Buying Homeowner’s Insurance in Wisconsin can be an easy or really difficult process. Ideally, you want to work with an agent who will take the time to know you, your family if you have one, and have access to the “right” insurance carrier. The “right” insurance carrier can mean different things to different people, albeit for this article, what I mean is the price is reasonable, the coverage is complete for your situation, and the service during a claim lowers, (and doesn’t raise) your stress level.
The process is pretty simple to start and most people will either contact an insurance agent or purchase a policy directly from an insurance company. It sounds self-servicing, albeit it doesn’t make it any less true, if you don’t have a dedicated agent, you’re more or less acting as your own agent. Not just in the buying process (which is always relatively easy), but also during the claim’s process. Now if you’re an attorney, you may (or may not depending on the type of law you practice) know what your rights are and will know if the carrier is trying to play games with you and/or trying to pay less than they’re legally liable for. For most others, including those that “think” they know, there’s a pretty wide gap between the level of knowledge needed and the level actually possessed. After all, if it was akin to buying eggs, insurance agents wouldn’t exist. The reason computers haven’t taken over is because each situation is unique and as much as policies for home insurance are somewhat “standardized,” policies and coverage can vary widely.
Before buying a policy, it is important to research different insurance companies and compare rates and coverage options. Being an independent agency that represents many insurance companies, we are of course biased in believing obtaining insurance from an independent agency (and of course us) is almost always your best option. In fairness, there’s no reason not to call some of the big advertising insurance companies too and see what they have to offer. I feel you’ll quickly figure out how the expensive football and other sports ads are paid for. At that point you can decide if you enjoy simply watching the ads or paying for them. That doesn’t mean independent agencies (and carriers that sell through independent agencies) don’t advertise, it’s usually no where near the degree.
It is also important to assess your insurance needs with your agent and make sure you are getting the right amount of coverage for your home and all your possessions that you and your family own. If you have a lot of guns/firearms, art and/or jewelry,. you’ll also want to make sure your agent is aware (they should be asking about it) so the items can be scheduled if appropriate. Sometimes people don’t want to disclose how many firearms they have, and the insurance company doesn’t really care (well, some do, albeit non of the companies we work with do), it’s only used to make sure the value is calculated (along with the premium) correctly. Additionally, it is a good idea to review your policy regularly with your agent to ensure that it still meets your needs and to make any necessary changes. Any big life changes should be a trigger to have your homeowner’s insurance reviewed (along with your car insurance too). Even without big changes, discussing your coverage at least every other year is a great idea.
Next, assess your insurance needs. Consider the value of your home and possessions, as well as any potential risks or hazards specific to your area, such as natural disasters or crime. This will help you determine how much coverage you need and what type of policy is best for you. It may seem somewhat crazy, albeit earthquakes are possible in Wisconsin, albeit usually only high-rise apartments get earthquake coverage.
It is important understand the coverage and limits of the policy, as well as the process of making a claim. This will help you make informed decisions and feel confident that you have adequate protection. A 1 Reason agent is happy to explain and go into great detail regarding the claim process and what you can expect in the process. Ideally, your coverage is planned in advance so when a claim does happen, you’re covered as you expect to be. This includes things like water backup. Water backup is coverage that doesn’t generally include “enough” without adding additional coverage when you have a basement that is partially (or more) finished as living space. Water backup includes city sewer water or septic coming into your home via the drain.
For the property side of homeowner’s insurance, buying homeowners insurance is an important step in protecting your property and the items you own. However, this would be incomplete if a discussion on liability coverage that comes with homeowner’s insurance wasn’t included.
Homeowners liability coverage is an important aspect of homeowners insurance that helps protect you from financial loss in the event that someone is injured on your property or if you are found liable for damages caused by your actions.
Liability coverage typically includes two types of protection: bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Bodily injury liability is usually thought of in the context that it covers medical expenses and other damages if someone is injured on your property. However, this coverage extends to when you’re not on the property and away from your home. For example, let’s say you’re playing tennis and you accidentally hit a ball over to the next court and hit the person in the face, causing bodily injury (could be indirect, for example being struck by the ball causes them to fall and hit their head on the ground etc…) Property damage liability covers damages to other people’s property caused by you or your family members, including away from your home generally. There are some limits to this coverage, so it’s important to discuss the homeowner liability limits with a 1 Reason Insurance agent so you’re fully informed and fully covered as expected.
Next, make sure you understand the exclusions and limitations of your policy. For example, some policies may not cover injuries caused by certain activities, such as swimming pools or trampolines if they are excluded. Some insurance carriers never want to see trampolines, some will charge extra for them, some allow you to exclude coverage on it, and some don’t care at all. Again, by talking to an agent, you can be sure you’re covered (or avoid the potential extra premium) as you see fit.
In addition to standard liability coverage, some insurance companies also offer additional liability coverage options such as personal umbrella liability insurance. This type of coverage provides an extra layer of protection, and can be especially useful for people with a high net worth or those who own additional properties. Umbrella policies generally offer additional liability coverage over and above what your homeowner’s and auto liability covers. It’s possible that an umbrella may cover exposures your home and/or auto doesn’t cover, however that is beyond the scope of this article.
Furthermore, one area that trips people up sometimes is what homeowner’s liability doesn’t cover. Generally, (sometimes an endorsement will add coverage) business activities is NOT covered. If you own a business (either at your home or elsewhere) and you get sued as a result of the business operation, you will not have liability coverage. For example (real world example I’m aware of), the insured made written comments about a business and the business sued the homeowner for liable. Because the statements where made in reaction to what the other business did to the homeowner’s business, the written statement was considered part of a business operation and not a personal type of alleged liable. To make matters worse, the lawsuit took place in Canada, the location of the other company, which doesn’t have the same First Amendment protections regarding free speech as America does. The homeowner’s insurance denied coverage and the homeowner was forced to defend a Canadian lawsuit with their own money. If the homeowner had commercial liability insurance, that generally would cover such a claim.
In short, the key takeaway is that the liability protection with homeowner’s insurance is great, albeit with many important limits that you should discuss with agent so you’re making informed decisions.