INSURANCE FOR YOUR BOAT LIFT

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Insurance Forms

With insurance, you expect EVERYTHING you own to be covered for damages.  Even your dock and boat lift. But is that the case?

Here in Wisconsin, if you own a dock or boat lift, you have made a sizable investment. Of course, you want to make sure that they are insured. We urge you to make sure that all of your water equipment is protected. Insurance can be complicated, so you do need to talk to your agent. Make sure they research all scenarios.

Let’s discuss the various situations you may encounter.

Boat Insurance

Boat insurance is no different than auto insurance. But what exactly does the boat insurance cover? Boat lifts are not generally covered under a dock or boat policy. Boat insurance only covers the vessel itself. Think about it – your garage is not covered under your auto policy. Why would your boat, dock or lift be any different? Typically you have to have a rider to ensure your dock or lift.

Homeowners Insurance

Most homeowners believe that their dock and boat lift are part of their property. They think their homeowners’ insurance should cover them. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Your dock may or may not be covered by your homeowners’ insurance..  Be sure to ask about it.  Is your agent aware of it’s value?.

Liability insurance

It’s vital that you have not only physical damage but also liability insurance for your dock. Docks can be dangerous, and you’ll want to make sure you’re covered if someone were to get hurt on your dock. As for the physical damage coverage, make sure you understand what circumstances are covered, wind, fire, and snow all need to be considered.

Some Questions to ask your Insurance agent

Do you need:

Storage Insurance – Just like renters insurance you should consider storage insurance when your boat is not in use. Storage insurance can provide another layer of protection. The good news is there is less risk of liability while your boat is in storage. The insured premiums usually are reduced during that period.

Comprehensive coverage – This usually covers theft, accidental loss, or damage.

Replacement Costs – If you want to replace your boat after an accident, you will need to have coverage that is close to the current market value of your boat. You can adjust it to account for depreciation at each renewal.

Trailer Coverage – If you have a boat, you probably have a trailer to transport it around. Do you have coverage for your trailer and it’s cargo while being moved?

Accessory Equipment – Does your insurance cover your navigational equipment, lighting, and stereo systems and the other “toys” you added to the boat over time.

Mileage Restrictions – Does your policy restrict your mileage from where your boat is stored and used?  Which insurance covers the boat while being transported to and from the storage unit?

Salvage insurance – What policy pays if your boat sinks after an accident or if you forget to replace the drain plug?

DOES YOUR INSURANCE POLICY COVER:

Geographic Limitations – Your insurance policy may have specific physical or bodies of water limitations. Going to take your boat around the country? You may need a plan that will cover it under those circumstances. 

Good news: Your dock or boat lift, while stored on your residence premises (not necessarily in the water) would be covered by a standard Homeowners policy. It should be handled under a structure or as personal property. It will, however, be subject to the policy deductible. However, there may be other considerations.

WAVE DAMAGE – Damage to your lift or dock is NOT going to be covered if it is the result of waves. Even if the water is driven by the wind, it probably won’t be included. If wind-driven waves knock your dock or boat lift over, you will be responsible for damages. An exception might be if the waves caused a log, another dock or a boat to strike your equipment. The problem is, you have to prove it. If you see this situation happening your best option is to take photos. Better yet, a video of it happening might increase your chances of being covered. If the wind directly causes damage to the dock or lift, that loss should be covered by your insurance. Example, a dock accessory has blown off the dock by the wind, is probably covered under your policy.

WHAT ABOUT:

image of 2018 Arrowhead Beach - Crushing a boathouse

Ice Damage

ICE DAMAGE – Your dock or lift is not covered by damage caused by ice. If you leave your dock in the water over the winter and moving ice destroys it during the spring thaw, your Homeowners carrier is likely to deny that claim. Or if you leave your boat lift in the water and the pressure from freezing or thawing of the ice around it causes damage, again, this is most likely not covered.  What if our dock is stored on your beachfront or lawn.  If an ice shove occurs will it be covered?  If your equipment is stored on your neighbors property and the ice gets to it, is it covered?  Remember, it isn’t on your Resident Premises.  See below for more information.

Beyond these circumstances, there are other circumstances where coverage could hinge on whether your dock or lift is considered a structure or personal property. This can matter because policy coverage provisions for structures and personal property are entirely different.

HOW IS YOUR DOCK DEFINED?

PERMANENT DOCK – If your dock or lift is permanently set in place and attached to its location, it is almost certainly a structure. But is it covered under your policy? The answer to this question may depend on which insurance company you ask. (This means you probably need to ask.)

PORTABLE DOCK – Most Wisconsin property owners remove their docks and lifts for the winter to protect them from ice damage. In that case, Is a movable structure still a structure? If your portable dock or boat lift is not considered a structure, then it should be regarded as personal property and typically covered against loss caused by one of the perils named in the policy. It includes fire, vandalism, and falling objects, among other damages. The other good news is that, as personal property, your dock or lift is covered anywhere in the world, even if it isn’t located where you live. Maybe.

What is the deductible?  

However, the big question is – Is your dock or boat lift covered while in the water?  You need to ask your agent.

DEFINE STRUCTURES

Things can get a bit more complicated if your dock or lift is considered a structure. First of all, most Homeowners policies only cover structures located on your “residence premises.” So if you own a dock or lift situated in a resort or on a vacant lake lot and it’s considered a structure, then you are going to need to add individual coverage for it. Many insurance companies offer an option to add coverage for structures located elsewhere. 

Another problem – it may not be clear whether your dock or lift is on the “residence premises” or not. Perhaps you have a boat lift set up at a resort which you insure as a seasonal residence. If your policy includes coverage for Other Structures, will it cover your boat lift located elsewhere in the resort? Or what if you have a dock where you live,  but your legal boundary stops just short of where it sits?

WHAT ARE “RESIDENT PREMISES”?

Standard homeowners policies define your “residenTpremises” as “including the structures and grounds at the location of your insured home.” .In the case of a dock at the edge of your land but just beyond your property’s legal boundaries, would it be considered at the same location as your home and therefore covered? In the case of the boat lift located across the resort from the lot you occupy, there may still be an argument to be made in favor of coverage. However, coverage seems less certain. Be careful, as some non-standard policies might define “residence premises” even more narrowly.

Insurance gets complicated, so my recommendation is to talk frankly to your agent. Talk about your winter and summer situation. Get a clear definition (preferably an opinion in writing, if it is not written in your policy. The definition is critical and may vary by insurance company.

The information contained here includes a lot of “should be”‘s, “if’s,” “but”s, and “however”s. We are not insurance agents and opinions expressed here are just that – opinions. Now it’s up to you to get the conversations started with your agent.

PWS does Free insurance quotes

Pier & Waterfront Solutions 

PWS is located at 7325 St. Hwy 57. That’s 1 mile North of County MM (Hwy 42) and 3 miles South of Sturgeon Bay at the Idlewild Road intersection.  Our staff is here year-round to assist you.