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Natural Disasters and Insurance

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Natural Disasters and Insurance

By: Adam M. Matheny

1: Will my homeowners insurance policy cover wind damage?

In short, yes. Damage to the “residence premises” from windstorms like tornadoes and hurricanes are covered under home insurance. This includes single family homes, a duplex where the policy holder lives in one of the units, or any building where the policy holder lives. Coverage also applies to an attached structure like a deck or a garage.

A standard home insurance policy also covers “other structures” on the property that are unattached, like a separate garage or swimming pools. You’ll be happy to know that the policy also includes coverage for damage to belongings.

Unfortunately, damage from flooding, including that which is brought about by hurricane storm surges, is not covered under a basic homeowner’s policy. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a local private insurer.

2: Will my renters insurance cover wind damage?

A renter’s policy (or “tenant homeowner policy”) will cover all personal belongings damaged by storm winds. While damage from flooding may be covered under some rental policies, most will require separate policies purchased through the NFIP or a private insurer.

Any damage unrelated to your personal belongings, like the walls or floor of the apartment, is covered under the policy held by the building owner.

3: Does my homeowners insurance policy cover flood loss?

Flood damages are not covered under standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policies, including damage from a storm surge. You will need separate flood insurance coverage through the NFIP or a local private insurance company in Florida.

4: Does property damage from storm surges count as flood damage?

Flood insurance policies will cover damage from a storm surge, but remember—the standard homeowners or renters policy does not include damage from floods, which includes storm surges.

5: I live in a condo... is my unit covered for wind damage?

If you bought a homeowner’s policy written for condominiums or a co-op living situation, you will be covered for any damages to the inside of your home. It’s recommended to get a copy of the master policy to have a better understanding of what’s covered: the association might already have coverage for your wiring, plumbing, or external fixtures… or, it might only cover the “bare walls” and nothing that’s behind them.

6: Is flooding covered under a co-op/condo insurance policy?

Flood damages are only covered if the condo or co-op association purchased a separate flood policy from the NFIP or private insurance provider. This covers damages to the structure itself, and not your personal belongings—unless the association purchased a contents policy from the NFIP or private insurer.

7: My car got flooded. Will it be covered?

If you have comprehensive auto coverage (“other than collision”), then flood damage to your car is covered. This includes damage caused by storm surges.

8: Will I get reimbursed for temporary repairs to my home?

Yes—do not wait until a claims adjuster arrives to make any repairs needed to prevent more damage. Most policies carry a provision to reimburse you for reasonable and necessary repairs, up to a specified dollar amount.

9: The food spoiled in my refrigerator and freezer because the power went out. Is this covered?

Some insurance companies may include food-spoilage up to a set amount ranging from $250-$500 per appliance. Check with your insurance agent.

10: If the damage is less than my deductible, should I file a claim?

Yes. There may be additional damage that becomes evident weeks or months after a storm or hurricane, and this will protect you in the event further repairs are needed.

11: Can I file a claim for the tree that fell in my yard, even if my home isn’t damaged?

Homeowners insurance will not pay for the removal of trees or landscape debris following a storm, if it did no damage to a structure. If the tree hits your house, that damage is covered. If the tree falls in your neighbor’s yard, their insurance would pay for damages to their home or structures.

12: I can’t live in my home. Does my policy cover temporary living costs?

Most homeowner and rental policies will cover additional living expenses. The amount is generally 20% of the insurance you have on your home, apartment, or condo. Others limit the amount spent to a certain time period. Always check with your insurer to make sure what this coverage allows and keep all your receipts. In matters of mandatory evacuation, it will depend on what’s stated in your insurance policy.

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