Does Your Insurance Cover Weather Incidents?
If you have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, you might be shocked to learn that your property or possessions aren’t covered by damage from some wind and water incidents. Understanding how weather affects your insurance coverage and talking to your agent can help you avoid losing precious possessions or ending up on the street when you don’t have the money to repair or replace your home.
Most insurance policies do not include flood coverage, especially in flood-prone areas. You can purchase a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Because the NFIP limits policy amounts, look for private insurers who offer supplemental policies if you want the entire value of your home and possessions covered.
Even if your insurance covers the initial flood damage to your property, the policy might not cover additional damage caused by mold, mildew or rot if you could have taken steps to avoid this damage after the flood. This means, if you’re out of town after a flood, you need to arrange to get back or have someone take care of your property to avoid further damage that won’t be covered.
Additionally, your policy might exclude coverage of specific items, such as currency, stock certificates, important paper documents and precious metals. You might also not be able to insure all areas of your house, such as a basement, crawl space, underneath a porch or other low area. Keep your important items upstairs if you want them covered, or in sturdy, waterproof containers if you want them safe from wind incidents.
Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Windstorms
Wind-related storm coverage can also be tricky for property owners. In addition to making sure you buy early enough before a storm hits, you should know what your policy does and doesn’t cover. For example, if you live on an island or in a coastal area, your hurricane coverage might cover wind damage, but not water damage. This was a shock to many New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina hit. Property owners in tornado-prone areas should also be aware of this same exclusion.
Timing Can Be Everything
Insurers typically stop selling weather-related insurance policies once an imminent event has been announced. For example, if you see on TV that a hurricane or tropical storm is headed your way, it might be too late to purchase a policy to protect your property. If you want to hang onto your money a while longer, you might be able to buy weather-related policies later in the year, but check with your insurance agent for the best time to do so.
Make sure you photograph or get video of your property before you evacuate during a storm. It will be easier to make a claim if you have photographic proof of ownership or possession of specific items. Verify the date on the video or photograph to further strengthen your claim.
Quick Claim Tips
Have your insurance policy, auto card and agent contact information available in multiple places, including online. This will help you avoid getting backed up behind other claimants when adjusters are busy after a storm. If you know a storm is coming, contact your insurance company in advance to find out how to make a claim as soon as possible. Remember, your agent might have to evacuate during a storm or might be dealing with damage to his office or home.
Beware of Hail Repairs
After a hailstorm, unscrupulous roofing companies from out of state descend on an area offering to help homeowners get a “free” new roof from their insurance companies. While it can be fairly easy to get your insurance company to pay for a new roof after a hailstorm, you have to pay the deductible, and these fly-by-night roofers are hard to prosecute for shoddy work once they go back to their home states.
Before you agree to pay for any tree damage on your property or on a neighbor’s, be aware that your coverage will depend on why the tree fell.
In some cases, you don’t pay for damage to a neighbor’s property if your tree falls due to an “act of God” (such as a storm). Your neighbor’s policy covers her home, car or other property that’s damaged. You might only have to pay for the removal of the tree from your neighbor’s property. If the tree was diseased or you or a contractor were cutting it, you might have more liability.
If a tree falls from your neighbor’s property onto yours, your homeowner’s policy usually covers the damage to your property, sticking you with paying the deductible, even though your neighbor is responsible for removing the tree. If the tree that fell was diseased, your neighbor might have to foot the total bill.
If one of your trees falls on your land and causes no structural damage or damage to a car, your policy might not cover the tree’s removal, unless the tree is blocking an access way on your property.