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Smartest Ways to Make Sure Your Homeowner's Insurance Comes Through After a Natural Disaster

Amanda Walker : Sep 19, 2018 : Consumerreports.org

To help you figure out your home insurance needs, we recently surveyed 19,100 Consumer Reports members who live in areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or the California wildfires last year. These people are in a unique position to tell you what you need to do to protect your home, family, and belongings before disaster strikes.

(Washington, DC) [Consumerreports.org] As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Southeast Coast, homeowners in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are bracing for potentially huge damage to their residences. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

If Florence maintains its Category 2 status, residents could face as much as $62.4 billion in replacement costs from the storm surge, according to estimates by CoreLogic, which provides risk data to major insurance companies.

But many homeowners are underinsured for natural disasters, particularly for flooding damage, which isn’t covered under most policies. You can buy a separate flood insurance policy, but few homeowners do. 

Even if you believe you have full coverage, it’s important to review and update your policy regularly, says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade group.

“People are often surprised to find out the terms of their policies, such as what their deductible is,” Hackett says. “And many underestimate the cost of fully replacing damage to their homes.”

So take the time now—before a flood, fire, or some other disaster strikes—to make sure you have the right type and amount of homeowners’ insurance.

More on Emergency Preparedness

To help you figure out your home insurance needs, we recently surveyed 19,100 Consumer Reports members who live in areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or the California wildfires last year. These people are in a unique position to tell you what you need to do to protect your home, family, and belongings before disaster strikes.

Forty-five percent of those in Irma’s wake had property damage, as did 15 percent of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Although only 2 percent of the people in areas swept by California’s wildfires had property damage, 26 percent of them had their homes completely destroyed.

Here are five lessons CR members learned that could protect you from devastating financial loss if disaster—natural or otherwise—strikes.

Review Your Coverage

Just more than half the people in our survey review their homeowners’ insurance coverage at least every few years.

Know What’s Covered
While there are exceptions for people who live near the Texas coast, standard homeowners’ policies typically cover damage from wind, fire, explosions (such as from a propane tank), lightning strikes, hail, and other perils. That means that hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires should be covered by most policies. Any outbuildings on your property—such as a garage, shed, or fence—are also usually covered. Damage to outbuildings was the most common problem reported by our survey respondents.

If your home is uninhabitable after a storm, your homeowners (or renters) insurance should also reimburse you for living expenses, such as a hotel room or meals out. (Five percent of our survey respondents who had property damage said they couldn’t live in their home after a hurricane; 42 percent said they had to stay elsewhere after damages from a wildfire.) This benefit is generally limited to 20 percent of the total coverage on the structure of your home.

In addition to covering the loss or damage of personal property for covered perils, a homeowners (or renters) policy also protects against… Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here.

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