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In a house fire, is the piano covered as personal property?

A standard home insurance or renter's insurance policy covers personal belongings from fire and other perils up to a certain dollar limit. On a home insurance policy, it's usually a percentage of the dollar amount at which your home is insured, typically 50 percent to 70 percent. But the policy also includes dollar limits on certain valuables, such as fine art, jewelry, antiques and musical instruments. If the limit is lower than the value of the piano, then you are underinsured.

Actual cash value versus replacement value

Besides knowing the limits of coverage, it's also important to understand the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value coverage. If the piano were destroyed, replacement cost coverage would pay to replace the instrument with a comparable brand-new piano. Actual cash value coverage would take into account depreciation and pay for the piano's value just before it was damaged or destroyed.

Call your insurance agent to learn what kind of coverage you have. Is it enough to protect all your possessions, including the piano, in case of a major disaster? You might consider purchasing a "floater," a separate insurance policy to provide full coverage for the piano. A floater also protects against accidents not covered in home insurance. To purchase a floater, you'll need to have the piano professionally appraised.

While you're at it, complete a home inventory to make sure all your possessions are accounted for and fully covered. The Insurance Information Institute provides free, online home inventory software at KnowYourStuff.org.

Keep in mind that home insurance policies do not cover damage from floods and earthquakes. You must buy separate insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program to protect your home and belongings from flood waters and a separate earthquake insurance policy to cover property in case of a trembler.

Last updated: Jul. 14, 2011