Most driveways abut the covered building as opposed to being attached to it, making coverage damage coverage questionable under traditional homeowners’ policies. (iStock)
When landscaping consists of ‘constructed’ infrastructure, its damage from a named peril is likely to be covered by homeowners’ insurance. (Associated Press file image)
It is important for insureds, as well as agents, to realize that substantial alterations or additions to a home can affect insurance. (Shutterstock)

Question: What is a detached structure? It is not a defined term in the homeowners’ policy in question. Can you please point me to some material that addresses this term?

For instance, is an asphalt driveway that is connected to the garage/home to be considered in the Coverage A replacement cost calculation? If the ‘attached’ driveway were damaged by a covered peril, would there be coverage?

— Connecticut Subscriber

Answer: It all depends on whether or not the driveway is actually attached to the dwelling, or simply abuts it. Most driveways abut the dwelling; they’re poured concrete or asphalt that is not actually attached to the dwelling; the concrete is separate from the concrete for the foundation, for example.

Another structure must be separated by a clear space, but it doesn’t have to be a large clear space. The foundation to my apartment is concrete as is the walk up to the apartment, but there’s a space between them; they are not one whole unit. The walk is another structure, even though it’s very close to the dwelling. The ISO HO 00 03 states that structures connected by only a fence, utility line, or similar connection are still other structures.

How does your garden grow?

Question: Our insured has suffered damage during a heavy windstorm to ornamental rock formations and gravel garden paths.

The wind blew some of the gravel away, and also blew sand and other debris into the rock formations and onto the gravel paths. Cleaning up the debris and redoing the paths was a considerable expense. Is this covered as damage to “other structures” under homeowner Coverage B, or excluded as “land”?

— California Subscriber

Answer: “Land” is unimproved or land in its natural state, not something that has been designed and constructed on the land. These aesthetically designed portions of a garden seem clearly to qualify as “structures.”

A “structure,” according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, is “something constructed or built.” Human intervention is necessary.

Thus, the meaning of structures, as insured under homeowners’ Coverage B, is not limited to buildings but includes other items as well. Since the damage was caused by an insured peril, wind, the coverage should respond in excess of whatever deductible applies.

Coverage for sewer, water line damage

Question: After wind blew over a tree, underground roots damaged the insured’s water line and sewer lines, which are connected to the dwelling. These lines also were underground. The insured has made a claim for the repairs to these lines under the DP-1 policy. Can these attached lines be considered part of the dwelling? 

— Tennessee Subscriber

Answer: The DP 01 includes structures attached to the dwelling as part of the dwelling; the pipes are part of the dwelling as long as they are connected to the plumbing system. Therefore, they should be covered due to damage from the tree that was felled by the wind.

Architectural update supports comprehensive coverage

Question: We have a homeowners claim (HO 00 03 10 00) involving a garage that, except for the wall facing the dwelling, was virtually destroyed by a fire. The garage was originally separated by about ten feet from the dwelling, but the insured recently built a deck over this clear space, securely connecting the deck to both the garage and the dwelling.

In adjusting the loss, is the garage still considered a separate building, subject to the 10% of Coverage A limit of liability? The loss is considerably more than 10% of the Coverage A limit.

Or, is the garage a part of the dwelling, subject to the Coverage A limit of liability?

What is your opinion?

 — Ohio Subscriber

Answer: The addition of a connecting deck caused the garage to become a part of the dwelling. Coverage B applies only to structures, “set apart from the dwelling by clear space,” including, “structures connected to the dwelling by only a fence, utility line, or similar connection.”

A deck is clearly not a connection “similar to” a fence or utility line. It is a connection sufficient to cause the dwelling and garage to be treated as a single building insured under dwelling Coverage A.

The insured is fortunate in this case. The full Coverage A limit of insurance becomes available to pay the loss. This is subject only to the 80% of replacement provision of the loss settlement condition that could limit recovery to actual cash value or to a reduced portion of full replacement cost above the actual cash value of the loss.

Had the loss spread to the dwelling, the insured might have been worse off. In that case, the insured would have only the limit of insurance for coverage A to pay the entire claim, and if the loss to the dwelling and deck exceeded the limit, the insured would not have another 10% of the limit to apply to the garage.

It is important for insureds, as well as agents, to realize that substantial alterations or additions can affect insurance to value.

See also: 5 most expensive causes of home property damage