Roughly, an act of God is a colloquial term in old home insurance parlance which describes any event that humans cannot control, predict or prevent. Natural disasters are a good example.
As technology and health and safety improves, some home insurance policies cover acts of God, and some do not.
In this article, we’ll answer questions like:
Insurance policies no longer use the phrase “act of God”: they only describe specific events. In this article we’re talking about home insurance, but it’s important to note car insurance policies define acts of God in different ways.
- What is an act of God?
- Does my home insurance cover acts of God?
- What does a standard home insurance policy not cover?
What is an act of God?
In English-speaking legal terms, an act of God is a natural hazard outside human control, such as a tsunami or earthquake, for which no person can be held responsible. An act of God may amount to an exception to liability in contracts, or it may be an “insured peril” in an insurance policy.
The term “acts of God” has become antiquated, as legal practices have become more secular. Also, we’ve come to realise more disasters than previously thought occur as a result of human intervention. For example, earthquakes caused by underwater activities, or drilling triggering volcano eruptions.
Put simply, we’re getting better at finding out whose fault it is. But this hasn’t stopped people from suing God. In 1970, Betty Penrose sought $100,000 in damages after stating God’s “negligence” allowed a lightning bolt to strike her house. When God “failed to turn up in court”, Penrose won the case by default. We wouldn’t advise these extreme measures, as God’s reluctance to enter a courtroom is never a guarantee you’re going to win.
Acts of God and home insurance
Acts of God are, by definition, rare. They are probably excluded from your insurance policy. This is because your home insurance is based on measurable risks, and an unpreventable act of God cannot reasonably be quantified.
Some acts of God will be covered under homeowners insurance, but others are not. Natural disasters are a typical example. Fires, floods and storms are beyond human control and therefore could technically fall under the God umbrella. But it all depends on the level of risk. In Ireland, standard homeowners policies cover damage due to wind, rain or hail. But they don’t generally cover damage thanks to earthquakes, volcanoes and floods.
Additionally, insurers will take into account the cause of the damage: a fire caused by poor wiring is not an act of God, but one caused by a lightning strike is.
By contrast, insurers deem extraordinary man-made or political events a force majeure. A similar term would be “unforeseen circumstances”. Examples of force majeure include energy blackouts, lockouts, and strikes.
What’s not covered by your home insurance
If you’re doing things right, you won’t be able to see a disaster coming. But this doesn’t mean they count as an act of God, or are covered by your home insurance.
Home insurance doesn’t cover anything that happens gradually, such as the result of normal wear and tear.
It also doesn’t cover oil spillage or pollution from delivery or contractors – or damage caused by any mechanically propelled vehicle, except your own lawn mower that is used exclusively for your lawn.
A coast or river wearing away over time is a natural misfortune, but also is not covered under your home insurance.
Is damage by animals an act of God?
Unfortunately, home insurance doesn’t cover damage by animals, exotic or otherwise. In Cork, it’s not very likely a polar bear will destroy your fence and step on your garden gnomes. However, it’s significantly more likely that your neighbour’s misbehaving dog digs up your prized sod.
Pet ownership means having a reasonable amount of control over your animal. If your home is damaged as a result of your pet – scratched wallpaper, for example – you will not be covered for the damage under a standard policy. If your neighbour’s dog damages your home or garden, you should hope they have third party liability insurance. Otherwise, your neighbour will have to pay out of pocket.
Of course, wild animals are still a risk. Generally, your insurance won’t cover you for rodent damage and the removal of their nests. This is because infestations and the damage that results from mice and rats are almost always a matter of home maintenance. Simply, it’s up to you to prevent pests, or fix your home if you fail to do so. This also goes for damage done by foxes, deer, rabbits, and other destructive critters.
The only way to find out for sure whether you’ve got cover? Read through your policy carefully, and if in doubt, give us a call.
Talk to us at QuoteMe.ie with any of your home questions
If you require more information on what is covered and what exactly Act of God means when it comes to your home insurance pick up the phone and talk to us at QuoteMe.ie anytime. We have been providing insurance in Ireland for over 30 years and have seen all eventualities. We are available for calls between 8.30am and 5.30pm each weekday on 0818 224433 or 042 9359051.
You can also get an immediate home insurance quote online through our online quote system. We compare home insurance in the Irish market from 12 insurers to get you the right cover for your situation. We look forward to hearing from you soon.