Q

What is an “act of God” in homeowners insurance?

A

An act of God in insurance refers to an event that cannot be prevented by human control, like a hurricane, flood, or earthquake.

Stephanie Nieves author photoKara McGinley

By

Stephanie Nieves

Stephanie Nieves

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in home and auto insurance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, PayScale, Fairygodboss, and The Muse.

&

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 June 17, 2021|4 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our

editorial standards

and how we make money.

Standard home insurance covers ordinary bad weather, like windstorms, lightning and hail storms, as well as natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. In the property insurance world, these natural hazards and catastrophes are referred to as an act of God, meaning they are out of our control. Homeowners insurance will protect you from many acts of God.

But some acts of God — namely floods and earthquakes — aren’t covered under a standard home insurance policy. You’ll need additional coverage for flood and quake damage to be covered against losses related to those disasters.

Key Takeaways

  • An act of God is a natural event that is out of human control, like a hail storm, hurricane, tornado, or wildfire

  • Only certain acts of God are covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy, specifically hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning storms, wildfires, windstorms, and volcanic eruptions

  • Flood and earthquake damage is not covered by homeowners insurance, so you’ll would need to add seperate flood or earthquake insurance to be covered for those losses

What is an act of God?

An “act of God” is an insurance phrase that refers to disasters that are outside of human control and can’t be avoided. Severe weather and natural disasters are considered acts of God, because they’re non-man made catastrophes that are impossible for humans to prevent. 

For example, a hurricane may be considered an act of God by an insurance company, whereas water damage from a burst pipe is not, since that’s a man-made issue (both instances may be covered by a homeowners policy, though).

Acts of God that are covered by homeowners insurance 

Here’s a quick glance at natural disasters and home insurance coverage based on a standard policy:

Is damage from a……covered by homeowners insurance?
HurricaneYes, windstorms and wind-driven rain are typically covered but not storm surge or flood damage
TornadoYes, hailstorms, fallen trees, wind-driven rain, and debris are typically covered
LightningYes, lightning-induced damage like fire, smoke, and power surges are all typically covered
WildfireYes, but you may need additional coverage if you live in a fire-prone area
WindstormYes, wind-driven rain, tropical winds, and hail are all covered
Volcanic eruptionYes, volcanic blasts, airborne shockwaves, explosions, dust and lava flow are all typically covered
FloodNo, water damage from flooding is not covered
EarthquakeNo, earthquakes, landslides, and other types of earth movement are not covered

1. Hurricanes

Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage from hurricane winds and wind-driven rain. However, hurricane storm surge and ensuing flood damage are not covered in a standard policy. You’ll need to add separate flood insurance to supplement that gap in coverage.

If you live in an area with a particularly high hurricane risk, you may also need to pay a wind or hurricane deductible before your insurance company will pay out for wind or hurricane-related losses. Insurance companies in communities on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast are also known to exclude wind damage from coverage. If that’s the case, you’ll need to look into separate windstorm insurance.

Ready to shop home insurance?

Start calculator

2. Tornadoes

Homeowners insurance protects your home and personal belongings from wind damage caused by tornadoes. Your policy also covers hail, fallen tree damage and removal, and debris removal. Similar to hurricane losses, your insurer may also require you to pay a separate wind/hail deductible if your home is damaged by a tornado. Water damage from wind-driven rain during a tornado may also be covered in the event that your roof or windows are damaged and rainwater gets in. 

3. Lightning storms and strikes

A standard homeowners insurance policy will cover damage caused by lightning, including fire and power surges.

4. Wildfires

Homeowners insurance typically protects your property from fire and smoke damage from wildfires. However, if you live in a fire-prone region like California, you may have a difficult time getting coverage. Homeowners struggling to find coverage have a couple of options: surplus or excess lines carriers that specialize in high-risk properties, or a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, or FAIR Plan, which is a high-risk insurance pool offered in most states.

5. Volcanic eruptions

Volcanic eruptions, airborne shockwaves, fire, ash, explosion, and lava flow are all covered by a standard home insurance policy.

But there are a few caveats to coverage: Ash is generally only covered if it causes direct physical loss to your personal property, and home insurance won’t help pay to remove ash that is scattered on your surrounding land, trees, and shrubs after an eruption. Volcanic effusion, which is water and mud damage caused by a volcano, would also not be covered (but it would be if you have flood insurance).

Acts of God that are not covered by homeowners insurance

Damage from certain natural disasters are covered by standard homeowners insurance, but not all. If you live in a region that’s prone to a particular act of God, like flooding and earthquakes, you’ll need to add separate flood and earthquake insurance to your policy to be fully covered.

Floods

Water damage is generally covered by homeowners insurance if it is sudden and accidental — like a pipe burst — but homeowners insurance won’t cover water damage from plumbing backups, gradual leaks, or flooding. You’ll need to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to cover your home from flood damage. If you’re mortgaging a home in a special flood hazard area, your lender may also require you to purchase flood insurance.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are not covered under a standard home insurance policy, which means landslides, rockfalls, tsunamis, and damage from seismic shaking would also not be covered. For protection against quake damage, you’ll need to buy stand-alone earthquake insurance or add an earthquake endorsement to your policy.

How does homeowners insurance cover acts of God?

Homeowners insurance may cover property damage to your home and belongings if they’re damaged by an act of God. Below are some ways your coverage will protect you:

  • Dwelling coverage: If the structure of your home is damaged or destroyed by a covered act of God, like a windstorm or lightning strike, dwelling coverage can help pay to repair or rebuild your home. 

  • Other structures coverage: Other structures coverage would cover the cost of repairs to detached structures on your property, like a shed or gazebo, if they’re damaged by an act of God. 

  • Personal property coverage: If your belongings are destroyed by an act of God, homeowners insurance may help pay to repair or replace them.

  • Loss of use coverage: If an act of God damages your home to the point that it’s unsafe for you to live in, your policy may help pay for the cost of additional living expenses, like hotels, public transportation, or restaurant meals, while your home is being repaired.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of insurance covers acts of God?

Homeowners insurance covers most acts of God, meaning if your home or personal belongings are damaged due to a covered event like a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire, your home insurance can help pay to replace your belongings and repair your home. Home insurance can also help pay for additional living expenses if the act of God damage renders your home uninhabitable. Your auto insurance may cover your car if it is damaged in an act of God, but only if your policy includes comprehensive coverage.

Is there a deductible for acts of God?

Yes, when you file a claim for covered property damage, you have to pay a deductible before your insurer will pay out for the loss. Depending on what state you live in and the particulars of your homeowners insurance policy, you may have to pay a separate deductible for wind and hail damage.

More about

Homeowners Insurance

What are the different types of homeowners insurance policy forms?

There are eight different types of homeowners insurance policies for various home types and coverage needs.

Read more

What’s included on a homeowners insurance policy?

Your homeowners policy includes different sections that explain what is and isn’t covered by your policy. It also thoroughly explains your policy limits, deductibles, and premiums.

Read more

What is dwelling coverage?

Dwelling coverage is the portion of your homeowners insurance policy that helps pay to rebuild or repair the physical structure of your home in the event of a covered loss.

Read more