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Hurricanes and homeowner’s insurance

Yesterday, the local television news incorrectly analogized Hurricane Irene to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Apparently, the end of the world makes for good television ratings. While our worldly demise might not be imminent, the hurricane is likely to create a certain amount of property damage. Here are a few thoughts and generalities on homeowners insurance in case the hurricane damages your castle:

Review your policy – Spend some time reviewing your homeowner’s insurance policy. Especially read the Coverage section and the Exclusions section. This should give you an understanding of what is and is not covered.

Flooding – Generally, flooding caused “from above”, i.e. heavy rain through a hole in your roof will be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Alternatively, flood damage “from below”, i.e. through the basement walls, is not covered. Water damage “from below” is covered by flood insurance and policies are available through National Flood Insurance.

Trees – Fallen trees or limbs may cause damage to your property. This damage and debris removal should generally be covered in a homeowner’s policy. Should a tree fall from a neighbor’s yard and cause damage on your property, you should still file a claim through your insurance company. Your insurance company will reimburse you and may subsequently make a claim against your neighbor’s insurance provider.

Personal property – Although not part of the dwelling, many homeowners’ policies include coverage for personal property damage. The amount of coverage for personal property damage is limited to a certain dollar amount. It is best to read your policy to determine your level of coverage.

Automobiles – Storm related damage to an automobile will not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Instead, this could be covered under your auto insurance policy.

Wind loss deductibles – In certain coastal areas, many insurance companies include wind deductibles as part of the policy. This is a separate and usually higher deductible from the standard homeowner’s deductible.

Living expenses – If you have significant damage to your dwelling caused by a covered claim and your home is uninhabitable, then your homeowner’s insurance should cover additional living expenses. However, if the damage is caused by flood damage from below, (which is not covered through the homeowners’ policy,) then the homeowner’s policy will not cover additional living expenses. Flood insurance generally does not cover additional living expenses.

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