog bites

More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in around 800,000 injuries that require medical attention. More than 50 percent of the bites occur on a dog owner's property.

"Dog bites are probably the single most common cause of liability claims on a homeowner's policy," says Bill Wilson of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that dog bites account for one-third of all liability claims.

According to Wilson, most homeowners insurance policies will cover the medical bills for someone bit by a dog — or a cat or snake or other domestic animal, for that matter — and even pay lost wages if the person can't work. On a typical homeowner's policy, liability coverage maxes out between $100,000 and $300,000. If you get sued and a judgment exceeds that amount, you're on the hook for the difference. The III says the average dog bite claim totals about $25,000.

Examining damage from a tree falling through the roof of a house

Annie Gamble was watching TV in her bedroom in St. Petersburg, Fla., when a tree crashed through her roof. — Photo by St. Petersburg Times/ZUMA Press

Mold

For many homeowners, mold is a four-letter word that conjures up fears of illness and expensive cleanup. Indeed, the cost of mold remediation can run into the thousands of dollars. Whether your homeowners insurance policy will cover mold damage largely depends on the underlying cause of the mold.

In general, homeowners insurance will pay out for mold damage that's a direct result of a peril that's covered by your policy. Let's say mold, which needs moisture to thrive, is caused by water from a burst pipe, a covered peril. In that case, any resulting mold damage should be covered because the source of the water is covered by your policy.

But if mold is due to long-term neglect or overdue maintenance, rather than a sudden and unexpected covered peril, then homeowners insurance is unlikely to cover the damage. Possible scenarios include excessive humidity in an attic, seepage into a basement or leaky pipes and appliances. You usually need separate flood insurance to cover damage from flooding.

Even if mold is covered, check to see if your policy caps damage at a certain amount. If so, it's possible to buy additional coverage. Wilson says an extra $50,000 in mold coverage costs about $47 a year. The average annual premium for a homeowners insurance policy is $791, according to the III.

Next: What about objects falling from the sky? »

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