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Will your homeowners insurance policy cover damage from a natural disaster?
Most natural disasters are not covered by a standard home insurance policy. In the wake of a natural disaster, claims could be expensive enough to force insurance companies into insolvency. Thus, insurance companies are hesitant to provide insurance for these perils. This is why areas prone to natural disasters tend to see home insurance costs higher than the national average.
In order to carry home insurance for natural disasters, you'll need to look elsewhere. Let’s assess some relatively common natural disasters and steps you can take to protect your assets.
- Which natural disasters are covered by home insurance?
- Which natural disasters aren’t covered by home insurance?
- Why do insurance carriers pull out of states before a natural disaster?
- Related information
Which natural disasters are covered by homeowners insurance?
This depends on your homeowners policy details and your location. Most policies cover fire damage — but if you live in wildfire-prone areas, your coverage might be a little different. Furthermore, most policies cover volcanic eruptions — but if you live near a volcano, you might face some coverage limitations.
Damage caused by tornadoes is usually covered by home insurance if you have wind damage coverage on your policy. This typically comes standard. Double-check your policy documents to confirm.
Insurance policies generally cover damage from the below disasters. Always check your insurance policy to verify coverage for these natural disasters.
- Fire and lightning damage
- Windstorm or hail damage
- Smoke damage
- Volcanic eruption
- Weight of ice, sleet, or snow (for example, if it collapses)
What natural disasters are not covered by homeowners insurance?
Most natural disasters are not covered by home insurance — due to the risk of costly natural disaster claims. These filings tend to be total losses, meaning private insurance companies typically can’t afford the risk. Below are natural disasters not covered by most standard homeowners insurance policies.
Floods and home insurance
In order to be insured against flood damage, you need a separate policy by the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP. This is the most common way to get a flood insurance policy. These policies usually provide a maximum of $250,000 in dwelling coverage and $100,000 in personal property insurance. Moreover, you hold no insurance coverage for additional living expenses if your home is deemed unlivable after a flood.
Some companies sell private flood insurance — however, most homeowners use FEMA-issued flood insurance. Furthermore, whether or not you need flood insurance for your home will be determined by your location. If you’re in a flood plain, you absolutely need flood insurance.
Below is state-by-state information on home insurance and flooding.
|South Carolina||North Carolina||New York|
Sinkholes and home insurance
Sinkholes are cavities in the ground caused by water erosion, which can be exceedingly destructive to homes and property. However, homeowners insurance does not typically cover damage caused by sinkholes — the only exception to this being Florida. Florida law requires home insurance companies to provide protection for “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” which includes sinkholes.
Outside of Florida, your best option for sinkhole coverage is to speak with your insurance provider about an endorsement or add-on coverage.
Earthquakes and homeowners insurance
Earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes are often excluded from insurance coverage because they are considered “ground movements.” If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you should purchase a separate policy or an earthquake insurance endorsement. The California Earthquake Authority is one of the primary providers of earthquake coverage.
Learn more about homeowners insurance and earthquakes in select states:
Homeowners insurance for mudslides and landslides
Mudslides and landslides are tricky when it comes to insurance. Considered “earth movements,” neither is covered under a standard homeowners policy. Mudslides occur when a large amount of water erodes the soil on a steep slope. Although water is the primary catalyst of a mudslide, flood insurance does not apply.
The best way to insure your home against mudslides and landslides is condition insurance (DIC). Known as a “gap filler,” DIC policies are typically sold separately or offered as add-on endorsements.
Why do insurance carriers pull out of states before a natural disaster?
Sometimes referred to as a moratorium — the period in which insurance companies pull out of or pause coverage in certain areas ahead of a natural disaster — this approach is an increasing concern for homeowners in high-risk states. But why do insurance companies stop issuing coverage when it’s needed most? The answer, unfortunately, comes down to costs. Moratoriums allow insurance companies to avoid overextending their spend by taking on more risk than they can afford. Without a moratorium, insurance companies can find themselves in a position where they do not have enough to pay out existing claims.
Homeowners insurance works by spreading out risk over a large number of homeowners via premiums; for example, each homeowner pays to insure against a random damaging event, like a tree falling or house fire. The problem with this model begins when a large-scale disaster damages several homes at one time— insurance companies must then pay high amounts in claims and in turn, raise premiums for policyholders. This has happened in states like Florida so many times that insurance providers have had little choice but to stop covering that area completely to avoid such catastrophic losses. When a moratorium occurs, the following actions will be in effect until lifted:
- Current policyholders will be unable to change any limits or coverages in their policy.
- New applicants are restricted from purchasing a new policy with this insurer.
- Existing customers cannot switch insurance carriers.
When insurance companies pull out of areas ahead of a natural disaster, they are avoiding providing coverage to homeowners who have just enrolled to protect themselves from the incoming disaster. In other words, the company is protecting its own assets and current policyholders.
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About The Zebra
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
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