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  • Writer's pictureKate Fulford

Navigating the Tricky Terrain of Home Insurance

I have been on an insurance shopping binge lately (see below to learn why) and I’ve discovered there are some new nuances to be aware of with insurance policies. So welcome to the wild world of home insurance, where the terrain can be as treacherous as a gorge hike in a snowstorm. In this post, we'll explore some hot topics that can make or break your quest for a homeowners policy. From roofing requirements to knob and tube wiring concerns, dog breed restrictions, deductible dilemmas, and the bundling dance, we'll equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate this tricky landscape. I’d like to give a shout out to my favorite Insurance Broker, Kaity Blacksher at Atkinson Insurance Group, who provided a TON of intel for this post (she’s amazing if you want to shop any of your policies).

Let's dive in! 

  1. Roofing Requirements: Age and Material Matter - The roof over your head is more than just a shelter from the rain; it's a crucial factor in securing home insurance. Some insurance companies have strict rules, requiring roofs to be younger than 15 years. Others don't allow wood shingle shake roofs due to their vulnerability to fire and other damage. Additionally, overhanging branches can be a cause for concern, prompting insurance companies to request their removal to prevent potential property damage.

  1. Electrical Woes: Knob and Tube Wiring - For those who own older homes, be prepared to face the dreaded knob and tube wiring hurdle. This outdated electrical system is a no-go for many insurance companies. To ensure eligibility for a homeowners policy, it's crucial to have the knob and tube wiring ripped out and the electrical system updated to meet modern safety standards.

  2. Dogs: Man's Best Friend or Insurance Nightmare? While dogs bring joy and companionship, they can also impact your home insurance journey. Some insurance companies impose dog exclusions for certain breeds or for previous dog-related insurance claims. In more extreme cases, certain dog breeds may even lead to a complete denial of coverage. It's essential to check with your insurance provider regarding their specific dog breed policies to avoid any surprises down the line.

  3. Deductibles: Rare are the days of $500 home deductibles. Today, the landscape has shifted. Many insurance companies are now writing policies with $2,500 deductibles, and sometimes, it's even a requirement to qualify for a home policy. Why the change? Home insurance claims can impact your future premiums for several years, making it advisable to refrain from filing claims for damages less than $2,500. It's a higher bar to clear, but it can save you in the long run.

  4. The Art of Bundling: In the quest for affordable home insurance, bundling your automobile insurance with a homeowners policy has become increasingly common. Many insurance companies now require bundling to qualify for a homeowners policy. While it may seem like a hassle, bundling can often lead to significant savings, making the extra effort well worth it.



After the big freeze, a lot of homeowners dealt with frozen pipes. A lot of insurance policies have a 14-day exclusion written into them for water seepage/ leakage. This means that water damage that occurs over an extended period of time can, and will be excluded from the policy. However, the notion of insurance is sudden and accidental so with a freezing pipe you will have coverage on most home insurance policies in Oregon and Washington. But with this 14-day exclusion if the pipe has a slow leak that occurs over an extended period of time the claim can be denied. OR if the leak occurs in an unseen area for an extended period of time the claim can be denied. Some carriers, (Safeco & Travelers) offer an endorsement to add back the Water Seepage and Leakage coverage. 

Outside of Water Seepage and Leakage: After an ice storm, it is simply your responsibility to notify your insurance company right away of any type of loss. Damage caused from a freezing or busted pipe is usually always covered. The pipe itself is NOT covered. 

Coverage for utility lines on the exterior of your home is excluded. There is an additional coverage for this - Service Line. Service Line coverage can be added onto some home insurance policies and will provide coverage for utility lines from the front door to the street. Service Line coverage also includes coverage for the damage pipe itself. 

AND THE TREES!! Remember when so many trees fell in our last big storm?  Who’s responsible for what? Here’s a little bit of intel in the event this affects you (of course, it will depend on your insurance coverage!).

Generally speaking, you are only responsible for tree removal of your tree when it comes down on your own property (damage or not) and if it falls on a neighboring property WITHOUT damage. 

Fallen tree on your automobile. Your automobile insurance policy will pay for damage to your vehicle under comprehensive- if you have a fallen tree on your car, regardless of whose tree, whose property the tree was on, etc. 

Fallen tree on your property. SOME home insurance policies require damage to your property before tree removal coverage kicks in. SOME home insurance policies provide tree removal coverage regardless of property damage. So, you could have a very large tree come down in your backyard and NOT damage your house or fence and your insurance policy WILL Pay for tree removal OR your policy may require damage to your property before it pays. 

Fallen tree on shared property. Your policy will SPLIT the repair costs between you and the shared party. If a tree comes down on a shared fence. Your policy could pay half and the neighbor's policy could pay half. 


Those of you living in Portland sit on a fault line. St Helens has also been experiencing some activity. Cause for concern, sure; we are perhaps overdue. And some scientists say we're due for a big one. Earthquake insurance is a catastrophic type of policy. It comes with a high deductible - 10% - 20% of your dwelling coverage. It is not meant for the little "shake, shake, shake." It is meant for the big quake that causes a crack in your foundation and generates damages over tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. It is something that we always recommend. An earthquake policy can be as low as $110 per year or upwards of over $1,000 per year depending on the age of your home, foundation, number of stories, and location. If your home was built before 1980 then you can provide proof of retrofitting for a retrofit discount with some companies. 


Holy smokes. We now have a licensed teen driver in the household - and it’s been fantastic for many reasons (independence, less chauffeuring, etc) - but I was woefully unprepared for the SHOCK of our rate increase. Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5 - but OVER $6000 more than what we had been paying. You can imagine my despair as we also save for future college expenses.

Thankfully, we did some shopping around and found a lower cost option, but parents with younger kids, be aware of this unexpected expense.


An Umbrella insurance policy provides liability protection for you and any household family member against almost any personal lawsuit at or away from your residence. It will provide liability protection in excess of your underlying policies for bodily injury or property damage caused by you or any household family member. This is an extremely important policy to carry and is recommended for all. Sadly, we live in sue-happy world. You can be sued for current assets but what a lot of people don't realize is that your largest asset is your future unearned income. An Umbrella policy will protect your future unearned income from potential lawsuits in the event that you are found liable for causing bodily injury or property damage to another party. This includes libel and slander. 


As I have been shopping new policies after my auto-shock, I got some new quotes for our Umbrella policy as well. One curious question one company asked was if I was a social media influencer!  Perhaps they have a higher risk of being sued?  In any case…

Conclusion: Congratulations, intrepid homeowners, for braving the unpredictable landscape of home insurance! Armed with knowledge about roofing requirements, knob and tube wiring, dog breed restrictions, deductible considerations, and the benefits of bundling, you're well-prepared to navigate this tricky terrain. Remember, each insurance company has its own guidelines, so be sure to research and compare policies to find the best fit for your needs. May your insurance journey be smooth and secure!

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