The homeowners policy was designed to insure personal risks, not business risks. For this reason, virtually all coverage for business property and liability is explicitly excluded in the homeowners policy.
Very limited property coverage is included for business personal property. The limit usually ranges between $1,000 and $2,500 if the business property is at your house. The limit is much less for business property anywhere else–like in your car.
Liability coverage for business activities is also severely limited. It only applies to incidents that occur on your property at home, and only for those that arise when:
- Your house is rented–either occasionally as a residence or when a part of it is rented to 1 or 2 boarders. This does NOT include Airbnb rentals, or any series of rentals. Neither does it include renting your barn to a neighbor who does lawn mower repairs.
- A portion of your house or other building is rented for use as a private garage, office, school, or studio. Think designating a room for use to give music or dance lessons, or as an office for a writer.
- An insured who is under age 21 runs a self-employed part-time or occasional business that does not have any employees.
What all this means is that if a person is working from home, any property used for business–regardless of whether it is owned by the individual or the individual’s employer–has very limited coverage. If the employer has insurance for property it owns, that property should be insured specifically on the employer’s policy with an indication it is located at the employee’s home. In some cases, the employer’s failure to cite the location of the property on its policy, especially if the property is valued at more than $5,000 or $10,000, might result in a lack of adequate coverage in the event of a loss.
Potential problems relating to the lack of business liability coverage under the homeowners policy are more serious. In most cases, clients do not visit employees working from home. But if anyone visits your home for business and gets hurt, your unendorsed homeowners policy does not provide any liability coverage. Similarly, if a FedEx or USPS employee trips and falls while delivering business mail or packages, any claim for injuries would not be covered. Basically, coverage for ANY other type of liability (think cyber liability, products liability, etc.) is NOT covered, either.
Endorsements are available to add limited business property and liability coverage to the homeowners policy but, in most cases, it’s probably not adequate. Some insurers also offer a home business endorsement that does include business, or commercial, coverage. That’s probably a better idea.
Remember, even if you’re working from home and your employer does have coverage for property it owns, and its own liability, your employer gets the broadest coverage under that policy. If you’re covered under it, you can still be held personally liable for property damage and bodily injury resulting from business activities conducted at your home.
Unless you buy and add business endorsements to your homeowners policy, you might find yourself uninsured in the event of a loss when you’re working from home.
For more details, listen to this week’s podcast at Taking the Mystery out of Insurance.