Hurricane Insurance: How to Properly Protect Your Home
If you live in a coastal city along the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean, you're likely familiar with late summer and early fall bringing in a season of their own: hurricane season. Depending on where you live, hurricane season runs from mid May or early June to the end of November, and the busiest month typically is September, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The National Hurricane Center observes that "hurricane season" in the Atlantic typically runs from June 1 to November 30, encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. On average, the Atlantic basin can expect to see four named hurricane systems by the beginning of September, two of which are usually classified as category three or greater.
It's important to familiarize yourself with the basics: what "hurricane insurance" is, the hurricane damage your homeowners policy covers and how to protect your loved ones and home from the potential damage of a hurricane.
Does homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage?
Hurricanes bring two major problems homeowners should think about: wind and water. Typical homeowners insurance policies cover damage from windstorms (unless specifically excluded due to your location), and wind-driven rain; however, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding and may not cover all wind damage, depending on the extent of the damage and where you live.
For those living in a very coastal or hurricane-prone area, windstorm coverage can be excluded from your homeowners policy; including in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm. Those living in these areas should see what additional windstorm coverage options are available. While "hurricane insurance" isn't a separate policy or coverage option, other homeowners can consider themselves covered in the event of a hurricane with their standard policy and the added coverage of windstorm and flood insurance.
- Standard homeowners insurance policies typically include coverage for damage often caused by hurricanes, including wind damage.
- Flooding is not covered in a base homeowner's insurance policy, and not all windstorm damage is, either.
- If you live in a coastal area, we recommend that you purchase additional wind and flood insurance.
What hurricane damage does homeowners insurance cover?
While exact coverage options will vary based on your state and location, homeowners insurance covers home damage caused by wind and wind-driven rain as long as wind coverage isn't excluded based on your location. For example, if hurricane winds rip shingles, siding and doors from your home, your homeowners insurance policy will cover the cost of repairing the damage.
While flooding is not covered under most homeowners insurance policies, damage caused by wind-driven rains is. This means if a wind-driven rain from a hurricane causes damage to your home — say to the carpets, baseboards or walls — homeowners insurance will cover it.
While exact coverage options will vary based on your state and location, homeowners insurance covers damage wind and wind-driven rains caused to your home, as long as wind coverage isn't excluded based on your location.
What hurricane damage doesn't homeowners insurance cover?
While many standard homeowners policies cover damage caused by hurricanes, there are other aspects, including flooding and major windstorm damage, that aren’t covered by your base homeowners insurance policy. Coverage also varies greatly depending on your home's location.
Considering that hurricanes combine heavy rainfall and thunderstorms with gale-force winds, homeowners in coastal areas often need to have separate policies to cover flood and windstorm damage. Sewer backup insurance is not covered under flood insurance, and is also another recommended policy to add.
Additionally, some insurers don't cover wind damage for those living in high-risk areas on the coast. Homeowners living in these coastal areas, such as beach towns in Florida, Texas or Louisiana, often need to purchase additional, supplemental windstorm coverage through their state's wind pool insurance association.
Below are some of the state-sanctioned associations that offer windstorm coverage for homeowners who may not be able to obtain coverage elsewhere:
- Alabama: Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association
- Connecticut: Coastal Market Assistance Program
- Delaware: Insurance Placement Facility of Delaware
- Florida: Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
- Georgia: Georgia Underwriting Association
- Louisiana: Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
- Maryland: Maryland Joint Insurance Association
- Massachusetts: Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association
- Mississippi: Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association
- New Jersey: New Jersey Insurance Underwriting Association
- New York: New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association
- Rhode Island: Rhode Island Joint Reinsurance Association
- South Carolina: South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association
- Texas: Texas Windstorm Insurance Association
- Virginia: Virginia Property Insurance Association
Flooding is another aspect of hurricanes that causes damage to homes. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding, so homeowners will need to purchase additional flood coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program has arrangements with many insurers, so you may be able to purchase separate coverage through your usual insurance agent.
What are hurricane insurance deductibles?
Hurricane coverage in coastal states often has a separate deductible in your homeowners policy. Unlike other standard or "dollar deductibles," hurricane deductibles are expressed as percentages; usually, from 1 to 5 percent of the insured value and property risk of your home.
However, if you live in a high-risk, very coastal area where hurricanes happen frequently, your hurricane deductible will likely be higher. Your area must experience a trigger event for a hurricane deductible to kick in, such as a hurricane alert or warning. A hurricane deductible will only cover damage issued by a classified hurricane; so if the storm weakens to a tropical storm but still damages to your home, your wind, flood or hail deductibles will cover that damage.
For example, if your home is insured for $300,000 and your hurricane deductible is 2 percent, you would need to pay the first $6,000 in damages before your insurance company steps in to cover the rest.
There are 19 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that currently have hurricane deductibles:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Florida, the state most commonly affected by hurricanes, has an annual hurricane deductible. This means homeowners in Florida don’t need to pay a deductible each time their home is damaged by a storm.
Unlike other standard or "dollar deductibles," hurricane deductibles are expressed as percentages; usually from 1 to 5 percent of the insured value and property risk of your home.
How much is hurricane insurance?
Like many aspects of insurance, hurricane coverage varies widely based on your location, home value, age of the home and whether you have accompanying windstorm and flood insurance.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a standard homeowners insurance policy is approximately $1,200, while flood insurance averages around $640. This makes the approximate cost of hurricane insurance around $2,640 — though this cost could be much higher or lower depending on where you live, the insured value of your home, the hurricane and wind deductibles you select and if your area or state is susceptible to hurricanes.
Tips for protecting your home from hurricanes
While hurricane insurance will protect your home after a hurricane strikes, there are several things homeowners can do in advance to prepare their homes for what a hurricane may bring. If you live in a coastal or hurricane-prone area, consider preparing for a hurricane ahead of time, including:
- Reinforcing windows with storm shutters or plywood
- Installing impact-resistant window panes
- Securing loose objects
- Performing a home inventory for value of items that could become damaged
- Investing in a wind inspection to determine the areas of your home that are especially vulnerable to damage during a storm
In addition to physical things one can do to prepare for a storm, homeowners can also purchase hurricane insurance and necessary add-ons early. It can be tempting to wait to purchase insurance until you need it — but in some cases, this could do more harm than good. Sometimes, insurance companies will issue moratoriums, or binding prohibitions that cease business, on hurricane policies when a hurricane warning has been issued, usually 24 to 48 hours after the warning is issued.
If you live in a coastal, hurricane-prone area or are just being cautious, be sure to check your coverage options prior to a storm in case you need to make an insurance claim after the fact. While you don't have control over what happens during a natural disaster, you want to be sure you're doing what you can in order to keep your home safe and secure.