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Does home insurance in Florida cover hurricane damage? 

I recently moved to Florida and bought a home. This is my first time living in a hurricane zone. Does my Florida homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage? Will it cover both wind and water damage? Where else can I get financial help if my home is damaged by a hurricane? 

Hurricanes are a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm. Hurricanes form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. All of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal regions are susceptible to hurricanes.

Hurricanes are capable of doing catastrophic damage to coastlines and even several hundred miles inland. They can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour, as well as tornadoes and microbursts. They can also cause storm surges along coastlines and heavy rainfall. Most hurricane damage is due to flooding and flying debris.

Atlantic hurricane season is June through November.

For Florida homeowners, hurricanes are a real cause of concern, and it also makes insuring your Florida home more complicated, and unfortunately, more expensive. 

Hurricanes can cause a variety of different types of damage to your home. Hurricane damage is frequently caused by: 

  • Wind 
  • Heavy rainfall
  • Flooding
  • Storm surge
  • Tornadoes
  • Sewer backup 

Coverage for Wind Damage

Most homeowners’ insurance policies in Florida cover damage caused by windstorms, hurricanes, and hail, unless you sign to specifically waive the coverage. If, however, your home is located in one of the highest risk areas, called wind pool areas, it is likely that windstorm coverage is excluded from your regular homeowners policy and you must purchase a separate windstorm policy.

Wind pool areas include beachfront and coastal properties that are located within 1,500 feet of a major body of water. There is only one insurance company that will provide windstorm insurance coverage in these regions.

Keep in mind that most lenders require you to carry windstorm coverage if you have a mortgage. 

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, your homeowners insurance likely includes a hurricane deductible. A hurricane deductible is separate from your primary home insurance deductible and is a percentage of your home’s insured value, rather than a pre-determined flat dollar figure. Only 18 states allow for hurricane deductibles, and Florida is one of them. 

Hurricane deductibles apply only when your home has been damaged by a hurricane. They are typically 1% to 5% of the home’s insured value, so if your home is insured for $250,000 and you have a 2% hurricane deductible, you would have to pay the first $6,250 to repair damage to your home before your insurance coverage kicks in. 

Hurricane deductibles are subject to a “coverage trigger.” This means that the hurricane deductible will only apply if that trigger comes into play. Florida law requires hurricane deductibles to be triggered by windstorm losses resulting only from hurricanes that are declared by the National Weather Service. Hurricane deductibles apply for damage that occurs from the time a hurricane watch or warning is issued for any part of Florida, up to 72 hours after such a watch or warning ends, and anytime hurricane conditions exist throughout the state.

A Florida hurricane deductible applies only once during a hurricane season. If you are unfortunate enough to have damage caused by more than one named storm in a season, you’ll only have to pay the hurricane deductible once. 

Flood Damage Coverage

Your Florida homeowners insurance does not provide coverage for damage to your home and property due to floods, including flooding caused by hurricanes. Rather, you can get Florida flood insurance offered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program created by Congress in 1968 to help homeowners protect themselves from the financial devastation of floods. Homeowners, renters, condo owners, and business owners can buy NFIP flood insurance. 

Keep in mind that something like coverage for sewer backup damage depends on what caused the sewer backup. If your sewer backup is caused by hurricane flooding or storm surge, you won't have coverage for that portion of your damage with your standard homeowners policy. Sewer backup caused by heavy rains would likely be covered, but only if you've purchased a separate sewer backup endorsement to your standard policy. 

If insurance won’t cover hurricane damage, what will? 

If you do not have homeowners insurance or your coverage is insufficient, you might think you can rely on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or other groups like the American Red Cross for disaster assistance after a hurricane. While some assistance may be available if you have no insurance or if your insurance doesn’t cover everything, relying on it to completely rebuild your home and your life is probably not a wise choice.

FEMA does provide assistance to individuals and families who have lost their homes as a result of a presidentially-declared disaster. By law, FEMA assistance cannot duplicate the assistance you receive from your insurance company, but you may receive assistance for items not covered by insurance.  

While some housing assistance funds (grants that don’t have to be paid back) are available, most disaster assistance from the Federal government is in the form of low interest disaster loans administered by the Small Business Administration. 

FEMA may authorize assistance (after you complete the application process) if:

  • Your insurance settlement is delayed longer than 30 days from the time you filed the claim
  • Your insurance settlement is insufficient to meet your disaster-caused needs
  • You have exhausted the Additional Living Expenses provided by your insurance company

FEMA’s assistance is intended to meet basic needs following a presidentially-declared disaster, and it is not sufficient to return you to your previous state or make you whole. It is not a substitute for insurance and cannot pay for all losses caused by a disaster. Rather, it can help you supplement your insurance coverage in certain areas in which you are uninsured or underinsured.

How can I take steps to protect my home from hurricanes? 

Keeping your home and family safe during a hurricane takes a great deal of advance planning. It’s important to make and be ready to execute an emergency preparedness plan. And be sure to take steps to protect and secure your home to minimize the potential for damage. 

Fortify Your Roof

Roof damage is the biggest reason for insurance claims after hurricanes. If your roof is damaged, water can get in and soak the insulation, which can lead to ceiling collapse and damage to your furniture and other belongings. If your roof blows off entirely, the likelihood of your walls collapsing and complete destruction of your home is greater. 

Here are some things you can do to help fortify your existing roof:

  • Nail or caulk loose roof tiles or shingles
  • Check for rust and loose anchoring on metal roofs
  • Install hurricane straps
  • Brace the ends of all gables
  • Install a backup water barrier under the roof cover

Fortify Windows and Doors

Broken windows and doors allow the wind and rain inside, damaging the interior of your home. In addition, once the wind gets inside, it will apply upward pressure on the roof, increasing the likelihood of it blowing off. 

Hurricane-resistant window and door coverings can include various types of shutters, screens, panels, and sheeting as well as impact resistant windows and doors. You need to protect windows, sliding patio doors, entry doors, and garage doors. 

For windows, permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. If that is not the right option for you, simply taping the windows will not work. Use 5/8-inch thick marine plywood cut to fit and ready to install to board up your windows in advance of a storm.

Prepare Your Yard

Much of the damage cause by a hurricane is from flying debris. Common outdoor items can be picked up and thrown by the wind, so don’t forget to prepare your yard. 

  • Keep trees and shrubs well trimmed
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, and anything else that is not tied down

Don’t forget to review your home insurance policy to be sure that it is up to date and to know what it covers before the storm hits. Be sure to understand your hurricane deductible and how it will affect your claim. And keep your insurance policy and any other important papers with you during the storm. 

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

https://iii.org/

https://www.myfloridacfo.com/Division/Consumers/UnderstandingCoverage/Guides/documents/HomeownersToolkit.pdf

https://www.fema.gov

https://www.FloodSmart.gov

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