Weathering the financial storm
While no insurance exists specifically for tornadoes or hurricanes, those in areas that could be affected should have proper policies in place to cover the damage inherent in such storms.
Standard homeowners or business insurance policies typically cover damage sustained in wind-related disasters. However, homeowners policies for those who live in areas prone to violent storms are typically subject to limitations or separate deductibles just for storm-related wind damage.
- Most insurers restrict windstorm damage coverage for those who live in the parts of the Midwest or South-Central U.S. commonly called Tornado Alley.
- While a policy’s general deductible is a specific dollar amount, the deductible for hurricane damage is often a set percentage of the insured structure’s total value. If a hurricane triggers the deductible, policyholders can be on the hook for that percentage — usually 1 to 5% — of the total insured structure’s value. Insurers pay only for damage that exceeds the deductible amount.
With these in mind, you should analyze and fully understand your coverage to be sure it aligns with your financial situation. For example, you may save money each month on a policy that has a higher deductible, but are you prepared to pay that deductible if a tornado or hurricane destroys your home? If not, a higher monthly premium with a lower deductible may be a better option. Also, adding optional peril-specific endorsements to your standard homeowners policy can greatly decrease your post-disaster out-of-pocket expenses.
If flooding from a hurricane or tornado-related storm damages or destroys property, a general homeowners insurance policy will likely not cover the loss or damage. Rather, separate flood insurance is available to cover the repair or replacement of a home, a business, or personal belongings damaged by flooding.
Flood insurance can be especially tricky and expensive to obtain in hurricane-prone coastal areas, yet it’s required by law when buying a home in a high-risk flood area with a federally backed mortgage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s National Flood Insurance Program helps provide affordable flood insurance to property owners and renters. While this coverage is certainly better than none, those who can afford additional flood-specific policies beyond what government-backed programs provide can better protect themselves from flood damage expenses. A qualified insurance expert can help determine the best option available.
The true costs of starting over
Because of the potential for total loss due to tornado- and hurricane-related wind and flood damage, it’s important to understand the difference between replacement-cost and cash-value policies. A replacement-cost policy factors materials similar in kind and quality to those lost into rebuild or repair costs. A cash-value policy accounts for depreciation and likely won’t cover as much, which can leave those affected with much higher out-of-pocket expenses.
Also, those faced with total rebuilds or major restorations could be displaced from their homes or businesses during reconstruction. This means they are paying for hotel rooms, restaurant meals, storage, and other expenses related to displacement. To protect yourself, check your policy’s additional living expenses (ALE) reimbursement coverage.
Making sense of storm-related insurance claims and payouts can be as stressful as storms themselves. A major part of disaster preparedness is ensuring adequate insurance coverage if a tornado or hurricane hits, but this is not a simple process. Having an insurance expert on your side can make a big difference in how prepared you are to withstand the financial storm after the actual tempest.