Ask Kim: Hurricane damage: What’s covered (and what’s not)

If you are affected by a devastating hurricane, like the ones that struck Texas and Florida, here is how to get the money you deserve from your insurance company.

Your homeowners insurance does not cover flooding.

In general, damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain and water that comes into your home through the roof, windows, doors or holes in the walls is covered by homeowners insurance. But damage from flooding or water that rises from the bottom up — from the overflow of a body of water, for example, or a storm surge — is not covered.

A lot of the damage in Houston was from flooding; you’re covered if you had flood insurance, such as through the National Flood Insurance Program. But even if you didn’t have flood insurance, it’s still worthwhile to contact your home insurer to see whether some of your expenses will be covered, such as wind damage to your roof or additional living expenses you incurred while you were out of your house (see the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Wind Damage vs. Flood Damage fact sheet (www.myfloridacfo.com/division/Consumers/documents/PublicFactSheetWindvsFloodforGeneralPublic102016.pdf).

Your car is covered by insurance for flooding.

If your auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage (which insures against the type of physical damage not caused by an accident), then flooding would be covered. In many cases, the water damage can be so bad that the insurance company will declare the car a total loss and pay the claim for the value of the car (minus the deductible). Be careful if you’re buying a used car in the next several months as cars with flood damage enter the market; such damage could pose major safety risks.

You may have a higher deductible for hurricane damage.

Until a few years ago, many people in high-risk areas of Florida had to buy separate policies to cover windstorms. Now, many insurers are offering windstorm coverage as part of their homeowners policies, says Chris Heidrick, an independent insurance agent in Sanibel, Fla., but with a higher deductible for hurricane damage. For example, you may have a $500 deductible on most claims, but a deductible of 2 percent to 5 percent of your coverage amount for damage caused by a hurricane. In Texas, people in some coastal areas, such as Corpus Christi, may have to hold three separate policies: homeowners insurance, separate hurricane coverage from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and a flood policy with the National Flood Insurance Program.

(Kimberly Lankford is a contributing editor to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to moneypower@kiplinger.com. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)

(c) 2017 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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