Here in northern Minnesota, many of us look for more ways to spend time outdoors during our long cold winters. One such opportunity many enjoy is to relax in an outdoor hot tube after a long hard day. As I write this post, fall is in the air and homeowners are contemplating a new hot tub purchase or are preparing their existing tub for the upcoming season.
Clients often call me to “add their new hot tub” or to make sure their hot tub is covered under their Homeowners policy. Good news! If you have a standard Homeowners policy, your hot tub is already covered; if it catches on fire, gets hit by a falling tree, is stolen or is damaged by hail or even vandalism, you should be good to go.
However, we should stop and ask: What is most likely to happen to your hot tub? Odds are that you’re not going to have a thief back up a flatbed and load it up using their forklift. It’s not even very likely that it will burn up in a fire. What is likely is that the water in your tub could freeze, destroying the shell, mechanics and/or plumbing beyond repair. I’ve had this happen to several clients, and the cause could be either a loss of power or a failure or breakdown of the heating system in the tub.
Now if knew about this right away, of course you would either quickly fix the issue or else drain the tub before the water cools enough to freeze. But what if you don’t realize there is an issue until it is already too late? If you use your tub every few days, that is plenty of time for something to have gone wrong since its last use and for the water in the tub to freeze.
So, if the worst happens and your hot tub is totaled by freezing, will your Homeowners policy cover its replacement? I wish this were a simple question; however, unfortunately it is not. What I have found in my research is that the answer to this question may depend on a) what exactly went wrong that resulted in the freeze; b) whether your carrier classifies the tub as part of your dwelling, a detached structure or personal property; c) what optional coverages your policy includes and d) how your carrier interprets several vague provisions contained in your policy.
I’m sorry if this doesn’t sound very re-assuring. The honest truth is that you probably aren’t going to be able to know in advance whether a potential freezing claim would be covered. However, there are a couple things you can do now to make an uncovered loss less likely.
First, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth of pound of cure. Talk to your hot tub dealer or an electrician about installing some kind of warning light or alarm that will let you know if you lose power to the tub. If you were able to install an alarm system that directly monitors the temperature of your water, that would be even better. If you have a way to be notified of a heating failure before your water freezes, you’ve reduced your need to worry about whether a resulting loss would be covered.
Secondly, contact your agent and ask them to check with your carrier as to a) whether your hot tub falls under your Dwelling, Other Structures or Personal Property coverage and b) once this is known, whether there are any optional coverages that can be added that make coverage more likely or more complete. For example, if your hot tub is considered personal property, make sure your personal property is covered at replacement cost coverage (you want this anyway) and consider beefing up your personal property coverage from Named Peril to Open Peril (aka, upgrade your HO3 to an HO5). Also, make sure that your applicable policy limit is high enough to factor in the added value of the hot tub.
Any hot tub coverage discussion would not be complete without mentioning the unthinkable risk of a small child drowning in your hot tub. While you might be careful to supervise children whenever they use the tub, what if a neighbor kid wandered over while you were gone and climbed in the tub? For this reason, I recommend installing a locking mechanism on your outdoor hot tub and making sure it is engaged when not in use. If the worst did happen, most Homeowners policies would cover your liability for this accident, but occasionally we see a policy that excludes or limits such coverage; so you should confirm your hot tub liability coverage by reviewing your policy and/or calling your agent or carrier.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.