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Will your homeowners insurance policy cover you should a natural disaster strike?

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When a wildfire or severe storm is bearing down on your home, your first priority is getting your family to safety. The last thing you want to think about is your insurance coverage. That’s why it’s smart to find out what kind of disaster-related coverage you have. Because it can vary depending on your location and the type of home you own, the best way to learn more is to talk to your insurance agent. Use this guide to help you.

Floods. If you live in a flood-prone area, your mortgage lender will likely require you to carry flood insurance. You’ll probably have to buy it through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) because most insurance carriers don’t offer this type of coverage. NFIP coverage will usually kick in only in specific situations, such as when inland or tidal waters overflow. Most likely this coverage will specifically exclude wind and hail damage. On the other hand, it does typically cover damage caused by mudslides.

Earthquakes. Few standard homeowners policies offer earthquake coverage; in most cases, you must buy it separately as a stand-alone product or as an endorsement. In general, earthquake coverage covers the cost to repair or rebuild your house and replace personal property damaged during an earthquake, along with living expenses if you are forced to move out of your home. Because earthquake insurance is designed to cover major repairs or total reconstruction of your house, it usually carries a high deductible based on a percentage of your home’s assessed value, typically starting at 5 percent. That means if your home is insured for $500,000, your minimum deductible would be $25,000.

Hurricanes, windstorms, snowstorms, and wildfires. Damage caused by these types of natural disasters is often covered in your homeowners policy. However, many insurers now require a separate deductible depending on the type of event, especially if you live in a disaster-prone region. That deductible is usually high and normally based on the value shown on your homeowners policy declaration page. This is the cost of rebuilding your home. Note that you may need separate flood insurance to cover storm surge or catastrophic flood damage that occurs as a result of a hurricane.

Finally, some insurers decline to cover certain types of damage in areas that are most vulnerable to natural disasters. In those cases, FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plans may be able to provide at least some coverage.

Your insurance agent can provide more information. Visit your local AAA branch, call (866) 460-1299, or go to AAA.com/insuranceinfo.

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