How Homeowners Insurance Works

Liability Limits

Photo courtesy MORGUEFILE ©2005-2006

One of the first things you need to know about your policy is the liability limit. The liability limit determines how much coverage you have should something happen to your home. These limits usually start at $100,000, but policies can be purchased with much higher limits. Most experts recommend that you have at least $300,000 to $500,000 of coverage, depending on the value of your home.

When someone talks about the amount of coverage they have, or their liability limit, they are probably referring to the coverage for their home -- that is, for the amount of money it would cost to rebuild their home given the price of materials and labor in the area. This amount is not the same as the purchase price of your home, which accounts for factors like the value of the land. A quick estimate of your rebuilding cost can be done by multiplying your home's total square footage by the building cost per square foot [ref].

While your liability limit is a reflection of the amount of coverage for your actual home, other structures on your property, such as a garage, are usually covered for 10 percent of that amount. Coverage for personal belongings usually falls somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent of the amount of coverage on the structure of the home. And, as mentioned earlier, in case you have to live somewhere else because of damage to your home, most plans cover costs of living away from home -- hotel, restaurants/food, etc. -- up to 20 percent of your home's liability limit. Other policies may provide unlimited coverage for living expenses but only for a limited period of time.