Here’s a scary statistic: About 70 percent of homeowners who filed claims after the 2020 California wildfires reported problems with their insurance company, including difficulty getting claims paid, according to a survey by United Policyholders, a nonprofit that advises consumers on insurance claims. . It’s just one incident, but remember the message: After a natural disaster, you’ll usually have trouble with your insurance company covering damage to your home and its contents. But there are ways to help reduce the likelihood of an insurance battle, both before and during a crisis. To help speed up payments in the event of a disaster, take the following steps.
1. Know your coverage
Now, before any crisis, review your landlord’s or renter’s policies to verify which claims are reimbursable. In addition to losses from fire and smoke, a standard policy covers damages caused by fighting fires. If a disaster renders your home uninhabitable, this policy also covers some living expenses, such as rent or hotel bills, eating out at restaurants, and transportation.
Pro tip: Arrange time with your insurance agent or a representative from your insurance company to discuss disaster scenarios that are unique to your home and property. What coverage would you have if the wind knocked over the maple trees in your front yard onto your house? If the fire is caused by human error? If an old leaky pipe damages a wood floor? Sometimes talking about it is easier than deciphering the fine print of a policy.
2. Focus on flooding
Here’s the key: Most home insurance policies do not cover flood damage. For that, whether you own or rent, you should buy a private flood policy. Homeowners, in general, can get up to $250,000 in coverage for the structure alone; owners and renters can get up to $100,000 in protection for the contents of the home. For more information and links to companies that sell insurance in your area, visit the government website FloodSmart.gov. Caution: After a storm that includes strong winds, rain And flood, expect the insurance company to dispute the true cause of the damage, in the hope that other insurance companies are prepared to pay.
The presence of a flood may make it harder to convince your insurance company to pay your claim, as 69-year-old Jennifer Hauber discovered. In September, his rental home on Florida’s Sanibel Island was hit by Hurricane Ian, which caused damage from wind and rain, as well as flooding from the storm surge. Hauber, who has tenant protection, filed a claim for damages on his personal property. But citing the flooding, the insurer has so far rejected his claim, saying the damage was not covered. He only received a $250 check to cover the contents of his broken fridge. “I’ve called many times, but the insurance company won’t review my claim,” he said.
Pro tip: If you’ve been hit by a flood or other disaster, you can also contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for financial assistance and direct services. Hauber received nearly $3,000 in assistance from FEMA.