UPDATED: RAIN/WIND/TORNADO DAMAGE? HERE’S HOW INSURANCE COVERS YOU

COLUMBUS (April 7, 2017) – Common wind-related losses that are typically covered by homeowners insurance include damage caused by downed-trees and damage to roofs, walls and ceilings. Some property losses are covered under homeowners insurance and others may be covered by policy endorsements. Limits and deductibles apply based on coverage and your policy.

Vehicles damaged by flooding or wind (tornado) are covered under the comprehensive coverage (other than collision) portion of an auto insurance policy.

The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) advises checking with your insurance company or agent regarding coverage questions and limitations, especially those related to water. Some weather-related damages are covered under standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policies; some are covered to specific limits; while other coverages may be excluded but can be added through a policy endorsement or a separate policy (such as flood insurance).

OII provides the following insurance coverage information and resources as a coverage guide.

WATER COVERAGE – HOME

Water Backup
Coverage for sewer drain backup is available through many insurance providers as a homeowners or renters policy endorsement. Coverage limits and costs vary by carrier so it’s important to understand what is – and isn’t – covered under this endorsement. Note that the water backup endorsement does NOT cover damage from floodwater causing a backup.

Based on a 2012 OII survey, most insurers offer a water backup endorsement. Coverage limits range from $1,000–$100,000 with costs varying from $30–$485 annually depending on the type of coverage and limits selected. Some insurers offer options for this coverage with a basic endorsement covering major appliances (furnace, water heater/softener, washer/dryer, sump pump) while a broader endorsement extends coverage to finished basements including carpeting, furniture and electronics.

Wall and Ceiling Water Leaks
If roofs and gutters have been damaged by a covered loss (i.e. wind, tornado, hail), interior wall and ceiling leaks from seeping rain are covered by homeowners insurance. Deductibles apply.

Flood Insurance
Damage caused by flooding is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies. This protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company for specifics or visit www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, estimate the cost for a flood insurance policy and locate a flood insurance agent in your area. There’s a 30-day waiting period before new or modified flood insurance policies go into effect. Click here for additional info on flood insurance from the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness.
Note that flood insurance does not cover water backup in the basement from non-flood related events.

WIND (TORNADO) COVERAGE – HOME

Damage caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree due to wind or lightning strikes – whether it’s your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Tree removal costs are also covered when being removed from the damaged structure. Deductibles apply.

Debris Removal
Typically the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances:

  • The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances and
  • The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
  • The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.

Reasonable Repairs
Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.

Damage to Trees
Residential trees, shrubs, plants or lawns are not covered when damaged by wind or hail. Limited coverage is provided if damages are caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is typically 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. Some companies offer endorsements related to landscape losses.

Additional Living Expense Coverage
Most homeowners and renters insurance policies include additional living expense (ALE) coverage (also known as “loss of use”). This provides reimbursement for extra living expenses while your home is being repaired or rebuilt due to an insured loss.

While ALE doesn’t cover everything, it does help an insured with living expense reimbursements during the rebuilding process and includes:

  • Cost of a hotel or rental that’s similar in size to your residence, including rental deposit
  • Storage fees for your belongings
  • Furniture rental and kitchen supplies, if needed
  • Short-term food expenses (until you locate to a place with a kitchen)
  • Laundry needs if your home had a washer and dryer
  • Pet boarding costs
  • Additional mileage costs associated with employment, schools, church and home repairs
  • Moving costs to/from rental to damaged residence

For more ALE information, contact your insurance company or agent. Also see OII’s post: Additional living expense (ALE) coverage: Your disaster lifeline.

VEHICLE COVERAGE

If severe weather threatens, move your car under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding or wind (tornado) are covered under the comprehensive (other than collision) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn. Deductibles apply.

TIPS

Consumer Tips

  • Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
  • Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
  • Secure property from further damage or theft. Save receipts and provide to your insurer for reimbursement.
  • Contact your insurance company or agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim. For more, see OII’s Homeowners Claim Fundamentals: Tips for Before, During & After to help guide you through the claims process.
  • Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim, especially if you anticipate repair costs to be close to your deductible. If the repairs are near your deductible, you might consider absorbing the loss on your own.
  • If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” (ALE) or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses (like motel & dining) up to a stated amount. See OII’s info on ALE coverage for more.
  • Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date. The Insurance Information Institute’s free downloadable inventory program is at www.knowyourstuff.org, including an app version. Also see OII’s tip sheet: Taking a Home Inventory.
  • Schedule an ‘annual insurance checkup’ with your insurance professional. Review all your insurance needs (such as a new teen driver in the household or new home improvements/remodeling, etc.). Be sure to ask what’s not covered by the policy to avoid confusion should a loss arise in the future. Many times, coverage can be added through a policy endorsement, if desired.

Preventing Water Damage

  • Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can’t afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.).
  • Do not store items near basement drains. Check storm drain lines to make sure they’re clear of debris, like roots and dirt.
  • Check your sump pump and/or dehumidifier regularly to make sure they are in working order.
  • Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
  • Make sure your home’s downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
  • Grade the property around your home to drain water away from the house.
  • If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential for major water damage losses.

Hiring a Home Contractor

  • Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. OII suggests checking with family and friends for referrals and contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.
  • Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number. See OII’s tip sheet: Choosing a home repair contractor for more.

Food Spoilage
Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.). Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies. The Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.

The OII is a trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for the property/casualty insurance industry. Its primary objective is to help Ohioans achieve a better understanding of insurance and safety issues.

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CONTACT INFO
Dean Fadel, 614.228.1593