Another year, another hurricane season. That makes right now (through the end of November) the best time to make sure you’re covered if a storm heads your way. Because once the federal government issues a tropical storm or hurricane watch, your insurance company will no longer offer additional insurance coverage.
Instead of nervously checking your insurance policy while hunkering down for a storm, make sure you have enough, or even the right home insurance and other coverages, like windstorm and flood insurance. It might also be an excellent time to identify any insurance gaps. That includes making sure you have enough money set aside to cover your deductible if you need to file a claim.
To know what coverage you need, it’s best to understand how various insurance policies work. Find out what you need to know in the event an unexpected hurricane reaches the shore.
- Hurricane insurance covers any damage to your home that is related to a hurricane. But, a hurricane has to be a declared event by an announcement from the National Hurricane Center.
- Most often, hurricane insurance will require you to carry both homeowners and flood insurance, and might also include additional coverage for windstorm damage.
- Depending on the coverages you buy, hurricane insurance can cover your home for damages from heavy rains, wind, flooding, storm surges, tornados, and possibly even other weather-related perils.
- You’ll want to be sure you are also covered for flooding from a hurricane. Flood damage can be costly to repair. As a result, private insurers have largely dropped that coverage. Instead, the government-backed NFIP offers flood insurance.
What is hurricane insurance?
Hurricane insurance is coverage for your home that covers any damage related to a hurricane. But, a hurricane has to be a declared event by an announcement from the National Hurricane Center.
Typically, hurricane insurance will require both homeowners and flood insurance, and could also include additional coverage for windstorm damage. Damage to your home from high winds is peril and usually covered under your standard homeowners insurance. However, if you live in hurricane zones or on the coast, you may be required to get an additional rider to cover your home in the case of a hurricane.
Most homeowners insurance will cover any water damage to your home, but there are exceptions. Water damage that’s due to flooding is not covered under homeowners insurance and will require separate flood insurance coverage.
What does hurricane insurance cover?
It’s not uncommon that certain states have insurance laws that mandate either the types of coverage or insurance minimums that must be included for a specific class of insurance. Based on the coverages you buy, hurricane insurance can cover your home for damages from heavy rains, wind, flooding, storm surges, tornados, and possibly even other weather-related perils.
- Although there are exclusions, your standard homeowners insurance policy may cover your home’s structure from damage including hurricanes, lightning or wind.
- Flood insurance covers flooding, wind-driven water and storm surge, but your standard home insurance policy does not. Renters can also purchase coverage.
- Due to heavy rains, you could experience a sewer backup in your home. Many homeowners insurance policies exclude sewer backup. But you can ask to add this coverage to your policy as a rider or endorsement if it is not covered.
- Most homeowners, renters, or condo insurance policies include coverage for additional living expenses if your home is damaged. If a covered risk destroys your home, you will need to live somewhere, at least temporarily. Policies usually come with a limited amount of coverage, but there might be an option to purchase higher limits.
Will homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage?
Not even the best home insurance policy will cover every kind of hurricane damage. That’s because there is no so-called hurricane insurance. Instead, if you live in a hurricane-prone area, you may need a mix of policies – home, wind, and flood, which serves as your hurricane insurance.
Where you live can impact your hurricane insurance needs, as well. A standard homeowners insurance policy covers damage caused by windstorms, hurricanes, and hail in most of the U.S., provided you don’t waive the coverage.
But if you live where hurricanes hit the coast, an insurance company may require separate windstorm insurance or wind and hail insurance to ensure coverage for damages from wind or wind-blown water.
What types of damage are not covered by hurricane insurance?
Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. You may also need to buy windstorm insurance if your home insurance is a named-peril policy that only covers listed dangers, such as theft and fire.
Having coverage through your home policy with a windstorm rider allows you to make claims for storm damages, such as:
- Blown off shingles
- Downed trees
- Windows shattered
- Rain entering your home as a result of wind damage (such as roof damage or broken windows)
It’s best to evaluate your homeowners coverage to insure your home and personal belongings are insured for the amount it will cost to replace them, just in case.
Moreover, unless added to your homeowners insurance policy, your car won’t be covered for hurricane-related damage. Instead, your car insurance’s comprehensive coverage would handle that protection.
Does flood insurance cover hurricane damage?
If a hurricane causes flooding, your homeowners insurance won’t cover the ensuing damages. Rising water or any water that enters the home from the ground – is considered flood water. A separate flood insurance policy only covers flood water. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood insurance. Private companies also provide flood coverage.
Standard homeowners insurance won’t cover damage resulting from:
- A storm surge
- Pooling of water due to heavy rain
- Water from a swollen creek, river, or lake
The flood-damage exclusion in standard homeowners policies is often a surprise to homeowners at a time when unpleasant surprises are the last thing they need.
“This is the biggest misperception that homeowners have (about flood insurance),” says Michael Barry, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute (III), “and it only gets worse if there is a dispute after a storm if the water intrusion resulting from wind damage (blowing in water) or flooding. You want to get a flood insurance policy, so there’s no dispute over the origins of the water damage,” says Barry.
What protection does the National Flood Insurance Program provide?
What does the federal program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (NFI) provide:
- Flood policies come with a 30-day waiting period from the time of purchase to when it goes into effect.
- Building property (structure) coverage tops out at $250,000 for residential buildings ($500,000 for commercial).
- Personal possession coverage is capped at $100,000.
- Damage to basement improvements, decks, pools, walkways, trees, or shrubs (landscaping) isn’t covered.
- Additional living expenses you might incur – such as hotel and food expenses – aren’t covered by the NFI flood policy.
“Supplemental flood policies are available from some private insurance companies around the country,” says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president at the III. “However, you can only buy excess flood insurance, which comes with much higher limits, after you have purchased a base NFIP flood policy.”
Are there special deductibles to pay for hurricane insurance claims?
Hurricane-prone areas often have hurricane deductibles associated with home insurance claims. To limit their losses, insurance companies in coastal states have homeowners take on more of the risk by attaching a higher, percentage-based hurricane deductible instead of a flat-dollar deductible.
According to the III, 19 states and the District of Columbia are most likely to have damage claims from a hurricane.
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington D.C.
What are hurricane insurance trigger events?
A “trigger” event puts hurricane insurance deductibles into effect. Triggers vary by state and by insurance company.
For example, in Connecticut, the legal trigger is when the National Weather Service (NWS) declares a hurricane that records winds of 74 miles per hour or more. The hurricane deductible remains in effect until 24 hours after the last hurricane warning terminates for any part of the state or 24 hours after the hurricane is downgraded from a hurricane by the NWS.
Other than that, the National Hurricane Center provides forecasts and hurricane updates in your area.
What are typical hurricane insurance deductibles?
You’ll also want to consider hurricane deductibles when deciding on a homeowners policy. Many comprehensive homeowners policies now have a hurricane deducible built into the contract, some as high as 5% of the value of the insured home.
Remember, your deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance pays its share of a claim. In Florida, insurers will apply your hurricane deductible on an annual basis. This means if you had to submit multiple claims due to numerous storms, you’d only have to meet the hurricane insurance deductible once per calendar year.
Once you reach the hurricane insurance deductible, the insurer can only apply your standard homeowners insurance deductible, which is typically a flat amount. “Deductibles vary from company to company and state to state, so everyone needs to read their policy or speak to an agent or company representative to find out exactly what the hurricane deductible is and when it applies,” Salvatore says.
How much does hurricane/flood insurance cost?
You need both standard homeowners insurance and flood insurance to have complete hurricane insurance coverage, as long as your home policy also covers wind damage. Flood insurance costs vary by your location. Insurance for a home in a flood zone will cost more than a home outside of a flood area.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reports that the average cost of flood insurance in 2021 is $958 per year, or $80 a month, However, in a low-risk area, you might pay as little as $550.
For nearly every ZIP code in the country, Insure.com’s analysis of rates from top insurers found the average cost of homeowners insurance to be $2,285 for a home insurance policy with $300,000 in dwelling coverage and $100,000 in liability insurance. If you bump up liability to $300,000, the national average cost is $2,305.
Here are the average per month home insurance costs for states that are at a higher risk of hurricanes:
- Alabama — $248
- Florida — $304
- Georgia — $213
- Louisiana — $273
- Mississippi — $278
- North Carolina — $167
- South Carolina — $223
- Texas — $286
The good news is that flood insurance usually costs much less than a standard homeowners policy. However, it depends on where you live and your home’s risk.
Can you get hurricane insurance during hurricane season?
You can buy hurricane insurance at any time of year unless there’s a storm barreling down in your area. Flood insurance policies don’t take effect immediately—typically 30 days after you buy the policy. Remember too that once the federal government issues a tropical storm or hurricane watch, your insurance company will no longer offer additional insurance coverage.
Is my home covered for hurricane damage if I leave it?
Hurricane insurance, including home, windstorm, and flood insurance, applies whether you stay or evacuate your home. You should, however, prep your home if you flee from the storm (and remember to take insurance paperwork with you so it won’t be damaged or go missing in the hurricane).
If you have storm shutters, put them on or use plywood to cover the windows. If it’s safe to do, move loose outdoor items inside, such as patio furniture, potted plants, and garbage cans, so they won’t become flying projectiles.
It’s also wise to unplug appliances and turn off the electricity and your home’s main water valve. If you must leave or evacuate your home, tell someone — a friend or relative not in the storm-affected area — where you’re going. And don’t forget to take your emergency supplies, warm clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags with you.
Unless your policy says otherwise, most insurers won’t cover expenses incurred for evacuating. However, if you come home and find your home unlivable due to covered hurricane losses, your standard home policy should cover any additional living expenses.
How to make a hurricane insurance claim with the insurance company
- Step 1: The first step in the process to file a hurricane insurance claim is to find your insurance policy to determine what is (and isn’t) covered under your policy.
- Step 2: Reach out to your insurance broker right away and tell them you want to make a claim for damages from a hurricane. Your representative will provide you with a claim number, and assign your claim to an adjuster who will contact you to evaluate your damage.
What should I do after I file an insurance claim?
Once it’s safe to return home, you should promptly do so. Document the damage with photos or video if possible. Take measures to prevent further damage to your home. For example, if a window is broken, seal it to prevent more water from coming in. If you have a hole in your roof, place a tarp over it.
If you fail to take reasonable measures to stop any further damage from occurring after a storm, your insurance company may refuse to pay for the added costs
Keep a record of any temporary repairs and save receipts for all expenses, such as buying plywood and nails to board up a broken window. You’ll need the information when you file an insurance claim.
Here are some additional claim tips:
- Take inventory of property and possessions. Compare the inventory list that you prepared before the disaster to your new list – before-and-after photos and videos are also very helpful to insurers. If possible, collect any receipts or proof of payment that proves the value of damaged items.
- Keep detailed records. Document conversations with your insurer. List the dates, times, and descriptions of your conversations with your insurer, adjuster, and those repairing your home. Make sure to jot down your adjuster’s name and contact information.
- Obtain repair estimates—three is usually required—from trusted contractors. Get written bids, including details of all materials used and prices on a line-by-line basis from licensed contractors. Don’t make permanent repairs and keep all damaged property until insurers have inspected your losses.
- Keep receipts. If you make temporary repairs or have to relocate from your home while it’s being repaired, keep records of your expenses since they’re likely to be covered by your homeowners policy.
- Negotiate. If you don’t think your insurance company has offered you a fair settlement, don’t be afraid to negotiate with your insurer. If you can’t agree, you can take action by consulting an attorney or hiring a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf. You can also contact your state’s insurance regulator to check your consumer rights and make a complaint if necessary.