From downed power lines and fallen trees to broken fences and flooded basements, the aftermath of severe weather can sometimes be even worse for homeowners than the storm itself, so it’s important to know which losses might be covered by your home insurance policy.
After a big storm rolls through the South Shore of Massachusetts, many homeowners are left with an equally big mess to clean up and costly home repairs to make. Fortunately, the standard home insurance policy is designed to provide financial assistance if your home and its contents are damaged or destroyed by common New England weather hazards, such as:
- Weight of snow, ice, and sleet
- Falling objects (e.g., trees)
- Water damage
However, the home insurance coverage for storm-related losses often includes limits and exclusions, and policy deductibles may apply, which are all factors that homeowners should discuss with their insurance professional prior to filing a claim. So, before the next major thunderstorm, hurricane, or nor’easter strikes, the Austin team wanted to share three common storm-related scenarios that could happen to homeowners in our area and discuss if and how your home insurance may cover them.
Scenario #1: A huge tree branch, laden with heavy, wet snow, has fallen from your neighbor’s yard, smashed through your fence, and is now lying across your driveway.
One of the questions that might run through your head in this situation is: “Who is going to pay for this disaster?” The answer is often surprising to homeowners. Despite the fact the fallen tree is your neighbor’s, if you want help covering the costs for any necessary repairs and the removal of the tree, you will need to file a claim with your home insurance company.
A standard homeowners policy typically includes coverage for damages to your home and other covered structures on your property when a tree falls due to weather-related issues like the weight of snow and ice, strong winds, or a lightning strike. In addition, this policy generally provides coverage for the removal of the fallen tree from your property.
However, before you file a claim, it’s wise to confirm with your insurance agent that your situation meets the coverage requirements of your specific policy. For example, most home insurance policies only cover the removal of a fallen tree if one or more of the following statements is true.
- The fallen tree damaged your home or another covered structure on your property.
- The fallen tree is blocking cars from getting in and out of your driveway.
- The fallen tree is blocking a ramp or other fixture designed to assist a disabled person.
You will also want to ask your agent to explain the coverage limits in your policy for damage caused by a falling tree and tree removal and if you’ll be responsible for a deductible, as well.
Scenario #2: After several days of nonstop rain, your sump pump no longer seems to be working, and you have an inch of water in your basement that is steadily rising.
Basement flooding is a serious homeowner issue that requires immediate attention and potentially thousands of dollars to rectify. In a situation like this, you’ll need to get the water quickly pumped out of your basement, rent equipment to dry out the room, and pay to get the sump pump repaired or replaced. Then, you may also incur expenses to replace any ruined personal items or repair water-damaged appliances that are kept in the basement, like a washer and dryer.
Surely, your home insurance will help you pay to fix this situation, right? Unfortunately, while there are several types of water damage a standard homeowners policy will cover, water that seeps into your home as a result of oversaturated ground below or outside your basement is usually not one of them. Instead, the insurance you need to have in place to protect you against this type of scenario is a flood policy, which can provide you with coverage for any flood-related structural damage to your home and protection for your water-soaked contents.
Another way to get financial protection against this type of scenario is to add an endorsement called Water Backup Coverage to your home insurance policy. This coverage can be an extremely valuable insurance endorsement for a homeowner to have, because it provides up to $25,000 in protection for your home and personal property if damaged due to a sump pump failure, as long as the breakdown is due to a system malfunction and not the result of poor upkeep.
Scenario #3: The good news is that power is finally restored in your neighborhood after a long storm-related outage. The bad news is the sudden surge of power damaged many of your plugged-in appliances and devices.
While an extended lack of electricity is certainly an inconvenience, it generally doesn’t cause any real harm inside your home. Which is ironic, since it can take just a few seconds when power is finally reconnected for the sudden jump in electrical current to fry any household appliances and electronics, like computers, TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, and more, that are plugged in and not safeguarded by a surge protector.
If a power surge like this does damage or destroy your home’s electrical wiring system, appliances, or electronics, a standard home insurance policy typically provides coverage to repair or replace them.
That being said, it is likely that your specific homeowners policy includes per-item limits of coverage and some exclusions. So, if you want complete peace of mind that you’ll have coverage to help you pay for fixing these items after a power surge, then you may want to consider an endorsement called Home Systems Protection. It’s an extremely cost-effective coverage option that may provide homeowners with up to $100,000 of coverage per occurrence.
Austin Insurance is here to help you navigate the home insurance claims process for storm damage.
Please don’t hesitate to call us for assistance with a storm-related or other home insurance claim. In fact, as your local insurance professional, we should always be one of the first people you reach out to if you experience damage to your home or belongings. Our team will help you evaluate your specific situation and, if we determine you do have a valid claim, then we will help get you through the claims process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
While we have partnered with only the top-rated state and national insurance carriers, who we are confident will do their best to handle your storm damage and other home insurance claims quickly and professionally, we want to go above and beyond for you during what can be a very stressful time. That’s why, at Austin, we have a dedicated team member who will assist you with paperwork, answer questions, uncomplicate any issues, and much more.