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7 Things Your Homeowners Insurance Likely Doesn't Cover

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Insurance is one of the only things you buy with the hope that you’ll never have to actually use it. But should the unexpected happen, you want to make sure you know what's covered under your plan. Here are some of the surprising expenses your standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t always cover.

1. SOME NATURAL DISASTERS

Your homeowners insurance does cover damage due to some natural disasters, like tornadoes or lightning strikes. But others—earthquakes, for instance—are a different story. As the Insurance Information Institute points out, earthquake coverage must be purchased as a separately policy or as an add-on to your standard policy, either through your insurance company or a third-party vendor.

“You may also need flood insurance for your home,” Donna Childs, author of Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best, tells mental_floss. “That is purchased separately.”

You can buy flood insurance from private insurance carriers or from the National Flood Insurance Program. In some designated flood zones, this insurance is actually a requirement.

2. MOLD INFESTATIONS

Your homeowners insurance doesn’t always cover mold, and that’s because mold typically grows due to lack of maintenance. And if your policy doesn’t completely exclude a mold infestation, it probably at least limits your coverage. According to Zillow, “Most policies include certain mold exclusions. Many standard policies won’t offer coverage for mold that arises from poor maintenance, chronic or repeated water leaks, or failure to properly ventilate rooms.”

For this reason, prevention is key. If your pipes have any leaks, for example, you’ll want to have them fixed immediately to keep any potential mold at bay.

3. TERMITE DAMAGE

Termites can cause serious damage to your home, and that damage isn’t always covered. Again, this is because standard homeowners policies only cover “perils that are sudden and accidental,” as Allstate puts it, and termites and other pests are usually considered preventable.

It pays to periodically hire a termite inspector. Most experts suggest an inspection every couple of years so you can catch the critters early, saving thousands of dollars on potential repairs.

4. YOUR HOME BUSINESS

Here’s one to keep in mind if you work from home: Your standard homeowners policy won’t cover your business losses.

“If you have a home-based business, or if you have a home office where you occasionally work from home, your homeowners insurance will typically cover a few thousands dollars’ worth of property, such as your desk and office furniture,” says Childs, “But it won’t cover business interruption—revenues your business lost because of a disaster—or liability risks, so you need to have appropriate commercial coverage for these risks.”

This means, if you have an inventory of products you sell for your business, your policy probably won’t cover those items, either. Most small business owners need a separate business policy to cover business-related items and liability.

5. SEWER BACKUPS

A sewer backup is a nightmare, and to make matters worse, most standard policies don’t cover them because they're preventable with proper upkeep. You can, however, purchase this coverage separately for about $40 to $50 extra a year.

If the damage from your sewer backup is so extensive that you are forced to temporarily relocate, the Insurance Information Institute says your standard policy might cover your short-term living expenses under its Loss of Use coverage.

6. BURST PIPES DUE TO NEGLIGENCE

Burst pipes are usually covered, but not always. If your insurance company assesses the damage and determines it was due to negligence, they may not want to pay up. If your pipes had a minor leak, for example, and you procrastinated fixing it, your carrier may consider that to be lack of maintenance. And in that case, your policy won’t fly. For this reason, it’s important to take proper care of your pipes, and that means preventing them from freezing in the winter and making sure they’re protected when you travel.

7. SOME POOL, TRAMPOLINE, OR TREEHOUSE HAZARDS

If someone is injured in your home, your standard insurance policy will typically cover the medical costs. However, some policies specifically exclude injuries from "high risk" structures like trampolines or treehouses. And while most pool injuries are covered, some policies will nullify that coverage if you have a diving board installed.

Just like any other insurance policy, you want to read your explanation of benefits thoroughly so you understand your coverage and you’re not caught off-guard. Childs offers some additional advice: “Be sure to budget to cover your deductible in the event you have to file a claim. Photograph or videotape key items, like artwork and jewelry, and have paperwork to substantiate the replacement costs to help file a claim.”

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Love Hygge? Meet Lagom, Your New Favorite Scandinavian Philosophy
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The Danish concept of hygge is all about indulging in simple pleasures during the cold, dark winter months. In Sweden, people take a different approach to living their best lives: They focus on lagom, an idea that roughly translates to “not too much, not too little, just the right amount.”

As Condé Nast Traveler reports, lagom can be found everywhere in Swedish culture. Swedes might use it to describe the strength of their coffee or slip it into conversation with sayings like lagom är bäst (“lagom is best”). But you don't need to speak Swedish to embrace the concept. Condé Nast Traveler has a few tips for how to incorporate lagom into your own life no matter how far from Scandinavia you live.

One obvious place to practice lagom is in the home. Get rid of the clutter you haven’t used in years and hold onto items with practical value. But because lagom is all about balance, you should leave room in your house for objects with special aesthetic or sentimental value as well.

Lagom also has a place at work. If you’re someone who works non-stop from 9 to 5, remember to schedule time for breaks and really disconnect from your job during those times. It may feel like slacking off, but your work performance will actually benefit.

Finally, one of the most important ways Swedes express lagom is through day-to-day personal interactions. If you live according to the lagom philosophy, dominating the conversation isn’t a priority. Giving others room to speak, and even allowing comfortable silences to form, is more important.

Looking for another untranslatable European life philosophy to adopt this winter? In Scotland, Còsagach is how people stay cozy.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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California Startup Pays Users to Consume Less Energy
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You may know that turning off the lights when leaving a room or lowering the thermostat before bed are smart habits, but with no way to see their immediate impact, they can be hard to keep. OhmConnect is built around the premise that more people would follow through with these actions if they had a little motivation. As Fast Company reports, the San Francisco-based startup rewards California residents for their green choices with real cash.

The mission of the company is to prevent energy grids from using costly and dirty emergency power plants by encouraging customers to conserve power when demand outweighs supply. During “OhmHours,” users receive a text suggesting energy-saving practices. They can choose to opt out or agree to make an effort to lower their consumption. If their usage in the next hour is lower than the average for their home on that type of day (weekdays are compared to the weekday average; weekends to the weekend average) they receive points which can be redeemed for money. The more people participate on a regular basis, the more points they’re able to earn.

Participants in homes equipped with smart devices like a Nest thermostat or Belkin smart switches can program them to automatically consume less during those times. Nearly a fifth of the user base chooses some type of automatic response.

Someone living in a small apartment participating once a week has the potential to make $40 to $50 a year, while a family living in a larger home can earn up to $200. The California energy grid has also reaped the benefits: Since launching in 2014, OhmConnect has saved the state a total of 100 megawatts (the equivalent of not running two emergency power plants at high-demand times). California residents who get their energy through Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas & Electric can sign up to participate online. If you don’t live in the state but are interested in the service, you may get a chance to try it out soon: OhmConnect plans to expand to Texas, Toronto, and potentially the East Coast.

[h/t Fast Company]

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