A homeowners insurance policy protects your home, valuables and even your life savings when something goes wrong. The homeowners insurance declaration page is the key that unlocks all your coverages, so you know exactly what is and is not covered.

Often known by the shorthand “dec page,” this section of your policy tells you what coverages you have purchased, how much the coverage costs and the limits of the coverage.

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Some people find the declaration page intimidating, but it is easy to manage once you know what to look for and what the language means.

Key Takeaways

    To read your homeowners insurance policy, first go to the declaration page. It tells you all about what is and isn't covered in your homeowners insurance. The declaration page is where you find out about your coverage. It also tells you about people involved with your policy. It also consists of information such as the amount of dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, liability coverage, and guest medical protection. While reading the declaration page, pay attention to the policyholder's name, policy period, policy number, premium amount, deductible amount and limits.

Homeowners insurance declaration page

Sample declaration pageClick here to zoom in download

Understanding the basics about your declaration page – and where to find it – will get you started on mining this page for the valuable information it contains. Although the page may differ slightly from company to company and policy to policy, a declaration page's basic structure is similar across the industry.

Following is a rundown of what you will find on your declaration page.

What is a homeowners declaration page

A homeowners declaration page summarizes your coverages, as well as your personal and home information.

The page lists all parties who are involved with the policy in any way. This includes you -- as the named insured party -- your insurance agent and your lender. Contact information typically will be listed on the policy.

On the declaration page, you will find basic information such as the:

  • Policy number
  • Policy period -- the effective date (when the policy begins) and the expiration date (when the policy ends)
  • Address of the insured premises

However, the most important part of the homeowners insurance declaration page is the list of coverage types and limits that apply to your policy. Here is where you will learn about how much coverage you have for things like:

  • Dwelling coverage
  • Personal property coverage
  • Liability coverage
  • Guest medical protection

The declaration page also lists such important details as the premium amount you are paying for the coverage, the deductible that applies to the policy and any discounts that help trim the cost of your policy.

It is important to note that the declaration page is designed to be a readable summary for the homeowner. It is not intended to list every coverage you have down to the smallest detail. For that information, you will have to dig deeper into the policy or contact your agent.

Where can I find my homeowners insurance declaration page

Typically, a new homeowners insurance declaration page will be sent to you at the beginning of each new policy period. The declaration page itself may be tucked in among several other pages of documentation that your homeowners insurance company sends you. But it should not be difficult to find the page and its distinctive look.

It is important to keep this page for your records. In addition, your mortgage lending company may require you to send a copy of the declaration page. If this is the case, it is crucial that you do not forget to send the copy. If the insurer does not receive the information, it may purchase an insurance policy in your name and make you pay the premium cost. This type of policy – known as “forced-place insurance” – typically is more expensive than a standard homeowners policy.

Important definitions for homeowners

Because insurance policies are written in a legal language, all homeowner policies come with a section dedicated to defining certain words. Here are just a few definitions you should be aware of when reading your policy:

Replacement cost:

This type of coverage reimburses you for the full cost of replacing a destroyed or stolen item, regardless of how much the item has depreciated in value. Because replacement cost coverage is more robust than actual cash value coverage, it tends to be more expensive.

Actual cash value:

This type of coverage takes the depreciation of an item into account when calculating your payout. So, if your stolen or destroyed TV was 15 years old, you will get a check for the depreciated cost, not a check for what a similar brand-new TV would cost today. This type of coverage is less expensive than replacement cost coverage.

Home insurance endorsements

Endorsements are extra coverages that an insurer adds to your home insurance policy to make sure all your needs are met in the event of a claim. These coverages generally help you deal with unique scenarios you may run into in your area or lifestyle. It allows you to customize your coverage to fit your individual needs.

Add-ons, such as coverage for identity theft or a recent storm, can help you get more out of your policy. Home daycare coverage is just one of the many endorsements available.  It may be a good idea to add scheduled endorsements for high-value items such as antiques or jewelry, which increase the limits of coverage and can make the payout greater in case of loss.

Deductible:

This is the amount you must pay before your coverage kicks in. Typical deductible amounts are $250, $500 or $1,000. In addition, you may have separate deductibles for things like wind or hail damage.

How to read a homeowners insurance declaration page

Typically, the top of your declaration page will include your name and the insured property's address. You will also see your premium amount prominently displayed.

Your policy number and the policy period are among the most important features you will see on the top half of the page.

Pay close attention to the policy period. The declaration page will likely include a notation that the policy period ends at "12:01 a.m. standard time at the address of the named insured." It is crucial to renew your policy before the time and date listed. Otherwise, you could have a gap in your coverage.

As you move down the page, you will see a list of your coverages, the limits of those coverages, and how much each portion of coverage costs. For example, you may see a listing for "Coverage A -- Dwelling premium" that includes the limits of the coverage, your deductible for that coverage and how much you pay in premiums for the coverage.

Below the coverages, you will see the discounts that have been applied to your policy. If you don't see any discounts -- or you are interested in learning if you qualify for more -- contact your insurance agent.

Finally, you will see any endorsements to your policy that you may have purchased – for example, extra coverage for expensive computer equipment.

Give the declaration page a thorough reading. Review the personal information for errors, and check that it reflects the proper coverage levels, as well as any additional riders you may have added.

Homeowners insurance coverages explained

Homeowners insurance offers sweeping coverage of both the dwelling itself and the contents inside. It also offers other valuable protections. A typical policy includes:

Section 1:

Coverage A: Dwelling protection

This applies to the structure of the home itself. If a fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disasters listed in the policy damage or destroy your home, this part of your coverage will pay for repairs to or rebuilding of the home.

When purchasing coverage for your home structure, remember this simple guideline: Purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home. (We can highlight it as an important point)

Coverage B: Other structures protection

You also get coverage for other structures that are not attached to the house. This might include things like detached garages, fences, sheds, in-ground swimming pools and gazebos.

Coverage C: Personal property protection

This applies to personal items such as furniture, appliances, clothes and other possessions if they are damaged or destroyed by insured disasters or stolen by a thief.

Typically, your coverage amount for personal belongings is 50% to 70% of your dwelling coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Coverage D: Loss of use – Additional living expense

This coverage, also called loss of use coverage, reimburses you for living expenses if your home is severely damaged or destroyed and you need to live somewhere else until the home is repaired or rebuilt. For example, it typically covers hotel and restaurant costs above your normal living expenses until you can move back home.

Additional coverages (such as sewer backup and a rider for expensive jewelry)

Make a detailed home-inventory list to determine if the coverage provided is enough. High-value property, such as jewelry, art, guns and coin collections, is usually limited to $2,500. If your items exceed this amount, it’s wise to purchase a rider to up the limit on these types of items.

Section 2 :

Coverage E: Liability protection

This protects you in the event of a lawsuit when you or a family member are responsible for bodily injury or property damage to someone else. It also covers damages caused by your pets, such as a dog bite or destruction of expensive clothes. You are covered for both the cost of hiring a lawyer and for any damages you might owe.

Coverage F: Guest medical coverage

You also get no-fault medical coverage or guest medical coverage to pay the medical bills if someone is injured in your home. The injured party simply submits his or her medical bills directly to your insurance company.

Homeowners insurance policy exclusions

An HO-3 policy, also known as "special form," covers everything except a few perils mentioned in the policy. It's important to understand that you will not get the same policy everywhere. Availability of coverage is different from one carrier to another, and some carriers even offer different coverage limits within a single policy. In general, an HO-3 policy excludes coverage for loss or damage resulting from these perils:

  • Flawed construction, maintenance issues
  • Water damage- flood, sewer back-ups
  • Ordinance or law- demolition or construction by authorities
  • Governmental action
  • Neglect- failed to take effective action at the time of loss.
  • Intentional loss: - something you did on purpose.
  • Earth movement (for example: earthquake, shockwaves, landslides etc.)
  • Foundation issues
  • Power failure
  • Nuclear hazard
  • wear and tear
  • frozen pipes in vacant homes, vandalism
  • damage caused by pet or animals.
  • Flood

Therefore, you should make sure that your policy includes the right amount of coverage and that you avoid any gaps in protection.

What perils are covered under homeowners insurance

HO-3 is the most popular homeowners’ insurance policy. It provides personal liability coverage and for home structure and personal belongings. It also provides protection against these perils: -

  • Volcanic eruption
  • Theft
  • Smoke damage
  • Vandalism
  • Weight of ice, snow or sleet
  • Freezing of fire-protective sprinkler system or any household appliances
  • Electric current
  • Damage due to vehicles
  • Explosion
  • Fire or lightning
  • Riot or civil commotion
  • Falling object
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Damage due to airplane
  • Sudden tearing apart of air-conditioning system or automatic fire-automatic system.

Conclusion:Understanding and making the most of your homeowners insurance policy

Homeowners insurance offers crucial protections for what is likely to be your most significant investment – your home. However, to get the most from this coverage, you need to understand what your policy does and does not cover. Understanding this information can help you determine if you have the right coverage and enough of it.

Here are a few tips from industry experts to help you navigate the world of homeowners insurance:

Review your quote with an expert. Homeowners insurance can be tricky, so it pays to consult an expert after narrowing down your choices from a batch of quotes. “Never shop on price alone, as you usually get what you pay for,” says Kristofer Kirchen, president of Advanced Insurance Managers.

Also, remember that if you bundle your coverage with one insurance company, you may net additional savings.

Coverage levels are key. Understanding your coverage levels is important. “There is nothing worse than receiving a bill for an insurance-related fix and having the insurance company not cover all of it due to a technicality in the policy,” says Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding.

Read your declaration page and policy carefully. It is important to understand exactly what is covered and how your policy works. Overlooking minor details can have major consequences. “Many states have instituted separate deductibles for wind and hail, and many policyholders don’t understand them,” says Travis Biggert, chief sales officer at Hub International.

Add-ons can be worth it. There are a number of riders that can be added to a policy, and many of them are well worth the price. “Consider adding sewer and drain backup coverage to your homeowners policy. It is one of the most common homeowners claims, averaging $10,000-$20,000 in expenses, and it is almost always excluded from a basic policy,” says Bret Boizelle, vice president with Boizelle Insurance Partnership.

Shop smart: The cost of homeowners insurance has been on the rise for a number of years, so shopping for your coverage regularly has never been more important. “It’s very important to be a smart consumer and shop your policy on a regular basis,” says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.


Review our 2021 Best Home Insurance Companies for some ideas of where to shop.