Homeowners insurance is there for you when bad stuff happens: branches through the roof, burst pipes in the basement, hurricane-force winds taking out windows. But what about when the downright bizarre happens? Would your homeowners insurance pay out if, say, some errant livestock ran down a fence on your property? Or a UFO came crashing through the roof? We took a look at seven of the weirdest things covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy to find out.
1. Stray Wildlife
Maybe you’ve heard the story about ransacking raccoons that caused $80,000 worth of damage to a Boston area house. Or the one where a moose falls through the window of a Breckinridge home, shattering glass and prompting the family to call 911 suspecting a burglary.
Then there was the city-dwelling couple who bought a country cottage for weekend getaways, only to be told by the previous owners that “a grizzly bear once broke into the garage and helped himself to a freezer full of meat.”
“Damage to the building from other wild animals could be covered,” says the Insurance Information Institute. For example, “If a moose runs through the sliding door to your deck, the damaged door would be covered.”
Just note that the key word here is “wild.” Damage caused by pets (ruined carpet, torn furniture) isn’t covered, nor is damage done by larger domesticated animals (cow herd takes your fence down? Sorry, that’s on your own dollar).
The damage must also be from a “single, identifiable event,” according to homeinsurance.org, so any instance that may have been preventable (like rodents nesting in the attic) won’t be covered.
2. Stray Party Guests
Of course, sometimes the bull in the china shop isn’t a literal bull at all. Plenty of homeowners have gotten a little pour-happy at house parties and wound up with an expensive cleanup the next day.
Worse, guests might choose to drive home after the party and end up injured or with a damaged vehicle. If they choose to sue for damages, you (the host) could be held liable. Thus, “host liquor liability insurance.”
Covered: Lawsuits arising from intoxicated guests might be covered under your homeowners liability insurance.
“If you have assets to protect and live in a state that makes social hosts liable,” says insure.com, “it’s important to have adequate liability home insurance coverage.” This can help protect you if you’re hosting a party, one of your guests imbibes a little too heavily, and the resulting damages lead to a lawsuit against you.
3. Unidentified Falling Objects
According to the BBC, there are “500,000 or so lumps of space debris surrounding our planet [that] range from tiny fragments of metal to entire bus-sized satellites.” And occasionally, some of that space junk finds its way back to Earth. One bit of stray space shrapnel even made contact with a woman named Lottie Williams back in ‘97.
Thankfully Lottie walked away without a scratch. But if something a little bigger were to make contact with your home, well, it would do some serious damage.
Covered: Damage caused by falling objects is covered under most standard homeowners insurance policies.
“Falling objects—including satellites, asteroids, meteors and space debris—are covered under standard homeowners [policies],” says the III.
So in the approximately one-in-one-billion chance that a piece of space debris comes knocking, insurance would pay for “damage that the falling object causes to the structure of the home… as well as to property or belongings that are also damaged or destroyed as a result.”
4. Malicious Mischief (Even in the Afterlife)
“Afterlife insurance” isn’t quite as mystical as it sounds. Rather than protecting your gold, jewels, and other pharaonic possessions beyond the grave, it actually insures the grave itself.
Covered: Vandalism or damage to headstones and other grave markers is often covered by home insurance policies.
“Headstones are generally covered under the contents portion of a homeowner’s policy,” said State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke told the Chicago Tribune. They don’t have to be on your property, either, considering that home insurance includes coverage for off-premise belongings.
So if some thrill-seeking teens are getting up to “malicious mischief” (yep, that’s really an insurance term) in the graveyard, resulting damage to a family headstone could be paid for by your home insurance policy.
5.Light-Fingered Dorm Mates
Theft accounts for almost half of all reported on-campus crimes—and that’s not just spare socks from the laundry room. Smartphones and other electronics are the main target for dorm burglars, followed closely by bicycles.
Covered: Students living in on-campus accommodations are partially protected by their parents’ homeowners insurance policies.
“That is,” says the III, “their possessions are protected by ‘off premise’ coverage” for personal belongings.
Be aware that limits apply to that coverage, though. Off-premise belongings coverage is capped at a certain percentage of your overall coverage limit, just like it is on-premise. And it won’t extend to students living in apartments on campus; only dorm-dwellers need apply.
6.The Contents of your Wine Cellar
“We had an interesting wine loss,” public insurance adjuster Ron Reitz told insure.com, where “the wine was heated to an approximate temperature of 85 degrees for a period of 10 days after a backup and overflow of a sewage pipe caused flooding and other damage.” The basement had to be heated to speed up the drying, and ruined the homeowner’s wine collection in the process.
Covered, sometimes: Your wine collection is likely partially covered—but only up to a certain percentage limit and only against certain perils.
Spoiled food (and wine) are generally not covered by homeowners insurance, says the III. “However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowners policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered.”
Wine Enthusiast magazine also points out that your high-end bottles might be protected in instances of theft, fire, or breakage.
But if you have a few thousand dollars’ worth of the stuff and live in a high-risk area, you might want to consider standalone wine insurance. Yep, that’s a real thing.
7. A Nasty Yelp Review (or Worse)
People take their online (and offline) reputations very seriously. Just ask Michelle Levine, who left a one-star review for her gynecologist on Yelp and found herself slapped with a $1 million lawsuit two weeks later. The reason? “False postings and online harassment” toward her doctor, according to the New York Post. In other words: A defamation suit.
Covered: Believe it or not, lawsuits similar to this one could be covered under the liability clause of your homeowners insurance.
“The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents,” says the III.
That coverage usually kicks in when someone is sued for another person’s bodily injury (if a neighbor is bitten by their dog, for example), but it can also apply to “personal injuries,” including mental anguish, anxiety, depression, and other potential effects of defamation.
In fact, that’s how Bill Cosby’s home insurance company, AIG, ended up being required to foot the bill for three of his recent court cases. You can read up on that bizarre saga here.