Q

Q

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

A

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 photo

Stephanie Nieves

Published September 18, 2020

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

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 most 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.

IN THIS ARTICLE

Which acts of God 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

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.

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 is damaged and rainwater gets in.

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Lightning storms

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

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.

Volcanic eruptions

Yes, volcanic eruptions, airborne shockwaves, fire, ash, fire, 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 ash that is scattered on your surrounding land, trees, and shrubs after an eruption would not be removed. 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).

Disasters 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.

Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves

Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has a B.A. in writing and rhetoric and previously worked as an SEO & Editorial Associate. Her words can also be found on PayScale, Fairygodboss, and The Muse.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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