1. Trim your trees! Branches hanging over or that could break off easily are a major threat in a storm. Check for any signs of trees being dead or weak as well. Heavy winds or the weight of rain water can make even healthy trees fall or drop limbs so keep all of the area around your house and fencing as clear as possible.
2. Understand your “Other Structures” coverage. This is the part of your homeowner’s insurance policy that covers things like fences, sheds, detached garages, gazebos, swimming pools (if not attached to the home), etc. Anything that is not attached to the home itself would fall under this category of coverage. However, there are often times exclusions for hurricane loss to awnings, aluminum framed screen enclosures/carports, solar panels, solar water heaters not attached to the dwelling unless it is constructed with the same material as the main home. Typically, Other Structures coverage is 2% of the dwelling amount but it can be increased by endorsement with most companies to be sure you have enough. Evaluate these things on your property as sometimes they can be overlooked but also the things that commonly sustain damage in storms. “Other Structures” may also be referred to as Coverage B on your policy.
3. What’s your hurricane deductible? There is a difference between your typical All Peril deductible and a hurricane deductible. When a named storm (or spinoff weather) causes damage, the hurricane deductible will apply. Usually, this deductible is 2%. It can go up to 10% and also some companies allow you to have it as low as $500. If your carrier does not offer lower than a 2% hurricane deductible, there are options for a separate hurricane deductible buy-down policy that can get your deductible all the way to $0 if you wish. At the most common 2%, a home insured for $100,000 would have a hurricane deductible of $2,000, which would be their out-of-pocket responsibility before coverage from the policy kicks in.
4. Water vs. Wind: there’s a difference! Typically, homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage caused by water but with very specific limitations. Examples of water damage that are usually covered would be a leaking roof or busted pipe. However, it generally does not cover damage from water that has seeped in or risen up from the ground. This would be covered by a separate flood policy, if there is one. If the home is not in a flood zone that requires flood insurance, the separate flood policy would be elective. Wind damage is typically covered by HO-3 policies for things like a fallen tree, lifted or missing shingles, broken windows from debris, etc. Wind driven rain can get confusing since it’s a mix of wind and water. Usually, damage from the water that comes in with wind driven rain is not covered but damage from the wind is.
5. Be prepared to document and mitigate. If you sustain damage from a storm, it is best to take as many photos or videos as possible to document before making any changes to the condition of your property. Then, it is your responsibility as a homeowner to mitigate your home and belongings from further damage. This could mean boarding up, putting out tarps, removing debris, or whatever needs to be done to prevent more damage from occurring. This is only recommended within what is safe for you and your family. If any temporary repairs need to be done before a claims adjuster can view the damage, all receipts or invoices should be saved as well as photos of before and after repair.
Hurricane season can be a stressful time but being prepared will help alleviate that and will also assist in the claims process, in the event of damage. As always, we are happy to answer any questions during the preparation process and/or get involved if you should need to file a claim. Stay safe!