What Is a Separate Structure in a Home Insurance Policy?

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    A separate structure in a home insurance policy is basically anything man-made that is not permanently attached to the house. When examining your homeowner’s policy, you're likely to see a section called separate structures coverage or other structures coverage. That portion of the policy addresses the protections you have for these unattached buildings and features on your property.

    What qualifies as a separate structure?

    For insurance purposes, a separate structure is any man-made feature or building that is not permanently attached to the house. Examples of separate structures include the following:
    • Detached garage
    • Detached patio
    • Driveway
    • Fence
    • Gazebo
    • Guest house or mother-in-law house
    • Mailbox
    • Tool shed
    • Swimming pool
    The wording in defining other structures in a homeowner’s policy usually notes that there is a clear space of separation between the structure and the home. It's inclusive of elements that have a non-permanent connection to the home by way of fencing, utility line, or comparable method.
    Note that swimming pools are not consistently defined under home insurance coverage. In-ground swimming pools could fall under dwelling or separate structure coverage, depending on the insurance provider. Above-ground swimming pools usually fall under personal property protection.

    What does a separate structure home insurance policy cover?

    While individual separate structures policies differ, insurance usually pays for the repair or replacement of defined other structures following circumstances beyond the homeowner’s control. Such circumstances include:
    • Fallen trees or other objects
    • Fire damage
    • Hail damage
    • Lightning strikes
    • Smoke damage
    • Theft
    • Wind damage
    • Vandalism
    When filing a claim on a separate structure in a home insurance policy after one of these events, be aware that the value of that claim may be based on the replacement cost or actual cash value of the damaged property. Actual cash value refers to how much you could have sold the item for prior to damage, which is inclusive of depreciation. Replacement cost is how much it takes to entirely replace the affected structure.

    What is not covered by separate structures insurance?

    A separate structure in a home insurance policy is usually not covered in the following acts of god or preventable situations:
    • Earthquakes
    • Floods
    • Gradual water damage
    • Personal belongings
    • Pest damage
    • Standard wear and tear
    It is possible to add extra insurance protection for situations like earthquakes and floods if your property resides in a high-risk location. This is a personal decision that should be based on the likelihood of earthquakes or floods occurring and how much more in premiums you can afford. Many homeowners who do not live in high flood-risk zones or near a fault line do not carry additional flood or earthquake insurance.
    The limits on separate structure protection in a home insurance policy tend to be 10% of the dwelling coverage limit. For example, if you select a policy with $100,000 dwelling coverage that applies to structural elements, then the standard limit for separate structures would be $10,000.
    Limits, like the amount you pay out of pocket for the deductible on a claim, can be increased based on need and ability to pay higher premiums. For instance, a homeowner who has built a mother-in-law house or other high-end separate structure may want to raise other structures limits on a home insurance policy. In general, the coverage limit should be high enough to replace the other structures that may be affected in a disaster.

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