Use This Smart Homeowners Insurance Checklist to Prepare For Storm Season


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!

Table of Contents

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:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Regardless of whether you’re a homeowner or landlord, you should get adequate flood coverage.
  2. 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.
  3. Look for preexisting water damage, particularly around pipes, ceilings and under sinks, and inspect for signs of mold or mildew.
  4. Strongly consider getting a home warranty to cover any damages not protected by insurance.
  5. Install storm-resistant shutters and check roof shingles.
  6. Remove any yard debris and trim any hanging tree branches near your home. 
  7. Take a home inventory and update it after each major purchase.
  8. 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.)
  9. Even if you don’t see obvious damages, get a home appraisal every 10-15 years, or after a major storm or flooding.

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:

  1. You really only need to worry about your personal belongings. So take inventory of everything you own, including any new items.
  2. 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)
  3. Consider getting an endorsement if you have high-value items or want to increase the limits your policy will pay out. 
  4. 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. 

Wrapping Up

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.

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Why You Need Renter’s Insurance In Texas Before Moving


Not sure why you need renter’s insurance before you move?

To put it plainly: you’ll need a renter’s policy to cover anything you can’t immediately replace.

In fact, if you’re renting an apartment, condo, or house, there are very few scenarios where it’s just a waste of money. 

While not required by state law, renter’s insurance may be required in your tenant agreement.

But, is renter’s insurance a good value for consumers?

Besides taking care of everything most people expect their landlord to do, renter’s insurance can majorly cover your tail in various scenarios.

Yep, even if you’re facing a lawsuit!

(Of course, we hope a situation never goes that far.) 

But, in the interest of helping you settle into your new place as smoothly as possible after you move, we’re shouting from the rooftops just how important it is to have renter’s insurance. 

Ken Robinson, our go-to property insurance expert and CEO of Houston-based MAKZ Insurance Company, explains why renter’s insurance is a must when you move.

 

1. Renter’s Coverage Can Pay For Itself 40 Times Over

A bit overwhelmed by all the industry vocabulary around renter’s insurance? 

Let’s break down three commonly confusing terms in an easier way:

  • Premium- What you pay for renter’s insurance; often referred to in annual terms
  • Deductible- What you pay before your policy coverage kicks in
  • Liability- The amount of personal protection covering you, up to which an insurer will pay if you’re held liable for damage or injury by someone else; can include legal fees, repairs/damages, medical bills, etc.

Renter’s insurance is not expensive. It’s very affordable, despite what you may think.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Renter’s policy premiums have been falling since 2015 
  • You don’t even have to nix your Starbucks habit to afford a $15-$50 monthly premium that covers $10,000-$40,000 of personal property
  • Average renter’s insurance premiums in Texas are $232/ year (or $19/ month) as of 2017, (III.org) 
  • Discounts may be available based on your age, job, or residential amenities (e.g. security systems, fire extinguishers, deadbolts, or sprinklers)
  • Ken advises combining a renter’s policy with your auto insurance for a multi-policy discount 

By these numbers alone, it’s obvious why you need renter’s insurance if you’re moving into a new rental property: 

At bare-bones minimum (or, $19 per month for $10,000 in coverage) renter’s insurance can pay for itself 40 times over if you have to file a claim in Texas.

Sure, you’ll have to cough up $250 to $1,500 in your own cash for a deductible. 

So what?

That’s nothing if you don’t have renter’s insurance and a fire destroys $30,000 worth of everything you own.  Or, if someone sues you for $20,000 in medical bills and loss of income after injuring themselves in your apartment.

See how it can be helpful in a pinch?

This brings us to our next point…

2. It Can Help If You’re Held Liable (or Sued)

“How insurance really works is, what started or what created the risk to happen,” Ken explains.

“So, I always use the scenario of, if a tree fell over and fell on top of your neighbor’s home, the question is going to be asked, ‘What caused the tree to fall?’ So is it [the] wind that caused the tree to fall? I say that because, in the event of the fish tank scenario, you’re liable because you bumped into it and it leaked to your neighbor’s [home].”

No one expects bad things to happen, but they do.

That’s a part of life. But, in the insurance world, you might have liability for what happens.

Whether it’s by negligence or an accident on your part, you can still be held liable for the fallout of certain circumstances. (Yes, even if you’re only renting a place and don’t own it).

A landlord, visitor, or neighbor who suffers damages or injury by any action or negligence of your own can force you to pay or file a lawsuit

No one wants to deal with legal fees or owe someone money.

That’s where a rental policy can save the day. Renter’s insurance is an absolute must in times like this since basic policies cover a minimum of $100,000 in liability

Even incidents that aren’t intentional or malicious can potentially lead to huge problems for you legally and financially.

Renter’s insurance helps financially protect you against liabilities like:

  • If your kid throws a ball and breaks a neighbor’s window
  • You accidentally break your aquarium, and it leaks to the unit below, ruining your neighbor’s mattress
  • Someone trips on your rug and twists their ankle, needing medical care
  • Your dog bites another resident and they sue 
  • A visiting relative leaves a candle or cigarette unattended, causing fire damage
  • Pests like bed bugs, mice, or roaches, hitch a ride to your new residence, infesting your new rental property

There are exceptions, however.

Renter’s insurance liability extends only to third parties. 

If you or someone living in your rental residence is hurt, related medical expenses won’t be covered.

Renter’s policies don’t cover structural damage. (Since you don’t own the house or apartment structure and therefore you’re not considered responsible for it.)

Violating the terms of your policy can lead to insurers dropping your coverage. It could also leave you paying 100% of related damages out-of-pocket.

For example, many renter’s insurance policies explicitly deny coverage to so-called ‘dangerous dog breeds’ (such as pit bulls, German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, and more).

So if you do decide to take in such a pup who ends up biting someone, your policy won’t cover it.

All the related medical and/or legal bills would be your responsibility. 

Read and stick to the terms of your renter’s insurance policy, and you won’t have to worry.

3. Renter’s Insurance Protects Your Personal Belongings

One of the biggest reasons why you need rental insurance? 

It covers your personal belongings. 

“A renter’s [policy] is definitely worth it,” says Ken.

“If you have a television in your home that you spent $5,000…or even if you spent $200 on it, you purchased it. So in the event that something happens to it, someone steals it, you get smoke damage in the home…you want to make sure your stuff is covered. If you don’t have renter’s insurance, you’re pretty much starting over.”

Think about everything you currently own—no matter when you bought it. How much does every single item you have cost? 

Estimate. Add it up mentally. And it’s not just monetary value… 

Consider how many years it took you to gain it all.

Could you afford to spend time and money replacing every single thing you love if it were instantly destroyed? 

Personal property coverage is in your renter’s policy. Not only will it cover theft from where you live, but it can also cover theft from your car during traveling!

Pets aren’t included. Your more expensive items—like jewelry, collections, electronics, antiques, artwork, or instruments—most likely need additional coverage (a.k.a, endorsements, floaters, or riders.) 

If you have anything of monetary or sentimental value, ask your insurer about getting added coverage.  

Your personal property will be covered under renter’s insurance as long as you:

  • Keep your policy up-to-date. Coverage can lapse without warning if you cancel a payment method. Also, revisit your policy as you acquire more items, grow your family, or adopt pets
  • Update & take inventory of your stuff. It makes filing a claim and moving much easier. (Use photos, video, receipts, documents, serial numbers, and more to prove how much your stuff is worth)
  • Read your policy limits. This is how much insurers will pay for certain types of property damage (e.g. how much the company will pay for cash, jewelry, business items, appliances, etc.)
  • Know if your policy uses Actual Cash Value (ACV) or replacement cost. Basic renter’s policies default to ACV, which deducts value from items based on age and use. You can add on replacement cost for about 10% more, but it reimburses you with a new item at full & current value
  • Get a flood add-on or comprehensive insurance—especially if you rent a home in Texas or are on a first-floor unit. Flood and storm damage to your things are not covered under renter’s policies

4. Renter’s Insurance Can Help You Move Out

Renter’s policies cover expenses incurred by loss of use.

Loss of use coverage is what insurance companies will pay for costs that exceed your normal living expenses until you move back in or find a new place.

Let’s say your residence becomes uninhabitable from a covered event. 

While your landlord’s policy covers their content and structural property damage, it doesn’t cover you or your personal items at all. 

Additionally, landlords are not required to help you move out temporarily, and landlord policies don’t extend to cover tenants. 

Many tenants are shocked to find out that landlords are not legally required to cover their hotel costs if a property is unlivable. 

That’s where renter’s insurance can help you move out.

Your destroyed items or additional living expenses you incur from loss of use (i.e. moving out of a damaged residence and paying for hotels, movers, food, etc.)—are all covered.

You could even move somewhere new if you prefer. Especially if you have to break your lease because the damage is so bad that you can’t return.

5. It Could Be Required in Your Rental Agreement

If you’re still on the fence about renter’s insurance, be aware that landlords are wising up and starting to add clauses to their tenant agreements that hold renters accountable. 

These clauses also help landlords protect themselves from sky-high repair costs, legal fees, and loss of rental income.

So, do you really need renter’s insurance? Is renter’s insurance even required in Texas?

Lots of newer tenant agreements are making renter’s policies mandatory in Texas.

In some states, this clause is mandatory. Although it isn’t required by the state of Texas, Ken says most tenants should still get need renter’s insurance in Texas. A growing number of leasing or rental agreements are even making it mandatory.

Sometimes, there are even policy limit requirements for tenants in these agreements. 

You could be held personally liable and have to pay out-of-pocket if you let your renter’s insurance lapse, don’t meet the minimums in your tenant agreement, or don’t have it at all.

Wrapping Up

We get it, you’re really excited about your big move (and that’s awesome!) 

Why not protect the investment you put into moving your personal belongings by getting renter’s insurance, too?

You never know what could happen. Now that you realize why renter’s insurance is worth it, don’t just get a random policy, and call it a day. 

Take inventory of everything you own.

Document and keep receipts of the new things you buy.

Find out how much your already-owned items are currently worth so you don’t get sticker shock if they must be replaced at your policy’s ACV (Actual Cash Value). 

Most importantly, arm yourself with a policy that you’ve actually read

Know your policy terms well. If anything ever happens, you’ll understand why you need renters insurance coverage to help.