Few things are as concerning for homeowners than a natural disaster. Disasters like mudslides, earthquakes and wildfires can cause major damage to your home. Even worse, these disasters can easily rip through a neighborhood and completely destroy your home and your neighbor’s in a matter of minutes.
Like most homeowners, especially if you live in a disaster-prone area, you’ve probably wondered if your home is protected by insurance in the event of a natural disaster. Read on to learn how a natural disaster can affect your homeowners insurance, and how to make sure your home is protected.
What Natural Disasters Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
When you think of a natural disaster, a large wildfire or hurricane might come to mind.
A basic homeowners insurance policy often offers some protection against certain types of natural disasters. For example, most basic homeowners policies cover damage from fire. If your home is damaged in a wildfire, you could be protected. Likewise, homeowners insurance usually covers damage from hail. If a large storm rips through a neighborhood and causes major damage to the roof and siding of all the homes on a street, your insurance could help pay for the repairs.
Check with your agent to learn exactly what types of disasters your current policy covers.
Which Disasters Are Excluded from Homeowners Insurance?
There are certain disasters that are specifically excluded from a basic homeowners insurance policy. Natural disasters that involve the movement of earth, like an earthquake, are usually excluded from homeowners insurance. Flooding, such as a flash flood due to a sudden rain storm, is also not covered under most policies.
You might be able to add coverage for some excluded natural disasters. This depends on where you live and what policy additions are available through your insurance company.
For example, while earthquakes are usually not covered in a basic homeowners policy, you could potentially add coverage for earthquakes for an extra sense of security. It’s important to note that in the state of California, an option to add earthquake coverage is required of every insurance company.
How do I File a Claim After a Natural Disaster?
When it is safe to do so, assess the damage to your home. In extreme cases, only return to your home when local authorities or emergency personnel have determined the area to be safe. Once in your home, start taking pictures or video of the damage. You’ll want to document as much of the damage as possible.
Some policy conditions require you to take appropriate reasonable action to prevent further loss. This could include tarping a roof, boarding up broken windows or doors, removing debris or other dangerous conditions that could lead to injury like broken glass or wood planks with exposed nails.
In an event that the disaster opened the potential for more damage, you should be able to make temporary repairs. A leaking water pipe after an earthquake, for example, should be shut off as soon as possible to limit continued damage.
Call the claims service department as soon as you can to begin the claims process. Most natural disasters affect a lot of homes at once, so be aware that you might not be the only person trying to file a claim at the time. A claims professional will help you with the next steps in the claims process. This is a great time to ask any questions you might have about the process and what you can expect going forward.
Major natural disasters could leave you without a home for some time while it’s repaired or rebuilt. Most homeowners insurance covers some of the cost of temporary housing, such as hotel stays. Be sure to keep your receipts during this time to help you take advantage of these benefits.
How Can I Protect My Home and Belongings Against Natural Disasters?
You might have a period of time before a disaster hits to prepare your home and family, but many natural disasters happen quickly. Preparing in advance can help you protect your home and family in the event of a disaster.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to build a home emergency kit and make a plan in case of a natural disaster. Your emergency kit should include items like spare clothing, plenty of water and nutritious, non-perishable food items. Practice your emergency plan with your family so you can be sure everyone knows what to do, and where to meet if a natural disaster strikes.
It’s a good idea to review your homeowners insurance policy now, before you’re faced with damage from a natural disaster, to ensure you have adequate coverage. Contact your agent to check your policy and add additional coverage if necessary.