How to Get Home Insurance if You’re Disabled
Disabled individuals have a lot to think about when it comes to their home’s accessibility.
In addition to modifying a home an outfitting it with any necessary equipment to make it more accessible, they also need to think about insurance.
Although most of their insurance needs will be similar to those of other homeowners and renters, there are some specific considerations for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as those who are elderly, when it comes to insuring where they live.
For example, they may want additional coverage for things like wheelchair lifts and bathroom upgrades.
Even if you’re not currently disabled, there is some likelihood that you may need to think of these things later in life.
According to State Farm, one-fourth of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire. And insurance statistics how that only 9 percent of long-term disabilities actually resulted from serious accidents.
Understanding coverage options is key to helping disabled individuals make informed decisions about their insurance.
Disabled individuals may need to modify their homes to make their residences more accessible and to better facilitate day-to-day living activities. Home modifications may include things like an electric stair chair lift, a roll-in shower or an elevator. Modern advances have enabled even more sophisticated customizations and assistive technology such as talking thermostats and voice-activated appliances.
But retrofitting a home to make it more accessible can be costly, so it’s important to protect your investment by purchasing adequate insurance coverage.
A standard homeowner’s policy may cover basic modifications, but it’s important to check with your insurer. You may need to increase your coverage — especially if you make costly upgrades — so it’s a good idea to let your insurance company know the value of any additions to your home.
Equipment and possessions
Standard homeowners policies cover any personal belongings inside the home. But just you may need to increase your home’s contents coverage to protect your big-ticket item, the same applies to expensive mobility devices and medical equipment.
An electric wheelchair, for example, can cost over $10,000 and quickly eat up your deductible. Other specialized items may include mobility scooters, prosthetic devices, power-lift recliners, and speech-generating devices.
Adding a policy rider can protect these items without requiring you to pay a deductible if you file a claim.
To ensure that you’re getting enough coverage, it’s essential to provide your insurer with accurate values for any specialized items or equipment you own. Prices fluctuate over time, so you’ll need to determine the replacement cost of these items and purchase coverage accordingly. Otherwise, your policy may cover only the actual cash value of the item — meaning what the item would be worth in its current condition.
An inflation guard endorsement is one option. This is additional insurance you can purchase to make sure your coverage keeps track with inflation.
You can also check to see if any of your equipment is replaceable under warranty.
Ideally, you’ll want to maintain an up-to-date inventory of your equipment, along with receipts and photos of these items in case you ever need to make a claim.
Not only do you need to insure your property and possessions, but you also need to think about protecting people who come into your home.
For example, if you have wheelchair ramps and other equipment and modifications in your home, someone who isn’t used to having those things around could trip and fall and sustain a serious injury. Then that person could turn around and file a lawsuit against you.
Most standard homeowners policies include about $300,000 in liability coverage. But if you want extra protection, you might consider an umbrella liability policy. An umbrella policy can offer $1 million or more in coverage.
It’s also wise to take basic safety precautions before someone visits your home. Put away canes, walkers, medical devices and extension cords, and clear out any other tripping hazards that might be in the way.
In-home caregivers like home health aides and nurses add another layer of considerations for homeowners insurance.
If a caretaker is injured on your property, you could be held liable and face legal action.
Disabled and elderly individuals may rely on regular visits from caretakers, and so it’s critical to make sure insurance protection is in place. Most professional caretakers are licensed and insured, but be sure to ask before hiring someone to come into your home.
And again, adequate liability coverage or, better yet, an umbrella policy can shield you from lawsuits and offer more extensive protection.
Know your rights
Remember: Just because you may want to purchase additional coverage for things like home modifications, medical equipment and liability doesn’t mean an insurer can raise your rates solely on the basis of a disability.
In fact, it’s against the law.
The same rights that protect disabled individuals from discrimination when buying or renting a home also apply when purchasing homeowners insurance.
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate to any housing related transactions based on disability, as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex or family status.
According to the law, this includes homeowners and renters insurance.
The law prohibits insurance companies from giving unfair treatment to disabled individuals.
If the action is based on a disability, it is illegal for insurance companies to:
• Deny homeowners or renters insurance coverage
• Refuse to provide information regarding homeowners or renters insurance
• Deny reasonable accommodations
• Set different terms, conditions or rates
• Discriminate in property appraisals
• Make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on disability
• Inquire into the existence or nature of a disability.
In any case, it’s always a good idea to shop around and compare quotes to make sure you’re getting fair rates and treatment.