A pool in the backyard can make your home the center of summer fun for your friends and family! While a pool is a great feature, it also brings increased responsibility and liability risk to your home and backyard. Having proper insurance coverage for the risks that accompany your pool is essential.
Many people believe that their homeowner’s insurance policy will cover their swimming pool, however, this may not always be the case. There are some insurance companies out there that will flat out just not cover an in-ground or an above ground pool based on their own independent underwriting guidelines. You should carefully evaluate your home insurance policy to determine if the policy will allow for a pool of any kind, and speak to your agent about covering a swimming pool. Keep in mind that if you fail to disclose your pool to your insurer, your entire policy could be dropped and void once they discover you’ve been hiding your pool.
WHAT DOES A HOMEOWNER’S POLICY COVER?
If you already have an in-ground or an above ground pool in the backyard covered by your home insurance policy and someone gets injured, your policy will offer liability coverage for protection. However, these limits may not be enough to cover the costs of a person’s medical care and any financial reward that an injured person could be awarded through a civil lawsuit against you.
The liability risks a pool poses to your family are often greater than the typical liability limits offered by homeowners insurance policies. A standard home insurance policy offers $100,000 in coverage, but you may want to increase it to at least $300,000 to give your family peace of mind if you have a pool. If that is not enough coverage, consider adding an umbrella policy.
Your homeowners insurance helps protect your home and property from certain damages. Damage that is covered by most home insurance includes such things as theft, vandalism, lighting, or pipes freezing. Damage from fire, wind, hurricane, and hail is also typically covered. However, these are not typical things that will damage a backyard pool (in-ground). Instead, damage is commonly caused by earthquakes or maintenance issues, which are not covered by most home insurance policies. Earthquake coverage can be purchased as a separate policy, but be sure to check with an agent that coverage will extend to your pool.
WHAT ABOUT AN ABOVE GROUND POOL?
Do you need insurance for your above ground pool? Yes. It is always advisable for you to consult with your insurance agent when you have any changes in your life, even if it is adding a pool or having a child. An above ground pool has many of the same considerations as an in-ground pool. However, it presents additional risk as it is full of water and can flood your basement or yard if damage ever hit the pool structure. Consult your agent to help determine how much more coverage to add to your existing policy if your pool is above ground.
WHAT CAN AFFECT MY COVERAGE ELIGIBILITY?
There may be special requirements from your insurer in order to qualify for coverage under their homeowners policies when you have a pool. For example, if you do not have a privacy fence securing free access to the pool from the public and from unsupervised use, an insurer may not want to grant you coverage. Without a fence, even if a homeowner is not home and there is a pool accident, such as one of the neighbor kids getting into the pool and getting hurt, the homeowner can still be found liable; especially if the pool was not secured away from the public and from unsupervised access.
There are other things you want to keep in mind. The first is that if you have a slide or diving board, some insurance companies will not give you coverage at all, or will have you sign an exclusion, which will not cover any injuries that occur related to these two pool accessories. That is something to keep in mind when you are building a pool, as it may be something you do not want to include, simply for the insurance and liability issues.
The insurance company could also say they will only cover you under certain conditions. These conditions could be the fence (one with a lock on it) we mentioned earlier, but also a secure pool cover to deter people from wanting to get into the pool. Both of these are safety measures that can help you get coverage and that could even decrease your premium.
New York Municipality rules vs general insurance underwriting rules
Depending on the type of pool you have, you may not need a full fledged fence around your pool if you live in New York. According to the local pool ordinance in New York, a permanently stationed above ground pool’s structure can serve as a part of the required barrier to meet the municipality’s rule on “above ground pool code.” In addition, the pool’s structure needs to be sufficient enough to obstruct access to the pool. However, municipality code and insurance underwriting guidelines are not always the same from city to city and from insurance company to insurance company even in the same state.
An above ground pool is said to be up to code in New York City, with or without a privacy fence around the yard’s structure and the only barrier to keep the public out can be the actual walls of the pool. However, an insurance company may not agree, and it may not meet their own underwriting guidelines. Thus, they can choose to decline the offer of coverage even if the pool is up to code in the city. The insurance company can add conditions saying that unless the pool owner installs a privacy fence around the backyard to restrict public access, coverage will be denied. It is ultimately up to the insurance company on which risks they want to insure. The message here is that city ordinances on pools do not necessarily control the guidelines or the conditions that an insurance company may invoke on top of a city’s ordinance.
PURCHASING AN UMBRELLA POLICY TO HELP COVER POOL LIABILITY
You may find that it makes sense for you and your family to purchase an umbrella insurance policy to support your homeowner’s policy. People with above or in ground pools often add this policy to serve as excess coverage in the event of a pool accident to fully protect their assets. An umbrella policy averages up to $1 million in liability coverage and will be activated only when all the funds from the homeowner’s insurance policy have been exhausted; possibly from paying out a potential injury settlement as a result of a pool accident.
A pool can be a great way to enjoy the summer months, but it brings with it a lot of responsibility and liability – year around. Whether you have an in-ground pool or an above ground one, protecting your investment and your liability is essential. With the right insurance policy, you can protect your financial future for many years to come.