Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Civil Commotion?

Wed Jun 3 2020

As protests seeking justice for George Floyd took place across the country last week and continue, many homeowners are wondering if they’re covered for property damage that may accompany civil unrest.

The short answer: yes.

Your home and property are covered if they’re damaged by fire, vandalism, or civil commotion. Let’s learn more about what “civil commotion” means in the insurance world.

What Is Civil Commotion?

Civil commotion is one of the covered perils in homeowners insurance policies. That’s true whether you have an HO1, HO2, HO3, HO4, HO5, HO6, HO7, or HO8 policy. Civil commotion is included in both named and open perils policies, which at minimum cover:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Hail or windstorms
  • Explosions
  • Riots or civil commotion
  • Damage from aircrafts
  • Damage from vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Malicious mischief or vandalism
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruptions

Civil commotion usually refers to a public revolt that causes harm or property damage. It’s similar to a riot, a public disturbance by at least three people who leverage disorder to further a common purpose. The difference is a riot may or may not include property damage and is typically smaller in scale.

Vandalism has a more straightforward definition: it’s intentional destruction of someone’s property. Vandalism may accompany civil commotion and riots.

Your policy will usually not define civil commotion, riots, or vandalism outright, and legal definitions may vary depending on where you live.

How Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Civil Commotion?

Many of the protests happening around the country right now may, at one point or another, fit the category of “civil commotion.” As we saw in Minneapolis, Louisville, New York, Chicago, Columbus, Atlanta, and beyond, protestors have been met with heavy police intervention, with many states calling in the National Guard. In some cities, the chaos led to property damage and theft.

While property damage has so far been limited to mostly commercial buildings, such as the Target in Minneapolis, it’s worth considering how residential property might be impacted if unrest continues.

Say, for example, your community organizes a protest in support of police reform and ending extrajudicial violence. During the gathering, some outliers set fire to a trash can. The fire gets out of hand and spreads to a nearby home.

The loss would be covered by homeowners insurance. In this case, it can pay for fire damage to the structure of the home and pay to replace damaged personal belongings.

It may also trigger other coverages included in the policy, such as loss of use insurance.

So if that fire made your home uninhabitable while it’s being repaired for fire and smoke damage, your loss of use insurance could help cover the extra costs you take on when damage displaces you. This coverage can pay for expenses beyond your “normal” obligations (like your mortgage and utilities).

For example, loss of use insurance can pay for:

  • Renting a new place temporarily
  • A hotel stay
  • Restaurant meals or takeout
  • Laundromat visits
  • Storage costs
  • Transportation fees
  • Pet boarding fees
  • And more

If your home is vandalized, that’s also covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. For example, if someone throws a rock through a window or tags your garage door, your policy can help pay to replace the windows and to clean up the graffiti and repaint.

Fortunately, property can be repaired and replaced.

To learn more about what homeowners insurance covers, check out this guide.

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