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Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

We’re in the middle of what I’m calling our alphabet soup insurance series.

In my last column, we looked at Coverage A of your homeowners insurance policy. This week, we are going to talk about Coverage B... Other Structures.

What things are covered under “Other Structures?”

Coverage B covers any structure not permanently attached to your house, but still on your property. Typically, this would include:

  • Detached garages and carports
  • Sheds and pole barns
  • Fences (even when they touch your house)
  • Patios, sidewalks and driveways
  • Retaining walls and landscaping structures
  • Pools, pool houses, and unattached decks

How much is covered under “Other Structures?”

Most homeowners insurance policies cover a set percentage of the Coverage A, dwelling limit.

It works like this:

If you have $350,000 of coverage on your house, you automatically have a percentage of that for Other Structures. Typically, it’s 10 percent.

So, in that case, you would have $35,000 of coverage for other structures like your new detached two car garage, your two sheds, your split rail fence, and your pool.

That may not be enough. So, what can you do?

You can increase your Coverage B limits to make sure there’s enough protection. You and your agent should review your policy from time to time to make sure all of your structures are covered properly.

But what if you don’t have any other structures on your property, or at least none worth much money... what then?

Can you lower or delete your Coverage B and get a cheaper rate? Usually not.

Homeowners policies use a formula for Coverage B and Coverage C (which we’ll talk about in my next column). That formula automatically includes a minimum percentage of the primary dwelling coverage limit. You don’t get a price break by asking for less than the minimum.

Think of it like a fast-food burger.

The burger comes with pickles, mayonnaise, lettuce, and mustard. You don’t like any of them. The burger joint is happy to make sure those ingredients aren’t on your burger. But you’re still going to pay the same price.

What’s not covered under “Other Structures?”

Your “stuff” isn’t normally covered. If you store your old stereo equipment in the garage, that’s not covered under “Other Structures” coverage. You have Coverage C, Personal Property coverage for that.

Neither is someone else’s stuff... especially if you are renting out your garage for money (that creates a whole other coverage problem- make sure you tell your agent if you do that).

Neither is your car (you have auto insurance for that).

And nothing is covered if you’re running a business out of your other structure. Just ask “Paul the Plumber.” (Yes, he’s fictional.)

Paul doesn’t really remember when it happened. But he woke up one day and realized that he couldn’t park his car in his two-stall garage at home anymore. His overcrowded plumbing shop had spilled into his home garage over the last year.

His detached garage had become, quite accidentally, Paul’s Plumbing- Second Location. It just wasn’t one he listed on his business card.

One day, Paul’s detached garage burned to the ground. And he found out he wasn’t covered. At all.

My advice:

Call your local agent and discuss “Other Structures” with them. Make a cup of coffee and plan on 15 minutes.

Run through all of your other structures with them, and what they are used for. It could make a critical difference at claim time.

Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He is at 707-931-0186 or bruces@sackifs.com.

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