Prior to the 1950s, there were separate policies for the various perils that could affect a home. A homeowner would have had to purchase separate policies covering fire losses, theft, personal property, and the like. During the 1950s, policy forms were developed, allowing the homeowner to purchase all the insurance they needed on one complete policy. Home insurance, also commonly called hazard insurance or homeowners insurance (often abbreviated in the real estate industry as HOI), is the type of property insurance that covers private homes. It is an insurance policy that combines various personal insurance protections, which can include losses occurring to one's home, its contents, loss of its use (additional living expenses), or loss of other personal possessions of the homeowner, as well as liability insurance for accidents that may happen at the home.

The cost of homeowners insurance often depends on what it would cost to replace the house and which additional riders - additional items to be insured - are attached to the policy. The insurance policy itself is a lengthy contract, and names what will and what will not be paid in the case of various events. Typically, claims due to earthquakes, floods, "Acts of God", or war (whose definition typically includes a nuclear explosion from any source) are excluded. Special insurance can be purchased for these possibilities, including flood insurance and earthquake insurance.

The home insurance policy is usually a term contract - a contract that is in effect for a fixed period of time. The payment the insured makes to the insurer is called the premium. The insured must pay the insurer the premium each term. Most insurers charge a lower premium if it appears less likely the home will be damaged or destroyed: for example, if the house is situated next to a fire station, or if the house is equipped with fire sprinklers and fire alarms. Perpetual insurance, which is a type of home insurance without a fixed term, can also be obtained in certain areas.

In the United States, most home buyers borrow money in the form of a mortgage loan, and the mortgage lender always requires that the buyer purchase homeowners insurance as a condition of the loan, in order to protect the bank if the home were to be destroyed. Anyone with an insurable interest in the property should be listed on the policy. However, these policies varied by insurance company, and were difficult to comprehend. The need for standardization grew so great that a private company based in Jersey City, New Jersey, Insurance Services Office, also known as the ISO, was formed in 1971 to provide risk information and issued a simplified homeowners policy for resell to insurance companies. These policies have been amended over the years until currently, the ISO has seven standardized homeowners insurance forms in general and consistent use . Of these HO-3 is the most common policy followed by HO-4 and HO-6. Each is summarized below:

HO-3 This policy is the most commonly written policy for a homeowner and is designed to cover all aspects of the home, structure and its contents as well as any liability that may arise from daily use, as well as any visitors who may encounter accident or injury on the premises. Covered aspects as well as limits of liability must be clearly spelled out in the policy to insure proper coverage. The coverage is usually called "all risk". Also called an "open perils" policy.

HO-4 This is commonly referred to as renters insurance or renter's coverage. Similar to HO-6, this policy covers those aspects of the apartment and its contents not specifically covered in the blanket policy written for the complex. This policy can also cover liabilities arising from accidents and intentional injuries for guests as well as passers-by up to 150' of the domicile. Common coverage areas are events such as lightning, riot, aircraft, explosion, vandalism, smoke, theft, windstorm or hail, falling objects, volcanic eruption, snow, sleet, and weight of ice.

HO-6 As a form of supplemental homeowner's insurance, HO-6, also known as a Condominium Coverage, is designed especially for the owners of condos. It includes coverage for the part of the building owned by the insured and for the property housed therein of the insured. Designed to span the gap between what the homeowner's association might cover in a blanket policy written for an entire neighborhood and those items of importance to the insured, typically the HO-6 covers liability for residents and guests of the insured in addition to personal property. The liability coverage, depending on the underwriter, premium paid, and other factors of the policy, can cover incidents up to 150' from the insured property, all valuables within the home from theft, fire or water damage or other forms of loss. It is important to read the Associations By-laws to determine the total amount of insurance needed on your dwelling.

HO-8 It is usually called "older home" insurance. It lets house owners with higher replacement cost than the market value insure them at the lower market value rate.

In addition, a Dwelling Fire (DP-1 and DP-3) policy is generally available for non-commercial owners of rented houses, covering property damage to the structure, and sometimes to the owner's personal property (such as appliances and furnishings). The owner's liability is generally extended from their own primary home insurance, and does not comprise part of the Dwelling Fire policy. A Dwelling Fire (DP-1) policy is more than just fire insurance. It is a "named peril" insurance policy, which means it only covers losses resulting from a peril listed in the policy. If damage is caused by an event not listed in the policy, then the policy does not cover repair or replacement. While a DP-3 policy is a DOI-defined policy type that covers the dwelling and other structures on an open perils basis (i.e. all perils except those specifically excluded).

DP-1 covers the home and structures like a detached garage or shed up to 10% of dwelling coverage for specific perils:

Fire or lightning
Explosion
Windstorm or hail
Riot or civil commotion
Vehicles owned by others
Smoke
Volcanic eruption
Aircraft

Actual Cash Value for Total Losses. If the home or other structures are destroyed or damaged due to a covered loss, the policy will pay the actual cash value for the loss.

Fire Department Service Charge. If the fire department comes to your home, you may be billed for the trip.

Reasonable Repair. If you need to make immediate repairs to prevent additional damage, like covering a roof with a tarp after a storm, the policy will reimburse reasonable repair expenses. It is a counterpart to the HO-4 renter's policy. While a DP-3 policy is a DOI-defined policy type that covers the dwelling and other structures on an open perils basis (i.e. all perils except those specifically excluded).

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