Money Talks, So Should You

Ask Jane: Is your insurance coverage ready for more storms?

Jane Bryant Quinn
by Jane Bryant Quinn, Dimespring Contributor  (@janebryantquinn)

All along the upper Atlantic Coast, people are eying their homeowners policies, to see if insurance will cover the damage that Hurricane Sandy left behind.

I hope you already did this, after Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina and Irene, and the Midwestern floods. Did I mention after tornadoes, that are showing up in unexpected places — such as my driveway in a town just north of New York City?

READ: Crisis: My house was leveled by natural disaster, what do I do?

The insurance industry believes in climate change and changes in storm patterns, whether you do or not, and has been adjusting its policies accordingly. Hurricane insurance costs more and, on some shores, is harder to get. Flood insurance prices are going up.

Are you covered for serious storm damage? Here’s a checklist.

  • Ordinary wind, hail and tornado damage — covered by your regular homeowners policy. It’s generally subject to your normal deductible, such as $500 or $1,000. The deductible is the amount of the repair bill you pay before your insurance company takes over.
  • Damage by "named storms," such as hurricanes and some tropical storms — are covered by your regular insurance, in most states. But 18 states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, plus the District of Columbia, may incorporate larger "hurricane deductibles." You have to pay a percentage of your home's insured value before your policy kicks in. For example, on a $300,000 home with a 3 percent deductible, you'd pay the first $9,000 of the repair costs. Each state has its own "trigger" for when the higher deductible kicks in.

  • Damage from flooding or storm surges — covered only by National Flood Insurance, not by your regular homeowners policy.  If you haven’t bought a flood insurance, you’ll pay for the damage on your own. The maximum federal coverage available is $250,000 for your home and $100,000 for personal possessions. You can buy additional coverage through some private insurers.
  • Damage from rain that got into your house because your roof was wrecked or your windows blew in — covered by your regular policy.

  • Damage to your house, or a neighbor’s house, from a fallen tree or tree branch — also covered by your regular policy.
  • Damage to trees on your property, due to storms — usually not covered, unless a fallen tree or branch blocks a driveway or ramp for the disabled. Your policy will also remove a tree that fell on your house (or your neighbor’s house). The cost is generally capped at $500 or $1,000 per tree. [ READ: Crisis: My neighbor's tree fell on my property, what do I do? ]

  • Damage to your car from flooding or fallen trees — covered by the comprehensive portion of an auto policy. Most drivers buy comprehensive coverage, although it is not required.

 

Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. In her long career, she has established herself as America’s most reliable voice for people trying to manage their money well. Read more of Jane's articles here