Insurance

Hurricanes and your insurance

Your guide to protecting your home

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Hurricane season is coming. Normally, the Atlantic hurricane season runs roughly from June to November, and this year meteorologists have already clocked the first disturbance of note in the Gulf. So actually I guess it’s fair to say: hurricane season is already here. 

The Zebra recently surveyed Americans on how they’re preparing for the increase in hurricanes and other climate-change related disasters, and 35% of respondents weren’t taking any steps to prepare for strong weather like hurricanes. Additionally, nearly half didn’t know if they had the right insurance — or enough insurance — in place. 

If you’re reading this from the midwest, this likely doesn’t affect you. However, if you’re reading this from a home you own or rent within 200 miles of the East Coast or Gulf Coast, read on. This isn’t just about storm preparation (although if you’re interested in that, we’ve got you covered). In this article, we’re looking at hurricanes and your home insurance — what coverage you need and when you need it.

Does my insurance cover damage from hurricanes?

The answer to this question depends on the source of the damage. After all, hurricanes can reign destruction on homes and infrastructure in a number of different ways. 

Wind is a standard peril that’s covered by most homeowners and renters insurance policies, so damages caused by hurricane winds would likely be covered. Make sure to read your particular policy carefully to make sure wind damage isn’t excluded and to understand how your home’s structure and belongings are covered. Also, in the event wind damage is caused by a hurricane, you might have to pay a higher deductible (more on that below). 

Flood damage is not typically covered by homeowners and renters insurance policies, and this exclusion includes flooding brought on by hurricanes. To be covered in case of hurricane flooding, you would need to purchase a separate flood policy, which is usually done through the National Flood Insurance Program. If you rent, you can choose contents-only flood insurance. If you live in a federal flood zone and have a mortgage you will likely be required to purchase it. That said, according to FEMA, 20% of flood claims came from outside federal flood zones, so it makes sense to be prepared if you’re concerned about the potential for flooding. 

Debris removal is not the first thing people think of when it comes to hurricane damage, but it can still be a major expense. Typically, homeowner’s policies cover some debris removal, but there’s also usually a cap. Debris removal following a hurricane can easily exceed that cap. Read through your policy and consider a coverage endorsement if you want to increase the debris removal amount. 

What are hurricane deductibles?

As mentioned above, even if certain damages from known perils like wind are covered by your homeowner’s policy, hurricanes may require a higher deductible. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. (basically every state on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast) allow insurance companies to charge a separate deductible for hurricane damage. This is usually expressed as a percentage of your dwelling coverage. 

If the National Weather Service rules a storm an official hurricane, the hurricane deductible is triggered. Then any covered damage to your home that occurs as a result of the storm will fall under the hurricane deductible. For example, if you’re covered for $100,000 and your hurricane deductible is 5%, you would have to pay $5,000 before your insurance company would step in to cover damages, even if your normal deductible is only $1,000.

When should I buy hurricane coverage?

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The right time to make sure your insurance coverage is enough to protect your home is now. Check your coverage today and make any necessary changes to make sure you’re protected for the full amount of rebuilding your home and replacing your possessions. 

If you wait until a hurricane is actually blowing down your front door, it’s too late. Flood insurance for example, usually has a waiting period of 30 days between the time you get the policy and when coverage takes effect. (This is for flood insurance purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program; flood insurance from private providers often has a shorter waiting period between 10 and 15 days). 

If flooding occurs during the blackout period, you’re out of luck. There are a couple of exceptions to this, such as when you’re buying flood insurance along with a new mortgage loan or when you’re buying flood insurance because of flood remapping that now puts your home in a federal flood plain. A hurricane bearing down is not an exception to the flood waiting period. 

Additionally, during hurricane season, insurance companies will impose moratoriums during which they stop writing new policies or letting existing policyholders make changes. Typically, insurance companies will declare a moratorium 24 to 48 hours before a storm’s projected impact. All the more reason to act now before hurricane season kicks off in earnest.

Choosing the right insurance

To sum up, if you live in a coastal city potentially impacted by hurricanes, now is a great time to review your policy to make sure you have everything in line to protect your home, belongings, and your car.

Don’t be afraid to shop around to see if you could potentially save money while getting the coverage you need.

Compare insurance rates quickly and easily.

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