insurance

Hurricane Irma: Your Questions Answered

7 Minute Read

It’s hard to believe two devastating hurricanes have hit our country in the time span of only two weeks. First, Hurricane Harvey struck the greater region of Southeast Texas, causing massive amounts of flooding in the area. Then, Hurricane Irma set its sights on the state of Florida after it brought widespread devastation across the Caribbean.

Like you, we have been saddened to see such destruction happen to our beautiful land and its hard-working people. Our hearts and our prayers go out to each individual being impacted by these tragic storms. Long after the media attention has faded, know you will still be in our prayers as you begin to rebuild your homes, your hope, and your lives.

If you or a loved one were in Irma’s path, you may be starting to pick up the pieces and figure out the next steps to take. We’re here to walk with you and answer some of your most pressing questions:

What kind of damage did Hurricane Irma bring to Florida?

The Consumer Federation of America is estimating the hurricane could possibly result in 450,000 insurance claims.(1) And early estimations show insurance payments from the damage could surpass that of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew was the costliest hurricane in Florida history based on property loss. Its impact caused $24 billion dollars in damages to homes in both Florida and Louisiana.(2)

How is the damage from Hurricane Irma different than the damage from Hurricane Harvey?

Unlike Hurricane Harvey where most insurance claims filed were flood related, the insurance claims from Hurricane Irma look to mostly be related to wind damage. However, areas near the coast of Florida will likely file flood insurance claims as well.(3)

Is hurricane damage covered by homeowners insurance?

For Floridians, every homeowners insurance policy should provide windstorm coverage, with a deductible that must be met first.(4) According to the Insurance Information Institute, “All insurers must offer a hurricane deductible of $500, 2%, 5% and 10% of the policy dwelling or structure limits. The percentages are based on the total value of the home.”(5)

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For example, a 10% hurricane deductible on a house valued at $200,000 would be $20,000. Which means even though you are technically “covered” once you hit that $20,000 mark, you’re still paying $20,000 out of your own pocket until then. If you have a fully funded emergency fund, this would cover a large portion of that total. And even a beginner emergency fund would help you offset some of the cost.

Is flood and wind damage covered by normal homeowners insurance as an “act of God”?

Because flooding is considered separate from hurricane damage, you need specific flood insurance to cover it. Wind damage is covered through homeowners insurance, but any water damage is not. Flood insurance is provided through the federal government with The National Flood Insurance Program. And you are required to purchase it if you live inside a flood zone. Depending on the nature of damage to your house, you could be partially covered. Be sure to check with your insurance company for your exact situation.

I had to evacuate my home. Will my insurance cover my living expenses in the meantime?

This will depend on your insurance company and what your specific policy covers. If you had to evacuate and the condition of your home is not livable, inquire with your insurance company about temporary lodging options for you and your family. They may have a provision that will help reimburse you for living expenses, food, parking and laundry services.(6)

If this is not something your insurance provides, there are many local shelters and churches that will provide free shelter and food.

What should I do if I’ve sustained hurricane or flood damage to my home?

Step 1: Notify your insurance company

First, you need to let your insurance company know you’ve experienced damage related to Hurricane Irma. This will get the process started for you. Ideally, the sooner you contact them, the sooner you should receive your claim check. Make sure you have your policy number and contact info handy when you give them a call.

Step 2: Stop further damage

If you have holes in the roof of your house or your windows are broken, be sure to cover those opening as quickly and safely as possible. You don’t want any future wind or rain to cause any more damage to the property.

Step 3: Document all the damage

You need to take pictures and even video footage of all the property that was damaged. This should include structural damage, standing floodwaters, and objects that were ruined. Be sure to make a list of all items with as much information you can provide, like estimated item value, date of purchase, and any receipts you may still have on hand. Don’t throw away any broken items or debris until the adjuster has come by to look at the damage.

Step 4: Provide a Proof of Loss statement

The Proof of Loss is your signed and sworn statement that provides documentation of the damage to your possessions and home. You need to file Proof of Loss documentation with your insurance company within 60 days. Your adjuster will help you with this process.

What can I do if I don’t have flood or hurricane insurance?

You can apply for federal disaster relief benefits, but those come in the form of low interest loans—which we do not recommend. This is exactly why having an emergency fund is so essential. It puts a buffer between you and the curve balls life can throw at you. If you have an emergency fund in place, now is the right time to use it.

Are banks offering forbearance programs for mortgage holders who are hurricane victims?

Honestly, it depends on the bank. For example, if you are impacted by a natural disaster, Wells Fargo will suspend negative reporting to credit bureaus and won’t charge you late fees. Customers who contact them can get disaster relief and postpone their payments.(7) Only do this if you absolutely can’t make it work any other way. There is no need to dig a hole financially if you can avoid it.

Here’s How You Can Help!

If you’re able to help by volunteering on the ground in Florida, please do. But even if you don’t live near the area, you can still help those in need through donating to the relief efforts.

Samaritan’s Purse

You can volunteer your time or donate money through the aid of Samaritan’s Purse.

Salvation Army

You can also send a donation through the Salvation Army.

Red Cross

Donate funds through the Red Cross as they help families affected by Hurricane Irma.

Red Cross Shelters

Are you in need of safe housing during this time? These shelters across Florida provide a place to sleep, meals, water, and health services for free. Pets are welcome too! No reservation is needed to stay. Find a local Red Cross shelter here.

The need throughout the state of Florida will linger even after the media attention has subsided. Consider donating to local shelters and food banks that will continue to bring aid to the area in the weeks and months to come.

Rebuilding in the Sunshine State

Despite the dreary days now, hope will shine again throughout the Sunshine State. Floridians are resilient—you’ve weathered hurricane after hurricane and still regroup with greater strength than before. Although you may be experiencing the harsh impacts of Hurricane Irma, know we stand with you as you rebuild.

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