How Do Insurance Policies Define 'Dwelling'?

When you are looking over your homeowners insurance policy, you've probably come across the word "dwelling" on more than a few occasions. It's important to have a clear understanding of how it relates to your homeowners policy or what it covers. If you go by strict dictionary terms, the definition of dwelling describes the roof over your head. As an insurance term, however, that definition may include more than that.

A father plays soccer with his son in their backyard.

The Definition of 'Dwelling' in Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

According to most standard homeowners insurance policies, a dwelling is typically defined as your house and any other structures that are connected to it. This can cover a fairly broad range of attachments, and may include the following.

  • Your front and back porch. Although most of us enjoy spending time on our porches, we wouldn't normally consider them part of our actual dwellings, at least not in the dictionary sense. But on some homeowners insurance policies, coverage for your "dwelling" may extend to the physical structure of your porch.

  • An attached garage. You don't live in your garage, either. That is, most of us don't. There are some people who spend so much time in their garages working on various projects that they might as well set up permanent residence there. Often, your garage is covered under the dwelling portion of your insurance as long as it's physically attached to your home.

  • Your deck. As long as your deck is attached to your home, it may also be covered under your dwelling insurance.

Dwelling Insurance and Your Covered Hazards

These attached structures may also be protected against damage or destruction from the same perils against which your home is protected. This could vary depending on the type of homeowners insurance policy you have, as well as your geographical location, but most standard policies often include protection against damages caused by the following.

  • Fire/smoke
  • Lightning
  • Windstorms
  • Hail
  • Explosion
  • Water damage caused by burst pipes or overflow of household appliances
  • Theft and/or vandalism

Insuring Other Structures on Your Property

While dwelling coverage usually includes your home and its attached structures, it's important to note that in most policies, the definition of the word "dwelling" doesn't extend to structures that exist on your property but aren't physically attached to your home. This includes things like detached garages, equipment sheds, barns and even guest cottages. In order to ensure these are fully protected, talk to your insurance agent about getting protection for these other structures, as well as coverage for your fence, the driveway and the sidewalk around your home.

As a best practice, make sure you have an understanding of how your homeowners insurance policy works by reading it and all your policy documents thoroughly. If you have questions about your coverages, talk to an insurance agent who can help answer your questions.

Recommended Resources

Published: November 2012

Coverage subject to terms, conditions, and availability. Policy issuance is subject to qualifications. Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL. © 2013 Allstate Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL.

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