Awarded a trifling $250 settlement, a Boston businesswoman working from a home office discovered that neither her homeowner's policy nor her automobile coverage would take meaningful responsibility for the $2,000 laptop stolen from her car. Not only does conventional homeowner's insurance limit coverage of away-from-home personal business property to $250, but it covers only $2,500 worth even when the property is in the relative safety of the home.

Homeowner's policies typically exclude the property of a functioning home business. (Special extensions usually are for incidental, not primary, business use.) Until recently, adequate protection for a home office generally meant the purchase of a more costly commercial policy.

Now, though, Utica National Insurance Group (in conjunction with the Boston Computer Society [BCS], whose subgroup for entrepreneurs includes the aggrieved businesswoman described above) has begun selling a rider to its homeowner's or renter's insurance that, for an added $5 premium per $1,000, covers business computer equipment in the home for up to $25,000 on the premises (and $2,500 off-premises) on an all-risk, replacement-cost basis. The policy repays up to $1,000 of expenses incurred in re-creating lost data.

"There's been a big rise in telecommuting but not in coverage," argued insurance agent Colin Regan, when, as a BCS member, he pointed out to Utica that a lot of its own people worked from home and were similarly underinsured. The new policy is currently available in 49 states, and Utica is considering offering riders for home-business product-liability and professional-liability coverage. Maybe not this year, though: as Regan has found, "insurance companies never move fast. Actuaries have to do their studies first."

For details, call a regional office of Utica National Insurance (headquartered in New York City), or request a BCS Insurance Series folder by calling 617-340-5816.

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