Hurricane insurance and what you need to know

Tropical storms and hurricanes can cause major property damage. If you live in an at-risk area, be sure your home is protected.

Peak hurricane season runs from mid-August to late October and in light of current events, here's what you need to know.

As a homeowner..

Like any responsible homeowner, you’ve got a standard homeowners insurance policy. And even though most policies offer a wide range of protections, hurricanes may only be partially covered within those policies.

When purchasing a home insurance policy, you want enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home if it is destroyed by every and any untimely disaster. Remember, this is the cost to rebuild your home, which isn’t the same as what you originally paid to purchase it.

As a renter

If you live in an apartment or condominium, your building is likely covered by your landlord’s policy. It’s up to you, however, to purchase protection for the belongings in your apartment.

The perils covered by your policy depend on your specific policy and provider. Generally, wind, lightning and hail damage — all common during hurricanes — are included as covered perils. Water damage, however, can be a much different story.

Flood insurance is a little "extra"

When it comes to water damage, matters can get a little complicated in regards to home and renters insurance. Standard home insurance policies often include some coverage for water damage, like if a pipe bursts, for example. But if your home is damaged by flooding, you’ll be in trouble without a flood insurance policy.

With hurricanes bringing powerful storm surges and excessive rain, flooding is common.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, just a few inches of flood water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the program’s website, FloodSmart.gov, lists hurricanes as a common but often overlooked cause of flooding.

"Special" hurricane deductibles

Suppose a hurricane hits your house, causing major wind damage. Now you’ve got to file a claim, but you might find out your policy treats hurricanes differently than other disasters. In fact, it might even have a special deductible for them.

A deductible is the amount you agree to pay out-of-pocket toward a claim. Common deductibles are $500 or $1,000. The deductible has a correlating relationship with your premium. All other things being equal, higher deductibles generally result in lower premiums. However, be sure you can afford your deductible if you need to pay it.

Hurricane and wind deductible details and percentages vary depending on your provider and the state you live in.

Additional coverage gaps

Besides flooding, there may be other coverage gaps lurking in your home insurance policy. For example, you may not have enough protection for your personal items. Contents coverage is what protects the items in your home, but it has limits — usually 50 to 70 percent of the insured value of the house.

The best way to make sure the value of your possessions doesn’t exceed your coverage limits is to compile a home inventory — a listing, complete with photos and any receipts you might have, of your possessions. In addition to helping you determine the value of your possessions and whether you need more contents coverage, a home inventory can help speed the claims process.

However, there’s another potential problem. Some policies limit payouts for certain high-value items such as jewelry or artwork. Talk to your provider about scheduling endorsements to fully cover such items.

It's always best to be prepared

Don’t wait until a storm is in the forecast to think about insurance. Call your insurance provider now and get to know the details and limits of your policy.

Throughout hurricane season and beyond, you want to have peace of mind that your home is fully covered.