Q

Does homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage?

A

Homeowners insurance technically covers damage from tropical hurricane winds and rain. However, depending on where you live a special hurricane or wind deductible may apply.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor at Policygenius specializing in property and casualty insurance. His work has been featured on Property Casualty 360, Fatherly, MarketWatch, and more.

&

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Updated September 7, 2021|7 min read

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The 2021 hurricane season had a record-breaking start and will continue to hit above-average numbers throughout the season, according to the NOAA [1] . This is why it's especially important to make sure you're prepared and have the proper insurance coverage in place. If your home or personal property are damaged by hurricane winds, homeowners insurance will generally help cover the cost of repairs. However, most policies won’t cover water damage caused by flooding or storm surge from a hurricane — that requires separate flood insurance

If your home is in a hurricane-prone area, your insurer may charge a separate and more expensive policy deductible for hurricane wind damage, or exclude wind coverage from your policy altogether. It’s also common for insurance companies to place a moratorium on new and existing policies once a tropical storm has officially been named by the National Weather Service. Be sure to get the coverage you need and make any changes to your policy well in advance of a storm.

Key Takeaways

  • Most homeowners insurance policies cover wind damage and wind-driven rain during a hurricane

  • Insurance companies may charge separate wind, named storm, or hurricane deductible before they’ll pay out for tropical storm damage

  • Home insurance won’t cover flood damage, so you’ll need flood insurance to cover your home against hurricane storm surge

How much hurricane coverage do you need?

Hurricanes happen most frequently between June and November every year. Before hurricane season starts, be sure that every section of your policy is optimized to reflect your home’s hurricane risk. That includes updating your policy and identifying other coverage needs.

Pay special attention to the following coverage areas:

Dwelling coverage

Dwelling coverage covers the structure of your home, your roof, and built-in appliances inside your home like your water heater and kitchen cabinets.

Your dwelling coverage limit should be equal to the total rebuild cost of your home. Remember, hurricane damage is expensive and could drain you financially if you’re underinsured and forced to pay too much out of pocket. To be extra safe, consider extended or guaranteed replacement cost coverage for higher coverage limits.

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage covers property not physically attached to your house, such as clothing, furniture, appliances, plants, and trampolines. Take a careful inventory of everything you own and make sure your belongings are insured at their replacement cost instead of their actual cash value or depreciated value, so you can replace them with new items of equivalent value if they’re damaged or destroyed.

Additional living expenses

Also known as loss of use coverage, additional living expenses will cover temporary housing and food costs if your home is uninhabitable after a hurricane.

You’ll want to make sure there is enough here to pay for the extensive and exorbitant costs associated with hurricanes. For instance, if a Category 5 storm rolls through and wipes out everything in its path — including your home — you’ll need to be reimbursed for temporary shelter and restaurant meals while your home is being rebuilt, a process that can last months or even years.

For that reason, most insurers will offer the option of higher loss-of-use coverage limits depending on where you live. If you live on the coast, look into increasing your loss-of-use coverage amount and time limits for the coverage.

How hurricane deductibles work in homeowners insurance

A deductible is the out-of-pocket amount that you’re responsible for paying on a claim before your insurance company will reimburse you for the remainder of a loss. For most covered losses, you’ll pay a standard dollar amount deductible like $500 or $1,000. 

But if your policy has a hurricane deductible, you’ll be required to pay that separate amount on a claim involving wind damage from hurricanes. Hurricane deductibles are typically a percentage — usually 1% to 5% but sometimes higher — of your home’s insurance amount. If your deductible is 3% and your home is insured for $400,000, you’ll have to pay a $12,000 deductible before your insurer will cover the remainder of your loss.

Where can I find my hurricane insurance deductible?

Your hurricane insurance deductible can be easily located on your policy’s declaration page, which is the monthly or annual invoice for your policy.

Do I need a hurricane deductible?

Almost every state on the Atlantic coast allows insurers to charge special deductibles for hurricane damage, but depending on your insurer and the state you live in, you may have the option to pay higher premiums in exchange for a lower, fixed-price deductible.

You can also leave the deductible off of your policy altogether for a reduced premium, but this might be a bad idea if you live in an area at high risk of hurricanes since you’re essentially forfeiting coverage from hurricane damage.

When does a hurricane deductible kick in?

The event that triggers the hurricane deductible varies by state and insurance company, but companies typically wait for an official hurricane ruling from the National Weather Service. Otherwise known as a deductible trigger, the deciding factor could be that the storm was defined (Category 3 or 4), given a name (Lucy or Michael), or declared a hurricane watch or warning.

Which states have hurricane deductibles?

Homeowners insurance companies in every Atlantic coast state (except New Hampshire) include percentage hurricane deductibles that you can add onto your policy. We provided a list of the 19 states (and District of Columbia) where insurers require hurricane deductibles, along with links to the associations in states that offer special form hurricane windstorm coverage for people who can’t afford it or are unable to buy it elsewhere. Keep in mind that some states do not offer this coverage at the government level.

Keep in mind that what qualifies as a hurricane during underwriting varies from state to state, so be sure to check with your state’s insurance department to find out what constitutes a hurricane trigger.

You should also see if insurers in your state offer discounts for being proactive and storm-proofing your house against powerful storms. Certain coastal areas may also have special financing programs for people who can’t afford insurance.

Read our guide to hurricane deductibles in 19 Atlantic and Gulf coast states

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What’s a hurricane moratorium?

An insurance moratorium is a period of time before a windstorm or natural disaster where new policies can’t be written and updates to existing policies can’t be made. Most carriers dictate that once a hurricane watch or warning has been issued by the NOAA, coverage can’t be written until a certain number of hours after the watch or warning expires — usually anywhere from 24 to 78 hours — although some moratoriums can last longer.

Additional hurricane insurance considerations

Consider filling in your coverage gaps with the following coverages to make sure you’re fully insured against tropical storm damage:

Flood insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover flood damage caused by hurricanes, but they may offer a flood coverage endorsement that you can add onto your policy. If not, most large insurance companies offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program — a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

However, many policyholders who live in high-risk coastal states don’t necessarily live in a high-risk flood zone and aren’t aware that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. When a hurricane makes landfall and causes flood damage to their home, they’re shocked to find out that nothing is covered.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 90 percent of all natural disasters include some form of flooding, so homeowners in coastal states should make sure their home is well-equipped with flood insurance.

You can use FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to assess your flood risk.

Windstorm insurance  

If you live in a hurricane-prone coastal community in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, or another high-risk coastal state, it’s possible that your insurer will exclude wind damage from your policy. If that’s the case, you’ll need separate windstorm insurance to cover property damage from hurricane winds. Windstorm insurance can be purchased from private companies or through state-run insurance pools, also known as Beach and Windstorm Plans.

Debris removal coverage

If a hurricane causes debris to accumulate on your property, like a fallen tree or power line, your homeowners insurance will cover the cost of getting rid of the debris, but only up to a certain amount. Debris removal after a hurricane can cost you well into the thousands, so check to see if your insurer offers a coverage endorsement to increase your debris removal reimbursement beyond the policy limits.

Water backup coverage

Another unwanted consequence of hurricanes is sewage overflow resulting from floods. Water backup coverage protects your home and personal belongings from water damage if sewage water backs up into your home through your plumbing or sump pump. You can add water backup coverage to your home insurance for an additional premium.

What to do if you’re underinsured or don’t have adequate hurricane coverage

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit hurricane damage to your home if you’re underinsured or don’t have a policy at all. Regardless of whether you’re underinsured or fully insured, the Insurance Information Institute recommends taking the following step in the months and weeks leading up to a hurricane or hurricane season. Please, don’t wait for the days leading up to a hurricane to do this:

  • Trim branches and trees

  • Secure outdoor furniture or potential debris

  • Install storm shutters or put plywood over your windows and glass doors

  • Ensure garage doors are approved for wind pressure and impact

  • Seal any openings into your home like vents, power outlets, random holes, or pipes

  • Clean gutters and any direct downspouts that lead water away from your house

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of insurance covers hurricane damage?

You’ll need both home insurance and flood insurance to be fully protected from hurricane damage. In the event your homeowners insurance excludes wind damage from coverage, you’ll also need a separate windstorm insurance policy.

What happens if your house is destroyed by a hurricane?

In the event that your house is destroyed by a hurricane, contact your insurer immediately to begin your home insurance claim process. If your insurer determines the destruction is covered by your policy, you’ll be reimbursed for a new home up to the coverage limit in your policy. Your insurer will also cover additional living expenses while your house is being rebuilt.

When is hurricane season?

Hurricane season runs June through November and peaks in September. The states with the most hurricanes include Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

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