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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

What’s Covered After a Natural Disaster?

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

Anyone who lives in Florida realizes that natural disasters can crop up at a moment’s notice.  Everything from hurricanes and tornadoes to floods and wildfires have in the past caused families to lose everything they own in the Sunshine State.  Before the next named storm or summer brushfire threatens your home and everything contained in it, there are a few things you need to know about what’s covered and what’s not on your homeowner’s policy.

1. Come hail and high water? – Fortunately, damage due to wind, rain, hail, lightning, and tornadoes are covered perils on homeowner’s policies.  If the sky opens up and your roof is ripped from your home or your dwelling is set ablaze by a bolt from the blue, getting your insurance company to cut you a check shouldn’t be a problem.  The same goes for replacing any furnishings and appliances that get damaged by water let into your residence should a falling limb poke a big hole in the roof.  The only high water that isn’t automatically covered by a standard homeowner’s policy is water damage caused by a flood or a sewer backup.  To have those hazards covered entails adding flood insurance and a sewer backup endorsement to your existing policy.  

2. Is your home covered for hurricane damage? – That depends on the type of damage done during a named storm.  Many homeowner’s policies issued to Florida residents consider damage by rain and wind to be a covered peril, while damage caused by storm surges and/or flooding is excluded.  Additionally, since the Sunshine State is hurricane-prone, many insurance companies require a separate hurricane deductible that can be set at 3%, 5%, or even 10% of a property’s value.  If you own a home that’s currently worth $500,000 with a 5% hurricane deductible, you could be expected to cough up $25,000 before your insurance company will compensate you for damage over and above that to your home.  The only way that most insurers will allow a homeowner to lower their hurricane deductible is if they agree to lower the amount of coverage that’s included in their policy in the event of a hurricane.  

3. What other natural disasters aren’t covered by a typical homeowner’s policy? – Things like earthquakes and landslides aren’t covered by most policies.  Fortunately for we Floridians, neither one of these disasters is likely to occur.  On the other hand, sinkholes are quite common in South Florida.  These too are excluded from standard homeowner’s policies.  If you fear a sinkhole may someday swallow your home, you should look into adding sinkhole insurance. 

4. Is damage to your yard and/or any outbuildings covered? – If a tree falls during a windstorm, it’s likely a covered peril provided the tree wasn’t already leaning or diseased before the storm struck.  However, other damage to landscaping in your yard is usually not covered under some homeowners’ policies.  Detached garages, sheds, and gazebos are covered unless they are listed in the exclusions.   On the other hand, damage to patios isn’t usually covered by typical homeowners’ policies.  (Check with your agent to find out what is and isn’t covered.  Also, ask if it’s possible to add a rider to cover some or all of these items.)

5. How much of your personal property is covered in case of a natural disaster? – That depends on the limits listed on your policy.  Minimal coverage could provide as little as $1,000 for such things as fine art, jewels, silverware, firearms, and gold.  If you wish to increase these limits you should have a discussion with your agent long before you’re likely to need additional coverage.  While you’re at it, you should also ask your agent whether the coverage is based on replacement value or cash value.  This could affect the amount you will be paid for any item in your home that is destroyed during a natural disaster.

6. Is mold remediation a covered peril? – Maybe yes and maybe no, depending on the insurer.  Some Florida insurance companies require policyholders to add a separate mold endorsement to their policies to ensure coverage in the event of mold.

7. What happens if you’re forced to evacuate your home due to damage? – Many homeowner’s policies include a provision that pays for temporary housing should your property be deemed uninhabitable by a covered claim.  Provided you adhere to the requirements specified in your policy, you should get reimbursed up to the specified limits.  Note that failure to comply with the listed requirements could result in the reimbursement being denied.  That means you need to read the specifications listed under “Temporary Displacement” on your policy before you book your reservations.

8. Do you have a boat on your property? – If you have one, most policies only provide $1,000 in watercraft coverage, provided the damage occurs while the vessel is on your property. Other policies list boats as an exclusion.  Either way, you should definitely talk to your agent if you own a boat to find out what it would cost to insure it before your vessel is gone with the wind after the next named storm.

9. Is your RV covered by homeowner’s insurance? – If it’s a motorhome, the answer is no. You’ll need a separate RV policy to cover it.  A towable camper may be partially covered by your auto policy and partially covered by your homeowner’s policy, provided it’s parked on your property.  As for the limits of coverage, you’ll need to discuss this with your agent if you don’t have a separate policy covering your RV.

10. Will FEMA come to the rescue after a natural disaster? – While the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers assistance to disaster survivors, there’s no guarantee that every homeowner will qualify for federal assistance or that the assistance will be offered in a timely manner.  In other words, if you own property, you shouldn’t solely rely on FEMA to help make your family whole again after a natural disaster.  The people who are best prepared are the ones who bounce back the quickest after every disaster.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. As I recall, it took FEMA months to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Some of them are still waiting.

  2. So much great information. A lot of this I did not know! Thanks for sharing. :D


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