Calculating dwelling coverage for accessible modifications

Your dwelling coverage is the amount your insurance company would pay if replace the home if it was completely destroyed. It includes anything that is a permanent part of the structure. That means anything that isn't removeable from the property.

In a home that's been modified to be accessible to someone with a disability that can include a wheelchair ramp on the outside of the home or a roll-in shower in the bathroom. If it is part of the home, it needs to be included in the dwelling coverage. Make sure you're clear with your insurance company about the cost of any modifications, and call the company if you make new changes or upgrades to the home.

Personal property coverage for special equipment

You may also want to increase your personal property coverage. Items such as mobility scooters or electric wheelchairs are considered personal property. Depending on the value of each item, you may or may not get a replacement cost should something happen.

"Something like a scooter is personal property and if it's under your deductible amount, it's covered, but they wouldn't pay out,” MacBey says.

More expensive items, such as an electric wheelchair, which can run upward of $10,000, would be covered but would be subject to the deductible. An add-on to your policy called a rider could benefit homeowners with more expensive items, such as medical devices. It would be additional coverage and would not be subject to your deductible.

Replacement cost, on the other hand, pays you what it costs to replace the item at today's price, regardless of wear and tear. Most home policies use actual cash value for personal property, but you can add replacement cost as an endorsement. Find out more about replacement cost vs. actual cash value

Other steps you can take to protect your items include the same advice for any homeowner:

  • Keep an inventory list of items.
  • Record pictures or videos of the items.
  • Keep receipts as well as any paperwork for the items.
  • Keep the phone numbers and contact information for service providers in a safe place.

Liability coverage

Property isn't the only thing that needs to be taken into account when insuring your home with disability modifications. Liability coverage can also be an issue.

Let’s say you have a stair chair lift. To work the chair, you must install a track along one side of the stairs from top to bottom. What if someone trips on it while at your house? 

What if you have a ramp that takes you to your deck and it ices over, causing someone to trip? If someone trips or gets injured are you, the homeowner, at fault?

In both cases, MacBey says the homeowner doesn’t usually need extra insurance. 

"Your liability will pick-up the exposure. You don't need a rider, but you could look into an umbrella for additional coverage,” MacBey said. 

The typical homeowners policy will have about $100,000 in liability coverage, but you can increase it, usually up to $500,000. An umbrella policy can insure your home for $1 million or more.

To avoid any issues with people getting hurt in your home, use common sense. Make sure to tuck away medical devices and other items, such as walkers, canes and commodes. Don’t leave them in high-traffic areas where a visitor could trip on them. 

Home health aides and nurses

Another thing to consider involves home health aides and nurses. If you get visits from these professionals, ask them if they’re insured. It’s a good idea to only work with professional caregivers who are insured. 

It will save you a lot of headaches and money should anything ever happened.

The bottom line is to be honest and upfront when it comes to home insurance. Carolyn Assa, director of communications at the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation, says people should tell their insurers about any home modifications. That will help you if you need to file a claim later. 

"Additional coverage needs may cause your premium to increase. Consumers should discuss their coverage options with their agent or insurance company, be sure to understand the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value and shop around for lower rates,” Assa says. 

Find out more about other types of insurance and disabilities: