When it comes to living the American Dream, there are few milestones that can compare with owning a home for the first time. Homeownership comes along with a great deal of excitement—and for good reason. It’s also possible for homeownership to be an altogether stressful scenario, especially when it comes to the threat of property damage.
Naturally, one of the first things that homeowners do when attempting to safeguard their belongings is to obtain property insurance. While this is absolutely a wise move, it’s important to note that property insurance isn’t always foolproof—it may not cover exactly what you’re hoping for, especially when it comes to disasters.
The Different Kinds of Property Insurance
For those who have just bought a home and are looking to protect their family’s belongings and property, obtaining a homeowners’ insurance policy will most likely be the best course of action. In most cases, homeowners’ insurance will cover damage incurred as a result of fire, wind, lightning, hail, liability and personal injury—even medical coverage under certain policies. Most policies will cover damage due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and even volcanoes.
However, water is not listed as a covered element, so flooding and other associated types of natural damage will not be covered under a typical homeowners’ policy. Earthquakes and other ground movement events are also not covered in most policies. If your home is located in an area that is prone to either type of disaster, a separate policy that covers flooding or earthquakes should be purchased.
Anyone who is purchasing a home for reasons outside of actually living within it needs to look beyond a typical homeowners’ insurance policy, as it won’t provide enough coverage in most cases. Rather, you’ll need to consider something more specific—landlord insurance. It’s certainly more expensive than what most people pay for regular homeowners’ insurance, but it’s highly recommended that landlords have it for protection. Just as with homeowners’ insurance, you can expect to pay a monthly fee without the need to pay out of pocket unless something happens.
Most basic landlord insurance policies will cover any damage that occurs to the property itself, but not furniture, appliances and other items that may be contained within the rental property. These policies can typically be extended, however, to include coverage for legal costs, income loss and even damage associated with water (such as backed up sewage, pipes breaking etc.). In this way, landlord insurance is actually far more robust than typical homeowners’ insurance.
What about those who are on the other end of the spectrum and are renting as opposed to buying or acting as landlords? For these individuals, coverage can be found in the form of renters’ insurance. While certain states actually mandate renters’ insurance as being a requirement, it’s a good idea for everyone who rents to have coverage, regardless of whether or not it’s mandatory. Many people make the mistake of thinking that their belongings will be covered under their landlord’s insurance policy, but this is never the case—even under an expanded policy. With renter’s insurance, however, you can rest easy knowing that your belongings are protected.
Filing a Natural Disaster Insurance Claim
Depending upon the type of natural disaster that has occurred (fire, wind, water etc.) and what kind of property insurance you have, it may be possible to claim coverage. Start by surveying your property and making a list of the damage, taking photographs and making sure not to disturb or throw anything away. Keep good, clean notes about the event, taking care to assess your immediate needs and document them accordingly. If, for example, your home has flooded due to a broken pipe, your most immediate need will be to have the excess water pumped-out of your living space.
When filing a natural disaster-related insurance claim, it’s essential to stay on top of the situation at all times. Don’t be shy about following up, which shows that you’re serious and can increase your chances for a successful claim. Finally, if you’re dissatisfied with how the process is going, it may be time to consider hiring a lawyer to handle the claim for you.
Not everything with property insurance is as cut and dry as most people would like, and natural disasters can surely test the limits of a policy. By choosing the right insurance and following through with a claim if a disaster hits, however, you may end up with coverage after all.