Homeowners insurance basics
Homeowners insurance provides financial protection in the event your home and belongings are damaged or burglarized. It also covers personal liability expenses if you’re held liable for another person’s injury or damage to their property.
There are several types of homeowners insurance, but by far the most popular policy is the HO-3. This is among the most comprehensive policy types out there, covering your home and personal belongings against 16 covered disasters or perils, including fire, lightning, windstorms, theft, and vandalism. It’s important to note that damage from flooding and earthquakes is not covered under standard homeowners insurance — you’ll need separate flood and earthquake insurance policies to cover your property against those catastrophes.
Homeowners insurance coverage types
Here is a brief summary of the different coverages in a standard homeowners insurance policy:
Dwelling coverage - Pays for damage to the home itself, including its roof, foundation, built-in appliances, cabinets, and any attached structures
Other structures coverage - Pays for damage to detached structures on your property, like your garage, shed, or fence
Personal property coverage - Covers the value of damaged or stolen personal belongings, including furniture, jewelry, electronics, and clothing
Loss of use coverage - If you’re forced to stay elsewhere due to a covered loss, this coverage pays for things like hotel stays, meals and any other additional living expenses
Liability coverage - Covers legal and medical expenses in the event you or a family member accidentally injure someone or cause damage to their property
Medical payments coverage - Covers medical bills if a guest sustains a minor injury on your property
Levels of coverage
The amount that you’re paid out for damage or loss to your home and personal belongings will depend on the level of coverage you have for the respective components in your policy, also known as your policy’s loss settlement provisions.
1. Actual cash value - This type coverage pays out the depreciated value of your home or personal belongings. In a standard HO-3 policy, personal property is usually covered at its actual cash value, but you have the option to upgrade to replacement cost value for an additional cost.
2. Replacement cost value - This type of coverage pays out the replacement value of your home and personal belongings without deducting for depreciation. In an HO-3 policy, your home’s structure is automatically covered at its replacement cost.
3. Extended or guaranteed replacement cost - This type of coverage pays out an additional amount if the loss exceeds the coverage limit in your policy. Most extended replacement cost coverage options will increase your policy coverage limit an additional 25% or 50%. That means if your home is insured for $300,000 with 25% extended replacement cost, you have an additional $75,000 in protection in the event the loss is greater than your home’s coverage limit.
A guaranteed replacement cost policy simply pays out whatever it costs to rebuild your home to the way it was before it was destroyed, regardless of the price. Both extended and guaranteed replacement cost are more expensive than standard coverage, but they offer the best protection against natural disasters.
State insurance departments
Every U.S. state and commonwealth has its own insurance department that provides tools and resources for insurance companies and policyholders alike. If you’re moving to a new state and curious about which home insurance companies are available, or which hazards to be aware of when setting up your policy, or any lingering questions about home insurance, be sure to check out your state’s insurance department website.
Below are the websites, addresses, and phone numbers of each state’s insurance department.
State and website
201 Monroe St., Suite 502 Montgomery, AL 36104
550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1560 Anchorage, AK 99501-3567
100 N 15th Ave., Suite 261 Phoenix, AZ 85007-2630
1 Commerce Way, Little Rock, AR 72202
300 S Spring St., 14th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90013
1560 Broadway, Suite 850 Denver, CO 80202
P.O. Box 816 Hartford, CT 06142-0816
1351 W North St., Suite 101 Dover, DE 19904
1050 First St. NE, Suite 801 Washington, D.C. 20002
The Larsen Building, 200 E Gaines St. Tallahassee, FL 32399-0301
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., West Tower, Suite 702 Atlanta, GA 30334
1240 Army Dr. Barrigada, Guam 96913
P.O. Box 3614 Honolulu, HI 96811
700 W State St., P.O. Box 83720 Boise, ID 83720-0043
320 W Washington St. Springfield, IL 62767-0001
311 W Washington St., Suite 300 Indianapolis, IN 46204-2787
1963 Bell Ave., Suite 100 Des Moines, IA 50315
1300 SW Arrowhead Rd. Topeka, KS 66604-4073
500 Mero St, 2 SE 11 Frankfort, KY 40601
P.O. Box 94214 Baton Rouge, LA 70804
225-342-5900; 800-259-5300 (In state)
34 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0034
207-624-8475; 800-300-5000 (In state)
200 St. Paul Pl., Suite 2700 Baltimore, MD 21202
1000 Washington St., Suite 810 Boston, MA 02118
617-521-7794; 877-563-4467 (In state)
P.O. Box 30220 Lansing, MI 48909- 7720
85 7th Pl. E, Suite 280 St. Paul, MN 55101
651-539-1500; 800-657-3602 (In state)
P.O. Box 79 Jackson, MS 39205-0079
P.O. Box 690 Jefferson City, MO 65102-0690
840 Helena Ave. Helena, MT 59601
406-444-2040; 800-332-6148 (In state)
P.O. Box 82089 Lincoln, NE 68501-2089
1818 E College Pkwy., Suite 103 Carson City, NE 89706
21 S Fruit Street, Suite 14 Concord, NH 03301
P.O. Box 471 Trenton, NJ 08625-0471
P.O. Box 1689 Santa Fe, NM 87504-1689
505-827-4549; 855-427-5674 (In state)
1 State St. New York, NY 10004-1511
1201 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-1201
600 E Boulevard Ave. Bismarck, ND 58505-0320
50 W Town St., Suite 300 Columbus, OH 43215
400 NE 50th St.Oklahoma City, OK 73105
405-521-2828; 800-522-0071 (In state)
350 Winter St. NE, P.O. Box 14480 Salem, OR 97309-0405
503-378-4100; 888-877-4894 (In state)
1326 Strawberry Sq. Harrisburg, PA 17120
World Plaza Building, 268 Luis Muñoz Rivera Ave. San Juan, PR 00918
1511 Pontiac Ave. Cranston, RI 02920
1201 Main St., Suite 1000 Columbia, SC 29201
124 South Euclid Ave., 2nd Floor Pierre, SD 57501
500 James Robertson Pkwy., Davy Crockett Tower Nashville, TN 37243-0565
P.O. Box 149104 Austin, TX 78714-9104
State Office Building, Suite 3110, 350 N State St. Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6901
89 Main St. Montpelier, VT 05620-3101
5049 Kongens Gade St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802
P.O. Box 1197 Richmond, VA 23218
5000 Capitol Blvd., SE Tumwater, WA 98501
P.O. Box 50540 Charleston, WV 25305-0540
125 S Webster St. Madison, WI 53703-3474
608-266-3585; 800-236-8517 (In state)
106 E 6th Ave. Cheyenne, WY 82001
State FAIR Plans
If your home is at heightened risk of wildfire or tropical storm damage, or you filed one too many claims in a short period of time, it may be difficult to find an insurance company that will insure your home. If you find yourself getting rejected by standard insurers, look into a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan in your state.
FAIR plans typically cost more and provide less coverage than standard homeowners insurance, but this policy is essential if your other options are limited or nonexistent. If you need coverage to satisfy your mortgage lender requirements, FAIR Plans are a good temporary option.
Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia offer at least some version of a FAIR Plan. We included the website and phone number to each one below.
State FAIR Plans
How to contact your insurance company
At some point, you may need to contact your insurance company to make policy changes, cancel or add a line of coverage, or to file a homeowners insurance claim. Most major insurance companies, like Allstate, State Farm, and Travelers let you do all of this through their website or through a mobile app.
For larger or more urgent claims, it might be to your advantage to call the insurer directly to make sure your case is being handled as soon as possible. Most insurers have a 24/7 claims hotline that you can dial at any hour of the day.
How to access your CLUE report
The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, is a claims history database run by LexisNexis, a business research and risk-management company. Through LexisNexis, home and auto insurance companies are able to access consumers’ claim history when underwriting or rating an insurance policy.
Also known as a loss history report, your CLUE report includes information like your name, date of birth, policy number, and your prior insurance claim history (such as the date of loss, type of loss, and payout). Information like your credit score, criminal record, and legal judgements are not included in your CLUE report. The database stores up to seven years of claim information — after that, your claims record is wiped clean.
You can also request a copy of your own CLUE report from LexisNexis free of charge, if you so choose. If you find false information, like a claim you never filed or an incorrect payment amount, you can contact LexisNexis and report the error to get it resolved. You can also add explanations or notes to your report, if you feel a specific claim or incident in the report deserves further context.
You can request a copy of your CLUE report here.