Hurricanes

Insure your house against the storm

Posted July 31, 2008

Hurricanes have come inland, flooding and toppling trees into homes. If it happened again, would you be insured?

Insurance companies have warned that the state's coastal insurance plan is not financially ready for a devastating hurricane. North Carolina's Beach Plan, which provides home insurance for 18 coastal counties, could  handle about $2.5 billion in losses.

However; a major hurricane could cause billions more in damage than that amount, and insurance companies say in that case, they would be forced to pass the charges onto homeowners.

Inland homeowners, though, should also make sure that their house is insured for storm and rain damage.

First, make an inventory of every single item in every single room of your house. The task sounds tedious, but in the event of a disaster, that inventory is critical to ensure that you get the best insurance coverage.

Go room by room, write down everything of value, and take photos or video of them. Note big-ticket items, such as jewelry that might require extra insurance coverage. Online, you can get free software that guides you through the process. Emailed a copy of the completed inventory to a friend or store one away from your home.

Review what your existing policy does cover. For example, during Hurricane Fran, many people lost power for days and had to throw out spoiled food and drink. Most policies do not cover the cost of replacing that food.

If you head to a hotel due to power or water outage, be forewarned: Most policies only cover temporary shelter if you cannot physically live in your home.

Double check to see if you have flood insurance. Storm policies will cover water damage, for example, a tree lands on your roof and rain falls through the hole and soaks your belongings. However, damage from rising ground or ocean water is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.

Keep in mind that up to a quarter of all flood-insurance claims come from areas at low risk for flooding. The average cost of damage caused by only a couple inches of water runs between $8,000 and $10,000.

For the risks, the cost of flood insurance is probably worth it – around $300 annually for a $250,000 house and its contents in a low- to moderate-risk area.

Be aware: A homeowners' insurance policy must be in place for at least 30 days before a storm.

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