NEW YORK, July 3, 2012—The “derecho” that swept through a number of Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern U.S. states on Friday night, June 29, caused fatalities, extensive property damage, and left more than one million people without power, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Derechos are strong wind storms associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms that stretch along a straight path for hundreds of miles. Given the widespread insured losses left in the derecho’s wake, the I.I.I. offers answers to the most common homeowners insurance questions emerging after last week’s extraordinary weather.
Question #1: Am I covered for direct losses due to fire, lightning, and wind storms? Yes. Standard homeowners insurance policies provide broad coverage for these and other disasters, or “perils,” as they are called in the policy. You should check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy. Also, if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf coasts there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage.
Question #2: A tree falls and damages my roof during a storm. Am I covered? Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a $500 limit.
Question #3: During a storm, a tree falls but does no damage to my property. Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree? No, but if a fallen tree blocks access to your home (e.g., your driveway) you may be covered for its removal. Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks like vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage.
Question #4: If a storm causes a power outage and all the food in my refrigerator or freezer is spoiled and must be thrown out, can I make a claim?The general answer is no. But, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on, or close to, your property, you may be covered. Homeowners may, however, be able to seek reimbursement from their local power company.
Question #5: If my home is uninhabitable because of storm damage, can I seek reimbursement for my hotel expenses from my insurance company? Yes, a standard homeowners insurance policy provides additional living expenses (ALE) coverage. This pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above the customary living expenses that are incurred while your home is being rebuilt. Many policies provide ALE coverage equal to about 20 percent of the insurance on your house.