An act of God is an insurance term that describes a natural event or disaster where there is little the homeowner could have done to prevent the damage. This can include catastrophes or other hazards automatically included in most home insurance policies, but it can also include many disasters that need an insurance rider for full coverage.
While that definition may sound scary, acts of God are basically just another term for severe weather or natural disasters. That’s why ensuring your home insurance policy is customized to fit your specific needs is so important. Depending on your insurer, offering assistance when an unexpected event changes or damages your home may or may not fall under your policy’s protections.
An act of God is any natural event from tornadoes to earthquakes and everything in between. An act of God legal definition is pretty simple. However, when it comes to how these types of events are covered in your home insurance policies, things can get complicated (hint: most acts of God are just referred to as natural disasters). But more on that below.
Keep reading for some examples of acts of God. It's important to note that how the event started is a key component when determining if you’ll have coverage. For an event to be determined an act of God, there is little the homeowner could’ve done to prevent the damage.
Examples of acts of God
For instance, if you forgot to wrap your pipes during a freeze and your house floods due to a burst pipe, that wouldn’t be considered an act of God. But if a major storm hits your area and floods the bottom floor of your home, that would be an act of God.
Many acts of God are covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, including tornadoes, hail, and severe storms. However, some acts of God require a separate insurance rider to be covered, so if you live in an area prone to disasters like hurricanes (sorry, Houston) or earthquakes (we’re looking at you, Los Angeles), it's a smart move to add on those riders when signing up for a policy.
Another factor to consider with home insurance and acts of God is the type of policy you have. While standard HO-3 policies typically provide protection for your home’s dwelling, your personal property, and liability, policies like HO-1 or HO-2 will have more restrictive coverage.
It’s best practice to check your policy to determine if it's an open or named-peril policy, as that will determine just how many acts of God you are actually protected from.
When looking at your home insurance contract, you may not see the actual phrase “act of God insurance.” Instead, you’ll see a list of perils — types of disasters or severe weather — that you are specifically protected from in your policy. Case in point, most insurance policies cover windstorms and hail, but they won’t cover hurricanes or flooding without a specific rider.
To determine what acts of God you are covered from, check out your declaration page. If you’re still unsure, speak with your insurance agent to double-check your coverage and determine if your home needs any riders added to your policy so you aren’t underinsured.
When deciding what riders to add to your policy, it's a good idea to see what risk level your home is at for specific acts of God. You can use tools like flood zone maps, fire trackers, and a hurricane risk index to see what disasters your area might be prone to.
All home insurance policies have some exclusions, and coverage for acts of God is no different. Many policies will list specific natural disasters as an exclusion on their policies. But that doesn’t mean you’re left out on your own. To get coverage for act of God exclusions, you’ll need to get insurance riders like hurricane and flood insurance.
Not sure what riders you need? Try asking your insurance agent the following questions to see where your policy is lacking:
Outside of adding these riders to cover your bases, you should also take preventative steps to help your home withstand the elements. This includes replacing your roof if needed, installing specific smart home devices, and even updating your lawn to help it flourish in your current climate.
If you need to file an insurance claim after a severe event like an act of God, it's best to move quickly. Go through the following steps to make sure your claim gets filed correctly.
To make sure the claim process goes smoothly, no matter what type of damage occurs, take some time to create a home inventory as soon as possible. You should also double-check your current coverage to make sure you aren’t underinsured and update your policy as needed.
Acts of God don’t always refer to miracles. To protect your home from the uncontrollable, make sure you have a home insurance policy that takes these events into account.
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