Hurricanes can cause extensive damage to your home and belongings — does renters insurance step in to help cover the costs?
Along America's Atlantic coast, hurricane season runs from the beginning of June through the end of November. When a hurricane strikes, it brings a torrent of destructive forces, including wind, hail, and rain — a powerful trio that can cause devastating damage in hurricane-prone areas. The resulting storms roll through coastal regions, leaving behind a trail of destruction, usually in the form of severe flooding and battered structures and homes.
If you’re a renter in a state vulnerable to hurricanes — 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. — it’s essential to understand what’s covered and what’s not by your renters policy if a hurricane strikes.
Though a hurricane is not a specific event or peril named by insurance companies for coverage, the perils that result from a hurricane can be covered by renters insurance. Your renters policy gives you protection up to the specified limits for your personal property, liability coverage, medical payments, and additional living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable.
No renters insurance policy — or homeowners insurance, for that matter — covers hurricanes as a whole. However, hurricanes are the catalyst for several perils renters insurance does cover. But if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes, your renters insurance may specifically exclude wind and hailstorm coverage from your policy, so you may need to add an endorsement or rider to your policy to acquire this coverage.
So if renters insurance doesn’t cover hurricanes, how does it provide coverage when one strikes? It all boils down to specifically which peril(s) caused the damage during the hurricane. Let’s say strong winds from a hurricane blew off part of your roof — because windstorms are a covered peril under renters insurance, the damage would be covered.
Here are perils that can be caused by hurricanes that renters insurance may or may not cover:
|Covered by Renters Insurance||Not Covered by Renters Insurance|
|Fire and lightning||Water (flood damage)|
|Wind and hailstorm||Damage caused by power failure|
|Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam (non-flooding related)|
If your rental is rendered unlivable due to one of these perils caused by a hurricane, your loss of use coverage would pay for your living expenses elsewhere, such as lodging at a hotel.
For insurance companies, it’s simply too risky and expensive to cover the catastrophic damage hurricanes can cause in a single area.
The same goes for flooding and water damage — which comes in tandem with any hurricane and often causes the most destruction. If the water damage was caused by natural forces and not because of something like faulty plumbing, insurance will not cover the damage. The only exception is if you have water damage caused by another peril that’s covered.
Going back to our previous example, let’s say some of your electronics were destroyed by the torrential rain that seeped in as a result of the windstorm that destroyed part of your roof. In this case, the personal property coverage of your policy would cover the losses to your personal belongings because the windstorm is what ultimately caused the water to come in. The primary cause of the damage is of the utmost importance when insurance companies decide what losses to cover.
The structure of your rental would also not be covered by your renters insurance — that’s a matter for your landlord to worry about.
Flooding and storm surges cause the bulk of the damage during and after hurricanes, with entire regions submerged in water. If you live in a flood zone or in a state vulnerable to hurricanes, it would be sensible to get a separate flood insurance policy since your renters insurance does not cover hurricane- and storm-related flooding.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) fills the gap left by private insurers as a federal flood insurance program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). It’s not limited to only homeowners and businesses, however — renters are also eligible for flood insurance through NFIP, which covers the contents of your home up to a $100,000 limit.
There are some downsides when it comes to flood coverage through the NFIP. Unlike your renters insurance, it does not cover additional living expenses (also known as loss of use in insurance-speak) if you’re forced out of your home due to hurricane or flood damage. There’s also a 30-day waiting period from when you enroll until your policy goes into effect, so you cannot buy flood insurance right before an impending hurricane or storm. This same rule also applies to your insurance company — they will not allow you to increase your renters insurance coverage when there’s a hurricane or other natural disaster looming in the forecast.
There are a few endorsements you can make to your renters insurance policy for additional coverage if you’re worried about hurricane damage. Keep in mind that even if you boost your coverage via endorsements, these would only apply if you suffered personal property damage due to the covered perils mentioned above. For example, you’d need to prove your furniture was destroyed because of the hailstorm brought on by the hurricane, not because of the hurricane. The language you use when you file a claim really matters.
Consider these endorsements if you own some expensive personal items:
Doing what you can before a hurricane strikes will save you money, time, and heartache. It’s not easy living in a flood zone or hurricane-prone area, especially as these incidents have become more intense and more common — a trend projected to continue over time. Flood coverage through the NFIP is definitely worth considering even if you’re not a homeowner in a high-risk state — as a renter, it can go a long way if you’ve lost a substantial amount due to a hurricane.