Whether you’re covered or not depends, in part, on the type of storm that caused the damage and the type of damage your home has suffered. If you live in an area with frequent weather events, storm damage could pose a recurring threat to your home. These damages can be costly to repair. The 2021 Polar Vortex winter storm event that affected 22 states caused $15 billion of insured losses. Even more common storm events, like thunderstorms, can result in unexpected and expensive damages — lightning losses accounted for 71,551 insurance claims in 2020, with an average cost of $28,885 per claim.
Your insurance company may help cover damages caused by storms, but the details matter. The following guide explores different types of storm damage and how to file a storm damage insurance claim so you can be prepared if you find yourself in this situation.
What Kinds of Storm Damage Are Covered?
Homeowners insurance typically covers damages caused by:
- Water, except floods
- Fallen trees
- Lightning strikes
- Power surges
Each of these events are known as perils, and if the damage is caused by a covered peril, then your insurer may cover your damage-related repair expenses. However, damages caused by perils such as floods, earthquakes, and some other natural disasters may not be covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.
You also need to consider your deductibles and coverage limits because these details affect the amount of pay out you can receive, even if the event is covered. You will be responsible for the deductible amount before your coverage kicks in on a claim. In addition, the damages are only covered up to the coverage limit stated in your policy. For example, if your policy limit is $100,000 and heavy rains have caused $150,000 worth of damage, the pay out would only be the policy limit of $100,000.
Here’s a look at the most common storm damage scenarios.
Home insurance coverage for water damage typically varies depending on the cause. In many cases, damage that is sudden and accidental, such as a washing machine leak that ruins your flooring, may be covered. On the other hand, gradual damage, such as a leaking pipe that the homeowner failed to fix, typically is not covered.
Standard home insurance policies also typically exclude certain other types of water damage, such as water backing up from an outside sewer or drain unless an endorsement is added to the policy. An endorsement is a rider which can cover certain events that would normally not be covered, such as flooding, which is not typically covered on a standard homeowners policy. For example, if a severe winter storm caused a pipe to break in your home and damage the drywall, this may be covered. However, if a large rain event causes flooding in your home and you don’t have a separate flood insurance policy, you may not have any coverage for the damage.
If your storm damage insurance claims are covered, your policy’s dwelling coverage will help pay for repairs on the structural damage to your home, and your personal property coverage will help pay for items inside your home such as furniture and clothing.
Wind damage may be caused by a variety of storms, such as tornados, hurricanes, tropical storms, thunderstorms, microbursts, and Nor’easters. These wind storms can remove the siding from your home, rip shingles off the roof, or blow the windows into the house. Your home may also suffer damage from hail, fallen trees, or wind-driven rain or snow. In many cases, standard home insurance policies cover wind damage insurance claims, though in some states, policies may have special higher deductibles for certain types of windstorms, such as hurricanes.
Ice and Snow Damage
The heavy weight of ice and snow could cause your roof to collapse, crack, or cave in. This peril is typically covered under the dwelling coverage in a standard home insurance policy. However, if your home floods as a result of melting snow, this may not be covered.
Lightning Strikes and Power Surge Damage
Lightning strikes can cause a home fire or damage. Both are typically covered under a standard home insurance policy. Some policies also offer coverage for power surges or outages caused by a lightning strike, which could damage appliances or electronics. In this case, the structural damage would fall under your dwelling coverage while appliance and electronic damage would fall under your personal property coverage.
Some states, like California, continue to experience longer wildfire seasons due to climate change. This can create even more risk for home damage in the future. In addition to the potential for a wildfire to spread to your home, you may also suffer from smoke damage if a wildfire is nearby.
Standard home policies may cover wildfires, but the extent of coverage may vary depending on where you live and your exact policy. For example, some insurance companies do not offer policies in areas where wildfires are common.
What Types of Storm Damage Are Not Covered?
As previously mentioned, there are a few types of storm damage that are not typically covered under standard home insurance policies. Here’s a look at a few uncovered scenarios you may encounter.
Flooding may occur as a result of heavy storms, over-saturated ground, melting snow, or overflowing or surging bodies of water, like rivers, ponds, lakes, or the ocean. When these types of floods cause damage to a home, many standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover the resulting damages.
Since flooding can cause severe structural damage to your home as well as damage to your personal belongings, many homeowners in areas prone to flooding choose to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline, making it even more important for homeowners in coastal areas to consider whether they need this extra coverage.
Sewage and Drain Damage
Home insurance policies may explicitly say that damage caused by a sewage or drain backup is not covered under the standard policy. Sewage damage may result during a storm, for example, if the weight of ice or snow crushes or breaks a pipe, causing the water to back up into the home. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize these damages are not covered until it’s too late.
Sewage and drain backup can create thousands of dollars of damage to your walls, floors, electrical systems, furniture, and other belongings. For this reason, homeowners sometimes elect to purchase separate sewer backup coverage or add an endorsement to their homeowners policy.
The U.S. has an average of 16 major earthquakes per year. If your home happens to suffer damage during an earthquake, you may find that your standard home insurance policy doesn’t cover it.
This can be a serious concern for those living in areas where earthquakes and aftershocks occur regularly, as earthquakes can cause damage to your home’s foundation, beams, columns, floors, and walls. In extreme cases, they can even cause a total collapse. However, as is the case with some other uncovered perils, it may be possible to purchase a separate earthquake policy or add an endorsement to provide protection against these events.
Hurricanes and Windstorms
Some standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by strong winds and hurricanes. However, this coverage may vary, so it’s important to check with your carrier or your insurance agent. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, your policy may specifically exclude wind damage from insurance claims, especially if it’s related to a hurricane. In this case, you may need to purchase an endorsement or a separate policy that covers windstorms or wind and hail.
Standard policies may also have a separate hurricane or windstorm insurance deductible, also known as a named storm deductible. These typically go into effect when a storm reaches a certain strength and becomes a named hurricane. Once they do, you may need to pay a higher deductible if you need to make a hurricane-related storm damage insurance claim. While some hurricane deductibles are a flat dollar amount, others are based on a percentage of the home’s insured value.
Does Home Insurance Cover Personal Property Damage From a Storm?
It’s important to note that storms can also cause damage to your personal belongings. For example, a roof leak or smoke from a wildfire could damage your furniture, electronics, and clothing.
If you suffer a covered peril and your personal belongings are damaged as a result, this may be covered under the personal property coverage portion of your home insurance policy. As is the case with dwelling coverage, the amount of reimbursement is typically capped by coverage limits.
Many policies do not have a separate deductible for personal property coverage. However, some may have separate deductibles and limits on high-value items, such as jewelry or valuable collectibles. If you’re not sure of your coverage, you can find these details inside your current policy, or contact your agent for more information.
Consider Additional Coverage
Hurricanes and other strong storms can cause many different types of damage, some of which may not be covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you want to ensure you have comprehensive coverage for an array of potential issues, you may consider adding some endorsements to your policy. Here are a few that could offer additional protection if you are hit with a strong storm.
Matching Siding Coverage
A standard insurance policy pays for direct physical loss to covered property. If a portion of your home’s siding is damaged, your policy pays to replace the damaged pieces. However, since building materials are constantly changing and evolving, you may be unable to find new siding that matches the rest of your home.
When this happens, you are faced with the dilemma of either having a mismatched house or paying out of pocket to replace the remaining, undamaged siding. Since neither of these options is particularly appealing, some homeowners elect to purchase a matching siding endorsement. With this coverage, if you suffer partial damage and the same materials are no longer available or a match cannot be made, the insurance company pays to redo the entire home with new siding. The average cost of this addition is around $25 a year.
Sump Pump Overflow Coverage
A sump pump is responsible for moving groundwater and rain away from the foundation of your home and into a storm drain or other area where it can’t cause damage. During a hurricane or other major storm, heavy rains, power failures, and blockages caused by debris can lead to sump pump failure. This can cause water to back up into your home and do significant damage.
Standard insurance policies typically exclude damage caused by sump pump overflows. However, you can purchase a sump pump overflow endorsement, which covers this type of damage and typically costs around $50 to $250 per year.
How Local Weather Trends May Affect Your Home Insurance
The EPA has confirmed that the rising global average temperature caused by climate change has created increases in many perils. This includes intense single-day precipitation events, tropical cyclone activity, river flooding, and more. In response to the increased threat of damage from these types of events, many insurance companies have had to raise their rates for homeowners across the country.
Local weather history has also led some companies to selectively impose separate deductibles on standard policies for events like tornados, hurricanes, and wind or hail damage. Some have even canceled coverage or stopped writing policies in regions that are more likely to suffer certain types of damage, such as homes in parts of California that are vulnerable to wildfires.
No matter where you live, the chances are high that you may eventually see an impact in the form of higher premiums, larger deductibles, and fewer coverage options. In fact, global insurance premiums are projected to increase by 5.3% per year through the year 2040.
When evaluating your insurance coverage, it’s important to understand exactly what your standard home policy does and does not cover. You may find it necessary to purchase separate coverage such as flood, hurricane, or earthquake policies if you determine that you have a need.
How to File a Claim for Storm Repair
If you intend to file a storm damage insurance claim, it’s important to file before the insurance company’s time limit. Though insurers may have their own nuances and preferences, the claims process is generally as follows:
- Start the process by assessing the storm damage and taking photos if possible. Take photos of the damage — both up close and overall — and of any relevant contextual details. For example, it may be useful to take photos of storm damage done to your neighborhood street in general in addition to your specific home.
- Contact your insurer over the phone or online to start your claim. During this process, you may need to accurately describe the property damage and explain any special needs you or your family may be facing.
- Document your loss, taking note of items that are damaged. Collect receipts if you can or make a list of the dates they were purchased and the approximate value. Do not throw any damaged items away, as you may need to provide them to your adjuster.
- Make repairs to assure the safety of your home. If you can safely make any temporary repairs that could minimize further damage, your insurance company may recommend that you do so.
- Wait for an adjuster to come to your home to inspect the damage and evaluate the cost of repairs. Your insurer will likely send an adjuster to view the damage in person, especially for larger claims. They may want to see evidence of what the structure looked like before the damage occurred, so have notes and photos ready.
The time it takes for your claim to be resolved and for you to receive a claim check may vary depending on your location, the complexity of the claim, and your insurance company. Some states require companies to process and pay out in a timely manner, so be sure to check your state’s requirements.
How to Protect Your Home Against Storm Damage
Taking steps to proactively protect your home from damage may help you avoid the hassle of filing storm damage insurance claims in the first place. Start with these 10 tips:
- Secure loose outdoor items including patio furniture, toys, tools, and potted plants.
- Keep trees trimmed, regularly removing large or loose tree branches
- Inspect your roof and replace missing or damaged shingles
- Keep your gutters clear and point downspouts away from your foundation
- Invest in storm shutters to help protect your windows and glass doors
- Ensure doors and windows are properly sealed and replace caulking if needed
- Reinforce double-entry doors and garage doors
- Regularly inspect your sump pump and install a battery backup
- Inspect your fence and repair any loose posts
- Repair any loose siding
Once there is a named storm in your area, you have limited time to prepare. You may consider adding some of these tasks to your ongoing maintenance schedule to help ensure your home is as safe as possible when severe storms arrive.