Why you can't get insurance ahead of Hurricane Florence & how to protect yourself

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Logan SachonSenior Managing Editor, Life Insurance & ResearchLogan Sachon is a former senior managing editor of life insurance and research at Policygenius. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Guardian, Business Insider, CNN Money, BuzzFeed, Money Under 30, VICE, New York Magazine, and elsewhere.

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Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday night or early Friday morning, with a dangerous storm surge and heavy rainfall expected in parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

People in these areas should monitor the storm closely and heed all directives from local, state or federal officials to stay safe. But if you're currently preparing for the storm or beyond, there's one item you shouldn't expect to cross off your to-do list: Buying or upping property insurance, including homeowners, renters and auto policies.

“Carriers issue moratoriums that stop new business once a storm’s path is seen to be likely to cause damages,” says Fabio Faschi, Property and Casualty Sales Associate with Policygenius.

How insurance moratoriums work

Insurance moratoriums aren't issued solely in relation to hurricanes. Wildfires, riots and other events can trigger a halt on the sale of new policies or additional coverage for existing ones.

Why? Insurers couldn't sustain a business — and, subsequently, cover claims — if they let everyone wait until a disaster was imminent to get a policy. They need to collect premiums from unaffected policyholders to pay for damages.

There's no set time frame on when an insurance moratorium gets issued (it varies by carrier), but, as an example, most property insurers issued the moratorium related to Hurricane Florence on Sept. 10, 2018.

Flood insurance, which is sold by the National Flood Insurance Program, doesn’t have moratorium on buying coverage during storms. It institutes a 30-day waiting period on all new policies instead. Travel insurance, similarly, might exclude serious weather events that take place within a certain time frame of its purchase.

How to protect your property

There are things you can do to protect your property if you don’t have insurance or adequate coverage.

1. Secure your home

The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends homeowners in storm-prone areas take certain precautions ahead of hurricane season even if they do have adequate coverage. These steps include:

  • Trimming trees and branches

  • Tying down or securing outdoor items that can become dangerous projectiles

  • Installing storm shutters or fitting plywood over windows and glass doors

  • Sealing outside wall openings, like vents or outdoor outlets where pipes or cables go through the wall

  • Cleaning gutters and direct downspouts to facilitate water drainage away from your home

Crossing even one or two of these items off your list can help you avoid extra-damage to your home.

2. Update your home inventory

A home inventory is the list of your possessions, along with photos, values and receipts or appraisals, that you use to buy property insurance and, if necessary, make a claim. Ahead of any serious weather event, take video of your belongings and the condition of your home. Save this documentation to the cloud. It will make the claims process smoother, if you need to file one.

3. Document damage & expenses

During the storm, get and keep any receipts for expenses related to an evacuation. Some policies cover these costs. (Here's a full breakdown on what renters insurance typically does and doesn't cover.) Once the event has passed, document any damage it caused prior to cleaning or making repairs — and filing a claim.

4. Prepare for next time

Talk to an insurance agent about getting covered or upping your coverage as soon as possible. Many moratoriums are lifted in the days after the storm, though some insurers wait longer to start writing new policies. (We can help you compare and buy homeowners insurance, following a serious weather event.)

“You can buy insurance once the moratorium is lifted by the individual carriers,” says Faschi. Keep in mind, your quotes may look different.

“If you received a certain rate prior to the storm, you may not be eligible for the same rate afterwards, especially if your property was damaged,” he says.

Trying to figure out how much property coverage you need? Check out our guide to buying homeowners insurance.

Ready to shop home insurance?