If you live in a Gulf state, you’re probably well aware of when hurricane storm season arrives… But the real test is whether your homeowners or renters insurance can withstand the, well, weather. Since we’ve moved a lot of clients into storage or new homes after floods and hurricanes, we know how devastating it can be if you suddenly lose your belongings or home in a disaster. Your relationship with us doesn’t simply stop after we move your last pieces of furniture… We want to help you live your best, most comfortable life in a place you love and can protect.
So, whether you’re a homeowner, renter, or landlord, we want to help you prepare for storm season with a savvy insurance evaluation. Both the National Weather Service and our go-to insurance guru partner, Ken Robinson of MAKZ Insurance, recommend doing an insurance check-up long before hurricane season officially starts. Let’s get into everything you need to know and the most important ways to prepare for storm season!
5 Things to Check on Your Home Insurance Policy Before Hurricane Season
Before a storm, most of what you need to evaluate for your residential property insurance is listed on your declaration page. Your declaration is essentially a page that describes your policy coverage for renters, landlord or homeowners insurance. From your dwelling limit, to liability, all the way to your listed endorsements—everything you need is on the declaration page. To narrow it down, Ken advises checking these four key areas on the declaration page of your home insurance policy:
Free Sample Declaration Page
1. Windstorm Insurance
“One of the main things you want to make sure, is from a homeowner’s perspective, is that your policy actually covers wind damage,” Ken says. If you own a new or existing home, however, this doesn’t have to be a huge concern since homeowners insurance is required and windstorm coverage is usually part of the deal. However, if you live in certain areas, this may not be the case! “Most homeowners policies do come with wind coverage,” he adds. “But if you are in an area that’s very coastal, you might have to get a separate wind policy.”
If you do live in a more secluded, coastal area, your location is often considered higher risk for damages from storms. That means wind coverage may not be included in your standard homeowners policy, so it’s best to confirm this by looking at your declaration page. And if you’re not covered, you’re personally responsible for any windstorm damage to your home. Yikes! Thankfully, all you have to do to add wind coverage onto your current policy is contact your insurance carrier or contact Ken directly.
2. Flood Insurance
In the insurance world, “flooding” is described as any water that enters the home from outside, usually due to rising water. Despite its incredibly high risk for floods, the state of Texas doesn’t require flood insurance as an add-on to your homeowner’s insurance. It also doesn’t prohibit home builders from constructing in a flood zone. So with enough rain, your new home could be at risk for flooding. Do you have a flood policy to cover damages?
Unfortunately, it’s very common for homeowners to skip flood insurance (and other endorsements) in order to save a few hundred dollars each year. Here’s why Ken suggests adding flood insurance to your current policy: “There are some agents out there who will say you’re not in a flood zone,” Ken states.
“What I believe is that there are high-risk zones and low-risk zones. So, with us living in this Houston area, it’s a bayou. So it can flood anytime no matter where you’re located. It just takes enough rain to flood in your area.”
With Texas’ history of flooding—even in unexpected places—it’s wise to be cautious and safeguard your home with a good flood policy.
3. Water Damage Coverage
Water spreads so quickly and so fast that you may not notice until later. Although it was a far cry from a hurricane, in February 2021, Winter Storm Uri bursted pipes and caused electricity outages in icy temps across Texas. Besides outrageously expensive energy bills, many Texans are still shouldering the financial burden of ruined plumbing, clothing, and furniture from serious water damage.
“A lot of people are not aware that [homeowners] insurance does not actually cover your pipes,” Ken reveals.
“They cover the water damage that happens from the pipes. A lot of people were misinformed by that and were becoming frustrated by that. And there were a lot of people who actually didn’t even have water damage covered.”
While most policies automatically include water damage, others are more basic and exclude it. You’ll want to make sure you have an HO3 or HOB policy in place. Ken offers a simple way to remember the difference when you spot any of these policy types on your declaration page:
HO3 policy- most policies cover water damage; some may require you to endorse it
HOB policy- definitely covers water damage
HOA policy- typically used on older homes; may not include water damage
If you’re not covered, you’re on the hook for any water-related damages from burst pipes or internal leaks. Keep in mind that a home warranty can cover piping and plumbing damage indirectly caused by a storm since that isn’t covered under homeowners insurance. Policies that do cover water damage will replace the flooring and water-damaged items. This is often included, except on basic policies. Check to make sure you have an HO3 policy (this is usually covered, but not always.) If you have an HOA policy—which tends to cover older homes—this isn’t always covered.
4. Your Deductible (or, How Much You Agree to Pay)
Your deductible is the amount you agree to pay before your homeowners or renters insurance coverage kicks in for the rest. The good news about your deductible is that you can switch it to a lower or higher tier at any time throughout the year. In fact, Ken says you’ll just have to pay the difference (if you decrease it) or get a credit back (if you increase it). The bad news? You can’t change your deductible in the event of a named storm.
It follows the same ‘binding authority’ deadline your carrier sets for flood, homeowners, landlord, and renters policies when a named storm is X miles from the coast. Avoid doing last-minute endorsements during storm season and check your deductible for the best possible coverage, as early as you can!
5. Your Insurance Policy Limits (or, How Much Your Carrier Will Pay)
Did you know your homeowners insurance won’t cover certain damages? Do you know how much your personal belongings are worth vs. how much your policy will pay out from storm damage? Even if a hurricane wrecks your home, it would be a huge mistake to assume that your insurance policy will cover everything, at full cost, no matter what. “Every policy has a limit… So you definitely want to check your limits,” Ken states.
Example: If your declaration page says your dwelling limit is $200,000, that is the maximum amount your policy will pay for damage to the structure of your residence. Likewise, a contents (a.k.a, personal property) limit of $50,000 will only pay out up to that amount.
Ken offers some general guidance to make sure homeowners get the right amount of insurance: “If your home is 2,000 square feet, you really want to have at least $200,000 worth of coverage and up. Anything below that, and it’s honestly going to be undervalued.”
How to know if you have adequate policy limits:
- Check your Coverage C (personal property) policy limit to see what you currently have. Remember, carriers will only pay damages up to your policy limit.
- Take inventory of your belongings to see if you should get an endorsement to boost your policy limits, and ultimately, how much your insurer will pay.
- Based on the value of your items, choose between replacement cost vs. actual cash value (ACV). More on that, next…
Of course, increasing your contents or dwelling policy limits can raise your monthly payment. However, that’s worth it if you have high-value items you can’t afford to immediately replace. Plus, you’ll be 100% covered during storm season.
How Homeowners & Landlords Can Prepare for Storm Season
Good news for all you homeowners out there! You have a little more coverage since your personal property is in the primary residence where you live. Landlords, however, need to keep coverage not only on their primary residence but on their rental property, too. If you’re a landlord who has furniture and/or appliances in your rental, Ken suggests you opt for up to $15,000 in personal property coverage in your landlord policy.
How homeowners and landlords can protect themselves before storm season:
- Regardless of whether you’re a homeowner or landlord, you should get adequate flood coverage.
- Check piping & plumbing—especially in older buildings with copper or galvanized plumbing fixtures. Make any needed repairs so your carrier won’t hold you liable and will still payout for any claims.
- Look for preexisting water damage, particularly around pipes, ceilings and under sinks, and inspect for signs of mold or mildew.
- Strongly consider getting a home warranty to cover any damages not protected by insurance.
- Install storm-resistant shutters and check roof shingles.
- Remove any yard debris and trim any hanging tree branches near your home.
- Take a home inventory and update it after each major purchase.
- Review and adjust actual cash value or replacement cost based on your home inventory. (If budgeting isn’t an issue, assume you need a bit more than your current values.)
- Even if you don’t see obvious damages, get a home appraisal every 10-15 years, or after a major storm or flooding.
Free Sample Declaration Page
How Renters Can Prepare for Storm Season
Renters have it easier when it comes to preparing for storm season. However, in the event of a hurricane, remember that basic renters policies default to ACV. So if your brand-new TV gets ruined when your first-floor unit floods, you’re out of luck! Honestly, most tenants don’t closely examine their renters insurance policy, assuming it covers every mishap or disaster.
Here’s how you can prepare your renters insurance policy for hurricane season:
- You really only need to worry about your personal belongings. So take inventory of everything you own, including any new items.
- Check your personal property policy limits (whether it’s replacement cost or actual cash value, the payout should cover the value of all your belongings so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket)
- Consider getting an endorsement if you have high-value items or want to increase the limits your policy will pay out.
- Flood and storm-related damages to your items aren’t covered under basic renters policies. So if you rent a house or live in a first-floor unit, consider adding on a flood policy.
Protecting your investment in either your home or belongings in a rental will give you peace-of-mind and much greater security. No more anxiety about what will happen to (expensive) years of hard work in case of a storm! Now that you’re crystal clear on what to look for and adjust in your insurance policy, whip out your declaration page to review it, or call an agent like Ken to help!
Want to ensure you have the best coverage before hurricane season? Contact Ken Robinson at MAKZinsurance.com or connect on Instagram! You’ll be miles ahead of everyone else, plus you’ll be able to make changes before the next hurricane or flood warning… All thanks to simply doing it early.