Residents of Florida will know that hurricanes, tropical depressions, and tropical storms are all too common in this state and others along the Gulf Coast. Florida is a particularly hurricane-prone area due to the way that hurricanes usually form in Pacific subtropical waters and tend to move west-northwest. The nature of currents and weather patterns drive Pacific hurricanes towards the Gulf Coast. It’s estimated that there is a long-term probability of an intense hurricane hitting Florida around once every 3 years, and in fact, every part of Florida’s coastline has been impacted by at least one hurricane since 1850.
Every year, hurricanes cause huge damage to homes in Florida, and residents may quickly be asking what type of insurance they need to protect them in case a hurricane causes damage to the home they own or are renting. This article will detail the types of damages that would be covered under renter’s or homeowner’s insurance and those that would not.
If you want more information regarding insurance policies and making a claim following hurricane damage, we would be happy to answer your questions. Here at The Law Place, we have over 75 years of combined legal experience and extensive knowledge of Florida’s insurance laws. For free legal advice from an experienced attorney, contact us today.
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Common Types of Damage Caused by Hurricanes
Hurricanes vary in terms of severity, where some, as we have seen in recent years, will unleash millions of dollars worth of damage onto cities in the US. The peak of hurricane season in Florida typically falls between mid-August and late October, and during this time, Florida will face frequent and intense storms that impact homes and other structures in different ways. The most common ways in which hurricanes and storms impact homes in the State of Florida are:
- Winds – Wind damage is undoubtedly the most well-known impact of tropical storms and hurricanes. The force winds that hurricanes produce can easily damage or completely destroy non-permanent structures mush as mobile homes, which are sometimes moved away from their foundations completely. Strong force winds also frequently cause damage to roofs and power lines. Another consequence of hurricane winds is the possibility of high-speed projectiles. Strong hurricane winds often have the strength to uproot trees and lift objects ranging from furniture to cars. Once airborne, these can turn into high-speed projectiles that can cause immense damage to homes and anything else in their path.
- Storm surge – Hurricane winds can sometimes cause sea levels to rise rapidly, with deadly results. Large areas of coastline can be engulfed by storm surges, including any homes in the water’s path.
- Flooding – Hurricanes are often accompanied by prolonged heavy rainfall, which can lead to severe flooding. This can lead to clogged rain gutters that result in further water damage to homes.
How Can I Protect My Home From Hurricane Damage?
Living in a hurricane-prone area such as Florida can be frightening, but there are various steps you can take to help to prepare for hurricane season and protect yourself, your home, and your family.
Hurricane Prep for Your Home
There are a few steps you can take to prepare your home in order to limit wind and water damage in case of a hurricane and to make sure that your insurer reimburses you for damages. This includes removing everything from the backyard that could become a projectile, covering windows with storm shutters or plywood, removing dead or dying branches from trees, keeping valuable items upstairs, and taking an inventory of your belongings with videos on your smartphone.
Power outages are a common occurrence during storms and hurricanes, so it’s a good idea to stock your cupboards with non-perishable food in case a power outage causes you to lose access to your fridge, freezer, or cooking equipment. This could include food such as granola bars, dry cereal, and canned meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Preparing for an Evacuation
During hurricane season, you should be ready to evacuate your home at very short notice. It’s essential that you prepare ahead of time so that you are not left scrambling for supplies and putting your family in unnecessary danger when a hurricane hits.
Your evacuation kit should include:
- A few days of clothing.
- Flashlights and batteries.
- Non-perishable foods and water.
- A first aid kit.
- Prescription medicines.
- Cash in small bills.
- Important family documents, including passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.
- Your homeowner or renter’s insurance and flood insurance policy declaration pages.
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Finally, and most importantly, you should check your insurance coverage to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be in case your home sustains hurricane damage. Check the wording of your home insurance policy for hurricane damage, and you may wish to consider taking out additional flood insurance and comprehensive car insurance, which covers damages not typically covered by regular home insurance. It is also important to note that new policies might not take effect immediately, where, for example, insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program usually have a 30-day waiting period.
You should also check your deductibles, as homeowner and renter’s insurance policies for coastal areas sometimes have separate deductibles for hurricanes, windstorms, or named storms that could be higher than standard deductibles.
Do Homeowners Insurance and Renters Insurance Cover Hurricane Damage?
The type of coverage you have for hurricane damage to your home will depend on your insurance policy. In general, your property insurance coverage will depend on the type of damage caused to the home. Wind damage and damage caused by hail, fire, and lightning are usually covered by your renter’s insurance policy. On the other hand, most renters’ insurance policies will not cover flood damage. If you are seeking flood coverage for your home, then you should ensure that you have a separate flood insurance policy.
What Isn’t Covered By Home Insurance in Florida?
It is crucial to understand which types of damages would not be covered under your homeowner or renters insurance.
When it comes to hurricanes, the most common misconception is that your home insurance will cover flood damage. This is not the case, so if you live in an at-risk area, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation advises that you take out an additional policy so that you are covered in case of storm surges or flash flooding. Although this will make your insurance costs higher, it will probably save you money in the long term.
Many homeowners and renters in Florida chose to take out contents-only flood insurance to cover personal property damage in case of flooding. The majority of the flood insurance market in Florida is serviced by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) so that most homeowners and renters will take out one of their flood insurance policies. This type of flood insurance will cover you for flood damages to your personal possessions, including foundation walls, electrical and plumbing systems. It will not cover you for additional living expenses in the case that flood damage makes your house unliveable. If you are unable to pay for disaster-related expenses, then you may be able to apply for federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Another important thing to note is the distinction between tropical storm coverage and hurricane coverage. Home insurance policies in Florida are only required to provide coverage for storm damage if the storm is classed as a hurricane by the National Weather Service. This means that any damage caused to your property or possessions by a tropical storm will not be covered by your homeowner or renter’s insurance policy.
Hurricane insurance does not cover vehicles. Hurricane-force winds frequently cause serious damage to vehicles with falling objects and toppled trees. You should check your auto insurance policy to see whether you are covered for hurricane and flood damage.
What Does My Home Insurance Cover?
Renters insurance, as well as homeowner insurance in Florida, will provide financial protection for the following types of hurricane damage, also known as covered perils:
- Fire and lightning.
- Non-flood water damage.
- Falling objects.
- Wind and hail.
Insurance for homeowners and renters in Florida covers loss or damage during a hurricane to the following:
- Your home’s structure.
- Other structures such as your garage, greenhouse, or shed.
- Damage to items inside your home and other structures.
- Living expenses if you are forced to leave your home while repairs from hurricane damage are made.
The four coverages typically provided by renters and homeowners insurance are personal property, additional living expenses (ALE), personal liability coverage, and medical payments coverage.
Personal Property Coverage
If your personal belongings are damaged by a covered peril (e.g., wind or falling objects), then your policy should cover the cost of repairing or replacing those items up to your policy limits. Remember that your insurance will not cover personal property damage if it was caused by an uncovered peril, such as flooding. If you want your personal belongings to be protected in case of flood damage, then you should take out additional flood insurance for your rented or owned property.
Additional Living Expenses (ALE)
If a hurricane causes enough damage to your property that it becomes uninhabitable, then you may be forced to stay in a hotel or other temporary accommodation. In this case, you will be covered under your home insurance up to your policy limits for the living expenses required to maintain your normal standard of living while you are forced to live elsewhere. Whether your insurance policy covers you for mandatory government-issued evacuations will depend on the wording of your particular policy.
The important exception to ALE coverage is if your home was made unliveable by flooding, in which case you would require an additional flood insurance policy to cover these damages.
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Personal Liability Coverage
If you are found legally liable for bodily injury to another person or damage to their personal items during a hurricane, then your homeowner or renter’s insurance will cover these costs. If, for example, you break your friend’s phone during a hurricane event, then your policy will cover the cost of replacing it, even though the damage was not caused directly by the hurricane.
Medical Payments Coverage
Your renter’s or homeowners insurance will also cover, up to your policy limit, the cost of injuries sustained to guests in your house. If, for example, you invite your neighbor over and they trip and sprain their ankle in your home, then you could be found liable. If you have home insurance, this will help pay for this person’s medical bills, including if this injury occurred on your property during a hurricane. This will cover medical payments such as ambulance rides, hospital stays, medical tests, dental services, and surgery. This coverage does not apply to residents of your house or to accidents that occur outside of your property.
Call The Law Place
If you have questions regarding your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance coverage in case of a hurricane, or your home has been damaged by a hurricane, and you want to better understand your insurance coverage, then you should call us today. Our team of dedicated lawyers has over 75 years of combined legal experience and has dealt with many cases just like yours. Call today for free, no-obligation legal advice.
Our phone lines are open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week for the benefit of our clients. Call now for a free case evaluation at (941) 444-4444.