Does renters insurance cover hurricane damage?
Does renters insurance cover hurricane damage?
As always, coverage depends on a variety of circumstances, like the nature of the incident and the details of your plan, so you’ll need to check with your insurer to confirm what your plan covers.
Generally, renters insurance covers a list of “perils”—those are specific things that cause damage, like fire or a strike of lightning—rather than broader things, like storms. In the case of a hurricane, damage may come from falling objects, flooding, wind, power surges, and more. It’s likely that your plan covers some of those occurrences, but not all.
For instance, does renters insurance cover flood damage? The answer is complicated, but it’s generally no. Flooding is not covered by most standard renters insurance, and wind may even be excluded in certain hurricane-prone areas. If you’re insured by Jetty, you’re covered for wind damage, but not flooding. Still, that doesn’t mean you’ll never see a dime if you’re unlucky enough to have water damage. When dealing with a complex event like a hurricane, the details of your situation matter, and answers regarding coverage are not one-size-fits-all.
Why is it so complicated?
When you file a claim asking your insurance provider to pay for damages, the insurer will consider the exact cause of the damage. This will help them determine whether to pay out money for your claim.
Let’s say a hurricane causes rising water levels along the coast. If your basement and ground floor flood as a result, the damage will likely not be covered by your insurance. But, if a falling tree rips a hole in your roof that allows heavy rains to drench your stuff, your insurance provider will most likely foot the bill for some or all of that damage. Why? While both situations may seem like a flood to you (your stuff is soaked!), to an insurer, these situations are different.
The first scenario, the one with the rising water levels, is a flood, and flooding is not covered by most insurance plans. The second scenario, in which a falling tree damages your roof, qualifies as damage caused by a falling object—even if that ultimately leads to water damage. That’s why answering the question, “Does renters insurance cover hurricane damage?” isn’t so simple.
So if there’s a flood, nothing’s covered?
Not quite. When it comes to the question, “Does renters insurance cover flooding?” the answer can get complicated. There are circumstances in which a flood might lead to covered damages.
For example, if flood waters spark an electrical fire in your home, your insurance will likely pay for damages resulting from the fire. Also, if you have a Jetty Personal Electronics or Valuables Power-Up (extra coverage for special or expensive items that you purchase separately, as an addition to your base insurance plan), you’re covered in the event of flood damage to those specific items.
What counts as a flood?
“Flooding” generally includes: overflow of a body of water, tidal waves, and backups of sewers or drains. It also includes surface water—puddles, or rain collecting so quickly that it can’t be absorbed by the ground—and water seepage, which is the term for what happens when that water finally does make it into the ground…and into your basement. (Learn more about the answer to the question, “What does renters insurance not cover?”)
Why is flooding an exception?
Because flood-prone areas are very specific, and floods occur more frequently than other potential disasters, flood coverage is not included in traditional insurance policies. All flood insurance is currently under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and you can purchase flood insurance from the government or a third-party provider. Anyone can purchase a flood policy from the NFIP, but if you live in a flood zone (find out here), you’re at far greater risk of experiencing a flood and should consider purchasing flood insurance.
Jetty doesn’t offer flood insurance because renters are generally less at risk when it comes to flooding. Unless you’re renting a single family home with a basement, or rent a basement apartment in a flood zone, the chances are small that you’ll have an issue with flooding.
Are there other limits to my coverage?
All normal plan limits, including deductibles and maximum payout amounts, still apply in the event of a hurricane. If you’re worried that your insurance coverage isn’t sufficient, you can raise the limits on your plan. Raising limits won’t change what is covered, but it will change the amount of a potential payout.
That said, if you live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re happy with your renters insurance coverage before hurricane season begins. Once it’s been determined that you’re in the path of an oncoming storm, it’s too late—no insurance company will alter your plan, or sell you a new one, when a storm is imminent.
Your insurance may cover things you wouldn’t expect.
If you’re displaced because of covered incidents, or if authorities bar you from returning home because your neighbors’ homes sustained damage (that meets the definition of a covered incident on your plan), your insurance may be able to help. Jetty will generally foot the bill for hotel stays and other increases in living expenses that occur when a covered incident renders your home uninhabitable.
Note that this only applies to damages are sustained during the storm; most insurance will not pay for nights you stay in a hotel before the storm hits, even if they’re the result of a forced evacuation.
What about my landlord—what are they responsible for?
The landlord is responsible for the structure you’re living in—the roof, the walls, the gutters, the windows—everything that’s part of the building itself. You’re responsible for everything that you own inside the building—your furniture, your clothes, your TV, and your prized shot glass collection. So if the roof is blown off and rain comes into your place, the landlord is on the hook to fix the roof, but you’re on the hook to replace your things.
Because the building is the property of the landlord, you shouldn’t do anything to the building without the landlord’s guidance or approval, even if you’re just acting in the best interest of your belongings.
When a storm is imminent, it may be tempting to grab some plywood and board up the windows, but you’ll need to check with your landlord first.
Generally, if you live in a hurricane-prone area, the landlord will have a set protocol for preparations, and your home may already have storm shutters or pre-cut plywood for the windows. While it’s important to understand the financial risks associated with a hurricane, the most important thing is to stay safe.
Read our tips for staying safe in a hurricane, and make sure you’re prepared to weather the storm. For more information, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s official Hurricane Florence website. You can also follow them on Twitter @FEMA.