12 home insurance exclusions

An exclusion is a cause of damage or loss that is not covered by your home insurance policy. Learn about the 9 main home insurance exclusions and how to fill in some of these coverage gaps.

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Homeowners insurance covers your home against most types of property damage and loss, including fire, extreme weather, and theft. In fact, your house is covered against basically everything except the 12 main exclusions listed in your policy. This means if you file a claim for, say, earthquake or flood damage, your insurance company won’t reimburse you for repairs. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the different exclusions in home insurance and walk you through additional coverage options — like flood insurance and water backup coverage — that can help fill in these coverage gaps. 

12 insurance exclusions not covered by home insurance

  1. Ordinance or law

  2. Earth movement

  3. Water damage from flooding 

  4. Power failure

  5. Neglect

  6. War

  7. Nuclear hazard

  8. Intentional loss

  9. Government action

  10. Dog bite liability for certain breeds

  11. Home-based businesses

  12. Pest damage and removal

What is an insurance exclusion?

Exclusions are specific types of damage or loss that your homeowners insurance won’t cover. In other words, if your house is damaged or destroyed by something listed in the exclusions section of your policy, home insurance won’t help cover the cost of repairs. 

There are two main coverage types in homeowners insurance that detail how you’re covered and which types of perils you are and aren’t covered against.

  • Named perils: This means you’re only covered against the 16 perils specifically listed in your policy. If you’re not able to prove your property was damaged by a named peril, you won’t be reimbursed for the damage or loss. Named perils coverage generally applies to the personal property (Coverage C) section of your policy. 

  • Open perils: This means you’re covered against all causes of loss except the specific exclusions listed in your policy. Under open perils coverage, the onus is on your insurance company to prove the cause of damage or loss is not covered. Open perils coverage generally applies to the dwelling (Coverage A) and other structures (Coverage B) section of your policy. 

Insurance exclusions allow insurers to provide more robust coverage

While insurance exclusions are often viewed negatively, they actually allow insurers to write the broadest coverage possible, protecting your house from basically everything except the specific causes of damage or loss listed on your policy.

What does homeowners insurance not cover?

The following 9 perils are found under the exclusions section of every standard homeowners insurance policy. This means if your house or an additional structure on your property incurs damage or loss due to any of the following, your claim will likely not be covered. 

Ordinance or law

This refers to any damage or loss that results from enforcement of a local building ordinance or law required to bring your home up to code. This includes construction, repair, remodeling, renovation, or demolition of a building that hasn’t incurred a covered loss. 

Earth movement

Earth movement refers to damage caused by earthquakes, land shock waves or tremors both before and after volcanic eruptions, landslides, mudslides, mudflow, subsidence, sinkholes, and any other sinking in or shifting of the earth. 

This exclusion does not apply to fire or explosion damage caused by an “earth movement.” It also doesn’t apply to theft loss after an earthquake. So if a burglar waltzes into a cracked section of your house after a quake and takes your stuff, insurance could pay to replace it. 

Water damage from flooding

Homeowners insurance does not cover water damage caused by natural flooding, sewer line or sump pump backups, or water that seeps up from the ground and damages your home’s foundation. However, water damage from burst pipes or a defunct water heater would be covered.

Similar to the earth movement exclusion, if a house fire or explosion is directly caused by any excluded types of water damage, you would likely be covered for repairs.

Power failure

Your policy won’t cover power surge damage or outages caused by your utility company or anything that originates off of your property. However, if the cause of the power failure takes place on your property, like a short-circuit which causes a fire, that would be covered. 

Neglect

In homeowners insurance, this refers to your neglect to use any foreseeable means necessary to prevent your property from being damaged. In other words, wear and tear, obvious and preventable leaks, and routine maintenance issues are generally not covered under homeowners insurance. 

Take, for example, a kitchen sink pipe that leaks over a course of weeks or months and causes wood rot in your kitchen fixtures and floorboards. In the event of a claim, your insurer would likely be able to cite the neglect exclusion to deny it. 

However, if a plumbing malfunction causes a leak and residual mold growth inside your walls, your insurer would likely not be able to prove that neglect led to the loss and you may be covered for the damage. 

War

Damage caused by any type of war, including declared and undeclared war, civil war, nuclear war, or a fascist insurrection on the nation’s capital, isn’t covered by your home insurance policy

Nuclear hazard

This exclusion refers to any nuclear reaction, radiation, or radioactive contamination — whether intentional or not. However, fire damage resulting from the nuclear hazard would be covered. 

Intentional loss

Home insurance does not cover any intentional damage or loss caused by you or any resident family member. That means if your angsty teenager spray paints your house, insurance won’t pay to return the home to its less-cool color. 

Same goes for if your or a family member causes intentional damage or injury to someone else. The personal liability section of your policy covers legal and medical expenses due to accidental property damage or injury, but not if you mean to do it. 

Government action

If a governmental or public authority damages or destroys your house or your belongings, homeowners insurance will not pay to replace it. 

Dog bite liability for certain breeds

Although homeowners insurance typically covers medical and legal expenses from dog bites, dogs with a history of biting and certain dog breeds may be excluded from your policy’s liability coverage. However, there are several dog friendly insurance companies that will gladly insure your good boy. 

Home-based businesses

Homeowners insurance does not extend personal liability coverage to home businesses, like a home daycare or pet boarding operation. Policies also have limited coverage for business property (around $2,500). Additionally, trees, plants, or shrubs grown for profit would also not be covered.

Pest damage and removal

Homeowners insurance generally doesn’t cover damage caused by animals, rodents or insects, except under an extremely rare set of circumstances. If a termite infestation causes a section of your house to collapse, that would likely be covered under the “collapse” portion of your policy’s additional coverage section. But if you just want to remove an infestation from your house, you’ll likely have to pay for that yourself.

What can you do about home insurance exclusions?

While home insurance exclusions may seem set in stone, insurance companies often offer coverage add-ons, or endorsements, that essentially extend your coverage to losses that aren’t normally covered. 

For certain exclusions, like intentional loss and neglect, you’ll likely need to stomach the loss — there isn’t an endorsement in the world that will pay for intentional or maintenance-related losses. But if you’re looking for additional protection for earthquakes or water damage, you may be in luck.

  • Water backup coverage: Sewer line and sump pump backups are generally excluded from standard policies, but water backup coverage basically extends your policy to cover damage caused by sewage backups and overflows. If your sewer line or sump pump backs up and floods your basement, water backup coverage can help cover the cost of cleanup and repairs.

  • Mold damage rider: Mold damage is generally covered under a standard policy if it's caused by a sudden and unexpected accident, like a burst pipe or appliance malfunction. You may also be covered if the mold was caused by a leaking pipe hidden away in your walls or beneath your floors. But you’re typically only covered up to a limited amount — like $1,000. A mold damage rider increases this limit to between $10,000 and $50,000, and also typically covers more causes of mold growth, like wet or dry rot that gradually forms over an extended period of time.

  • Earthquake endorsement: This endorsement extends your home insurance coverage to certain types of damage under the “earth movement” exclusion, including earthquakes, tremors, and shock waves. Alternatively, you could also take out a separate earthquake insurance policy to ensure you’re fully protected.

  • Flood insurance: While most providers don’t have the option of adding flood coverage to your homeowners insurance, most offer separate flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. 

Frequently asked questions

How do I find out what home insurance exclusions apply to my policy?

To find what isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, you’ll need to check the “exclusions” section of your home insurance policy form. This section is located on pages 11 and 12 of the standard HO-3 policy form.

Does homeowners insurance cover structural problems?

If your home’s structure is damaged by a covered peril in your policy, like a fire, windstorm, vandalism, or sudden and accidental water damage, your homeowners insurance will likely cover the loss. But most policies don’t cover foundation or structural issues that happen over time. In fact, many causes of foundation damage fall under the “natural settling, shrinking, and cracking” exclusion.

Are insurance add-ons or endorsements worth the extra cost?

Yes. Homeowners insurance endorsements can often be added to your policy for as little as $25 to $50 per year for the maximum amount of coverage provided. Water backup coverage, service line coverage, and equipment breakdown coverage are all worthy coverage add-ons.

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