Property insurance


Property insurance

Property insurance provides protection against most risks to property, such as fire, theft and some weather damage. This includes specialized forms of insurance such as fire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, home insurance, or boiler insurance. Property is insured in two main ways—open perils and named perils.

Open perils cover all the causes of loss not specifically excluded in the policy. Common exclusions on open peril policies include damage resulting from earthquakes, floods, nuclear incidents, acts of terrorism, and war. Named perils require the actual cause of loss to be listed in the policy for insurance to be provided. The more common named perils include such damage-causing events as fire, lightning, explosion, and theft.


Property insurance can be traced to the Great Fire of London, which in 1666 devoured more than 13,000 houses. The devastating effects of the fire converted the development of insurance “from a matter of convenience into one of urgency, a change of opinion reflected in Sir Christopher Wren’s inclusion of a site for ‘the Insurance Office’ in his new plan for London in 1667”. A number of attempted fire insurance schemes came to nothing, but in 1681, economist Nicholas Barbon and eleven associates established the first fire insurance company, the “Insurance Office for Houses”, at the back of the Royal Exchange to insure brick and frame homes. Initially, 5,000 homes were insured by Barbon’s Insurance Office.

In the wake of this first successful venture, many similar companies were founded in the following decades. Initially, each company employed its own fire department to prevent and minimise the damage from conflagrations on properties insured by them. They also began to issue ‘Fire insurance marks’ to their customers; these would be displayed prominently above the main door to the property in order to aid positive identification. One such notable company was the Hand in Hand Fire & Life Insurance Society, founded in 1696 at Tom’s Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane in London.

The first property insurance company still extant was founded in 1710 as the ‘Sun Fire Office’ now, through many mergers and acquisitions, the RSA Insurance Group.

In Colonial America, Benjamin Franklin helped to popularize and make standard the practice of insurance, particularly Property insurance to spread the risk of loss from fire, in the form of perpetual insurance. In 1752, he founded the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Franklin’s company refused to insure certain buildings, such as wooden houses, where the risk of fire was too great.

Types of Coverage

There are three types of insurance coverage. Replacement cost coverage pays the cost of repairing or replacing your property with like kind & quality regardless of depreciation or appreciation. Premiums for this type of coverage are based on replacement cost values, and not based on actual cash value. Actual cash value coverage provides for replacement cost minus depreciation. Extended replacement cost will pay over the coverage limit if the costs for construction have increased. This generally will not exceed 25% of the limit. When you obtain an insurance policy, the limit is the maximum amount of benefit the insurance company will pay for a given situation or occurrence. Limits also include the ages below or above what an insurance company will not issue a new policy or continue a policy.

This amount will need to fluctuate if the cost to replace homes in your neighborhood is rising; the amount needs to be in step with the actual reconstruction value of your home. In case of a fire, household content replacement is tabulated as a percentage of the value of the home. In case of high-value items, the insurance company may ask to specifically cover these items separate from the other household contents. One last coverage option is to have alternative living arrangements included in a policy. If property damage caused by a covered loss prevents you from living in your home, policies can pay the expenses of alternate living arrangements (e.g., hotels and restaurant costs) for a specified period of time to compensate for the “loss of use” of your home until you can return. The additional living expenses limit can vary, but is typically set at up to 20% of the dwelling coverage limit. You need to talk with your insurance company for advice about appropriate coverage and determine what type of limit may be appropriate for you.

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