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Wheels of Change: Does a Homeowners Policy Cover an E-Bike? 

Would an e-bike, which is propelled by the user and the rider's power is "amplified" by the electric motor, find some coverage under the ISO HO-3 policy?
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wheels of change: does a homeowners policy cover an e-bike? 

A client owns an e-bike and the policy definition in the carrier's proprietary homeowners policy form seems to take away all liability and property coverage due to the broad definition of motorized land vehicle in that policy. 

Q: Since a traditional ISO HO-3 defines a motor vehicle as being self-propelled, would an e-bike, which is propelled by the user and the rider's power is "amplified" by the electric motor, find some coverage under the ISO HO-3 policy?

Response 1: Maybe you can convince a carrier's underwriter to agree with you, but when I was an underwriter, that would have won only a hearty laugh.

The homeowners policy is not designed to cover "miscellaneous" vehicles and is written to exclude them—even if they were not invented when the policy was written. You need to offer either a miscellaneous vehicle endorsement to the auto policy, assuming the carrier offers and accepts that, or a recreational vehicle policy.

Also, you need to check the personal umbrella policy provisions—if there is no umbrella, this is a great time to offer one—to ensure coverage there, too. Your job is not to "squeeze" coverage out of standard forms but to offer appropriate coverage to your clients so if an accident occurs and liability exists or is alleged, they get the coverage they need as easily as possible.

Response 2: The bike has a motor and is self-propelled to some degree. Some endorsements could clarify the degree to which coverage would or would not apply. But, of course, the question is open to interpretation, so your best approach is to get a definitive answer—in writing—from an underwriter.

Response 3: An e-bike seems like a motorized recreational vehicle to me. It doesn't have to be exclusively propelled by a motor. There is no property coverage—it would only be covered for liability if used on an insured location. I'd ask for a special endorsement.

Response 4: No one wants e-bikes. The personal auto policy insurer doesn't want them and the homeowners insurer won't include them—no matter what the state motor vehicle code says about them.

For our clients, we write e-bikes on motorcycle policies, including the ever-important uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverages, and then we schedule it on the personal umbrella policy to get the higher limits coverage. 

Clients don't like paying that extra premium but if they want protection, that's the available arrangement in our state. 

Response 5: While the e-bike is power-assisted, many are capable of self-propulsion. There is a good argument for power-assisted e-bikes not being "motor vehicles" if they're not capable of self-propulsion, but I'd recommend checking with each insurer to confirm that's their interpretation.

If e-bikes end up being subject to registration, that also could end up eliminating homeowners coverage. With values of $3,000 and up in many cases, relying on a homeowners policy for property coverage isn't advisable, especially if the personal property only has named perils. 

I've heard that there are a growing number of companies offering coverage for owned e-bikes. However, there's not much coverage under home, auto or most umbrella policies for accidents involving rented e-bikes, at least if they're considered "motor vehicles" due to being self-propelled. 

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert Service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

Monday, September 26, 2022
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