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Disaster Prep

Understanding What’s Covered by Your Homeowner’s Insurance and What’s Not

Take assessment of your potential risks from natural disasters. Then make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage for your home or apartment.


Scott Holeman

Media Relations Director, Insurance Information Institute

No matter where you live, you are vulnerable to some type of natural disaster. Potential hazards include earthquakes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and wildfires. Standard homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies cover a wide range of exposure, but for peace of mind, you should check your policy for the specific disasters covered.

Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance polices offer protection from tornadoes, lightning strikes, fire, windstorms, hail, and winter storm damage. However, you should check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of insurance you have for specific items.

Also, if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage. Ask your insurance professional about windstorm and hurricane deductibles. In areas prone to hailstorms, you may have a specific hail damage deductible. A deductible is the amount of loss paid by the policyholder.

Some disasters are specifically excluded from standard homeowner’s or renter’s policies. That means you’ll need to purchase a separate policy to secure coverage for flood and earthquake-caused property damage.

Flood insurance is available for both homeowner’s and renter’s as a separate policy both from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. Even if you don’t live in a designated flood zone, that doesn’t mean you don’t need flood insurance. Nearly every property is vulnerable to flooding. The average flood insurance claim was more than $40,000 in 2018.

Earthquake coverage is available from most insurance companies as a separate policy or as an endorsement to your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. If you live near a fault line or in parts of the country where oil drilling is causing increased seismic activity, you may want to consider earthquake insurance. When assessing whether to buy this coverage, consider the cost of rebuilding or repairing an earthquake-damaged home and replacing lost personal property.  As an aside, standard homeowner’s and renter’s policies do cover damage caused by the fires which often follow earthquakes, but not the damage caused by earth movement.

Sewer backups are often not covered under a typical homeowner’s insurance policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance. This type of coverage can be purchased as an endorsement to a homeowner’s policy, usually at a nominal cost.

It is your responsibility to maintain your home and take reasonable precautions to protect it from damage. Your insurance policy will not cover damage due to lack of maintenance, mold, or infestation from termites or other pests.

Natural disasters can be frightening, but you can protect your most valued assets with proper insurance protection. An insurance professional can assist with assessing your specific needs.

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