Damages that Homeowners Insurance May Cover After a Hurricane

As hurricane Irma and Maria demonstrated, hurricanes are highly unpredictable events that can cause catastrophic damage to properties in their path. Homeowners who live in hurricane-prone areas should not take any risks and ensure they are covered by the appropriate insurance policies.

Following hurricane Irma, there were a lot of discussions on what damages homeowner insurance may cover. While no two policies are the same, the following infographic provides a general rule of thumb on what homeowners insurance may or may not cover. Be sure to read the fine print of your homeowners insurance policy to confirm what you would be covered for in the event of a hurricane.

Homeowner Insurance Coverage for Hurricane Damages

How Hurricane Deductibles Work

As if the world of insurance isn’t already confusing enough, you may have come across a term called hurricane deductibles in your policy. A hurricane deductible is typically spelled out in the declarations page of your policy. It is an amount that policyholders will need to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in.

Hurricane deductibles could either be a fixed amount or a percentage of a home’s coverage amount. For example, if a property is insured for $400,000 and has a hurricane deductible of 5%, the policy owner will have to pay the first $20,000 of a claim. The Insurance Information Institute does a great job of explaining hurricane deductibles and how they differ by state.

Some homeowners insurance policy may also have windstorm deductibles. This deductible applies to damage from any kind of wind, not just from hurricanes.

What Homeowners Insurance May Cover

Here’s a list of damages that may be covered by the policy. Again, check your documents or speak with your insurance agent to confirm whether these damages also apply to your coverage.

1. Food spoilage caused by power outages. Coverage limits typically apply. Make sure to take photos and to keep receipts of expensive food items.

2. Hotel fees in the event you need to evacuate your home. This is part of the Additional Living Expenses coverage. This coverage may only apply if the insured property is uninhabitable.

3. Structural damages caused by trees that fell due to strong winds. Insurance, however, won’t pay if the tree fell due to your negligence (e.g. lack of maintenance, tree was already rotting).

4. Tree removal costs may be covered if the tree fell on an insured structure. Again, this may only apply if the tree didn’t fall due to the policyholder’s negligence.

5. Debris cleanup may be covered to a certain amount. The limit for debris removal is typically a percentage of the insured value of your property.

6. Wind-driven water damage is generally covered. Water damages may arise if the hurricane winds damage your roof or windows.

7. Fence damages caused by wind or fallen trees. Be sure to take a photo of your damaged fence once it’s safe to go outside.

8. Temporary repairs done to prevent further damage to insured properties. Don’t wait till the claims adjuster arrives to assess the damage.

9. Landscaping may be covered to a small extent. For example, some policies will cover up to 5% of a property’s insurance value or up to $500 per plant.

What Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover

Here’s a list of damages that the policy will most likely not cover.

1. Flood-caused damages are not covered by homeowners insurance. It is highly recommended that you get flood insurance if you live in a flood-prone zone.

2. Tree damages caused by your negligence. For example, structural damages aren’t covered if a fallen tree was already rotting prior to the hurricane.

3. Pest and rodent damages are generally not covered by homeowners insurance. If you start to notice pests like termites around your property then be prepared to call pest control as soon as possible.

4. Vehicle damage is not covered by homeowners insurance. You will need to have auto insurance that has the appropriate coverage to claim such damages.

5. Are you a landlord? Your insurance does not cover a renter’s personal belongings. They should have renters insurance to claim any damages.

6. Mold damage may not be covered. Some policies may provide coverage but for a very limited amount.

Other Insurance Tips

Don’t wait till the last minute to get the appropriate insurance policy. First, you are likely to pay a higher premium as we get closer to hurricane season. Second, most insurance policies have waiting periods. For example, flood insurance has a 30-day waiting window. The policy won’t pay for any damages if the flood occurs within 30 days of the insurance being purchased.

When you prepare for an incoming hurricane, be sure to take photos of your property and personal belongings. Insurance companies are less likely to reject your claims if you are able to provide visual evidence.