13 home insurance exclusions: What is not covered

Standard homeowners insurance does NOT cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, termites, mold, and more exclusions listed in your policy.

Pat Howard 1600

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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Homeowners insurance doesn't cover your home against everything — flooding, earthquakes, termites, and mold are just some exclusions not covered by standard home insurance policies. But there are additional coverage options you can add on to your policy — like flood insurance and water backup coverage — that can help ensure you're fully protected. 

13 insurance exclusions not covered by home insurance

  1. Flooding

  2. Earthquakes, landslides, and other ground movement

  3. Termites, rats, and other infestations

  4. Mold

  5. Aggressive or dangerous dogs

  6. Poor maintenance or neglect

  7. Power surges or outages

  8. Home-based businesses

  9. Local building ordinance or law requiring you to bring your home up to code

  10. Intentional damage caused by you or another resident family member

  11. Nuclear hazards

  12. War

  13. Government action

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What does homeowners insurance not cover?

The following perils are found under the exclusions section of every standard homeowners insurance policy. This means if your house or another structure on your property is damaged due to any of the following, your home insurance company won't cover the cost of repairs.

Flooding

Homeowners insurance does not cover water damage caused by natural flooding, rain, 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. Likewise, if a house fire or explosion is directly caused by any excluded types of water damage, you would likely be covered for repairs.

Earthquakes, landslides, and other ground movement

Ground 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. 

Termites, rats, and other infestations

Homeowners insurance generally doesn’t cover damage caused by animals, rodents, termites, or other 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.

Mold

Whether your homeowners insurance covers mold damage is a bit tricky since it all depends on the root cause of the mold problem. In general, mold that's caused by long-term leaking, poor home maintenance, or naturally occurring flooding, then your homeowners insurance likely won't cover it.

However, if the mold is caused by a sudden and unexpected problem — like a leak in your plumbing that crops up out of nowhere — then your insurance company might cover the mold damage if you reach out immediately.

Aggressive or dangerous dogs

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. 

Poor maintenance or 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. 

Power surges or outages

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. 

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.

Local building ordinance or law requiring you to bring your home up to code

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. 

Intentional damage caused by you or another resident family member

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 you 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. 

Nuclear hazards

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. 

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

Government action

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

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What is an insurance exclusion?

Home insurance 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, your home insurance won't cover the cost of repairs. 

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

Policy

Named peril policies

Named peril policies mean you’re only covered against the 16 perils specifically listed in your home insurance 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 section of your policy. 

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Open peril policies

Open peril policies mean 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 and other structures 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.

4 optional coverages to add to your home insurance policy

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. 

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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.