Now that Superstorm Sandy and the Nor'easter are over, homeowners in the affected areas can begin focusing on cleaning up, getting their lives back to normal (as much as can be expected), and, in the case of my friends in New Jersey, and on Staten Island and Long Island, starting to file for home insurance claims.
In the wake of the recent storms, many homeowners may have questions about what damages are covered by insurance and which property claims they can file for. In fact, do you even know what your home insurance policy covers?
It is important to know before you file an insurance claim what is and is not covered in a typical homeowner's policy. Here are 5 common areas where people have questions.
- Flood damage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program and takes 30 days to become effective. The only flooding that would be covered on your homeowners insurance claim is if it was related to sewage backup and you have added coverage, called an endorsement or a rider, for sewer backup on your homeowner's policy.
- Auto damage. If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, the damages sustained from flooding will be covered. Or, in the case of my neighbor who had a 200-year-old sycamore come down on her Toyota Camry, insurance should cover the fact that her car was totaled.
- Power outages. Generally, there is no coverage for damage or a loss caused by a power outage if the source of the power outage did not occur on the insured premises. However, if the source of the power outage occurred on the insured premises, there is coverage. USAA, for example, says that it is possible to be reimbursed for some food spoilage caused by a widespread power outage.
- Removal of trees and branches. The removal of downed trees and/or debris is covered if there is damage to a covered structure, or the governor declares the area where the damage occurred is a disaster area. (On a related note, if you live in an area that was determined to be in a state of emergency, contact your cell phone carrier about getting any overages you incurred during that time waived from your bill. I found out that Verizon Wireless is doing that for customers like myself in affected areas. So is AT&T.)
- Additional living expenses. There may be an allowance for offsite housing until your home is repaired. Keep all your bills and payments made for offsite housing. Clearly, if you live in an area where FEMA has gotten involved, you should contact FEMA to find out how they can help you.
If you have any questions about what home insurance does cover or you'd like to see me address another related topic in a future post, do let me know.
Tomorrow, I tackle the topic of actually filing an insurance claim.