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Hurricanes are among the most destructive forces of nature. Unfortunately, a large portion of the United States is susceptible to hurricane damage. Often spinning northward from the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes are severe storms that can batter coastal areas for sustained durations. Along with destructive winds, a hurricane can bring torrential rain that lingers for days, leading to flooding.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic region typically runs from June 1 through November 30. That’s a long stretch of time during which a hurricane or powerful tropical storm could occur. The time to think about hurricane insurance isn’t when the storm is approaching — it's before hurricane season arrives. Take the necessary steps to protect your home and personal belongings well ahead of time.
Read on to find out what your homeowners insurance policy covers and whether or not you need additional flood insurance.
The term “hurricane insurance” is a little misleading: there is no insurance coverage for hurricanes specifically. The damage caused by hurricanes comes from different sources, including wind, flooding from storm surge, and flooding from rain. As such, home insurance coverage in a hurricane often comes down to what element of the storm — or its aftermath — is responsible for the damage.
For instance, most homeowners policies will cover wind damage, but if the damage was the result of flooding, you may be out of luck. If you live in an area at high risk of hurricanes or other strong storms, insurers may limit — or withhold — wind damage coverage.
If wind coverage is not included as part of your home insurance policy, you can seek out a special endorsement. The specifics of your policy will be clearly defined on your homeowners policy declarations page. If you are uncertain, reach out to your insurer to confirm you are properly covered.
Standard perils (causes of loss) are most often covered during a hurricane. Unless specifically noted on your policy, wind damage to your home, personal possessions, or structures on the property attached to the primary dwelling should be covered. Your personal property coverage may depend on your individual plan, while other structures are typically covered up to 10% of the primary dwelling limit.
For instance, imagine that the hurricane damages your detached garage. If your primary dwelling was covered for $250,000, your garage would have up to $25,000 of available coverage. Bear in mind, however, that this might be subject to a separate deductible than your primary dwelling that’s known as a hurricane deductible, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Flood damage is not covered by standard home insurance policies. This pertains to storm surge or water damage brought on by wind as well. Flood insurance should be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
This federally backed flood insurance program — offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — is typically the only way to insure against flooding.
Though hurricane-specific insurance doesn’t exist, hurricane deductibles do. A deductible is a sum you agree to pay before your insurance kicks in to cover a loss. Many hurricane-prone states may require a special “hurricane deductible” be written into home insurance policies.
A hurricane deductible kicks in only when a hurricane occurs. Your declarations page will list the specific circumstances that trigger this deductible. Qualifying circumstances may differ depending on your insurer, the state in which you live, and whether or not you reside in a high-risk area.
Hurricane deductibles are usually not set at a fixed dollar amount, but instead a percentage of your dwelling coverage, typically between 1% and 10%. If your home is worth $250,000 and your hurricane deductible is 5%, you would be responsible for covering up to $12,500 of damages. This far exceeds the deductible on most homeowners policies. Even though it’s expensive, it gives you a chance of recovering from a potentially devastating storm.
With their ability to cause widespread damage and expensive claims, hurricanes can put insurance companies at substantial financial risk. The hurricane deductible offloads more of this risk to the homeowner and makes premiums more affordable for the company's customer base.
In most cases, the hurricane deductible must be paid on the primary dwelling as well as each covered structure. Also, a separate hurricane deductible may be required for your personal property, as well. This is an important distinction from a standard homeowners deductible, and one that you don’t want to catch you off guard.
Hurricanes are not limited to a single damaging event. Devastating wind, rain, and flooding can continue for days on end. As such, a hurricane deductible (or other applicable deductible) may kick in when a hurricane watch or warning is enacted in any part of your state. This continues while hurricane conditions are present, stretching for 72 hours after hurricane conditions subside.
Note that each state determines its own triggers for hurricane deductibles, so check your policy. A storm’s designation at the time it makes landfall can represent a difference of thousands of dollars in deductible payments.
Hurricanes are specifically categorized by the National Weather Service, but other deductibles can be applied to less powerful storms. A “named storm deductible” typically includes hurricanes and any other storm named by the NWS or National Hurricane Center.
Wind and hail are perils covered by most homeowners insurance policies. A key peril created by many hurricanes, wind has the potential to cause serious damage on its own. Even a Category 1 hurricane can have winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour enough to harm a home's siding, roof, or trees in the area.
A windstorm deductible, like a hurricane deductible, must be triggered as the result of wind, though it does not have to be a result of a hurricane. In some states, tornadoes can trigger such an event.Areas prone to strong windstorms or tornadoes could face a separate deductible for wind damage. In Texas, for instance, a windstorm deductible typically applies across the board, not just in cases of hurricanes or other named storms.
In some areas of the country, windstorm coverage may be excluded from standard homeowners policies. If this is the case in the region in which you live, you’ll need to add the coverage through an endorsement.
Because of their sheer size and scale, hurricanes can cause widespread damage. The storms have caused billions of dollars of damage in the US in recent years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks the top five costliest US hurricanes as follows:
The year 2017 set a new record for cumulative damage, counting 16 individual weather events causing at least $1 billion in damages, resulting in a damage total of $306.2 billion for the year.
Each state along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean — from Texas to Maine — are susceptible to hurricane damage.
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington D.C. are all at risk of damage from hurricanes.
While not every one of these states experiences hurricanes on a regular basis, the potential for damage is very high if a storm does occur. Even areas and states further inland can be affected by such storms, as exemplified by the devastating flooding in North Carolina in 2018.
When a hurricane is in the forecast, insurance companies — including federal organizations through which flood insurance is purchased — will not allow you to bump up your coverage. For instance, any new federal flood policy usually requires a 30-day waiting period before it kicks in. This highlights the importance of preparing for such storms in advance and not waiting until it’s too late.
Many coastal regions subsidizewind pools, in which the state opts to provide coverage for those in high-risk areas.
If you live in a condo, it is often up to your homeowners association (HOA) to purchase coverage for the exterior of your building as well as any shared grounds. However, it is still up to you to purchase insurance for the contents of your condo. A condo insurance (HO-6) policy would kick in to cover the interior of your unit as well as your personal possessions.
Like homeowners policies, there are limits to condo insurance hurricane coverage. Flooding, for instance, is still not covered, though wind damage usually is. This goes for both your HOA policy as well as your personal condo insurance policy.
In the wake of a powerful storm, the cleanup can be daunting. Even if your home managed to escape relatively unharmed, your property could be strewn with downed trees, branches, or other refuse.
The “additional coverages” portion of your homeowners policy usually includes a section specifically for debris removal. This most often applies to trees or branches that have fallen on your house or are blocking driveways. Coverage is typically capped at $1,000, or $500 per tree.
As noted above, hurricane insurance doesn’t really exist as a separate coverage. Depending on where you live, you may need to take steps to protect yourself in the event of a serious storm.
Some of the steps you can take include determining whether or not your state has a special wind pool or hurricane deductible. If you live in an area at risk of flooding, it’s worth considering NFIP flood coverage.
While it’s impossible to fully shield your home from powerful storms, these steps can go a long way toward helping you recover. For more information on homeowners insurance policies, please call us at 855-493-9728.