Days after Tropical Storm Hilary battered the West Coast, flash floods and fierce winds, Californians now face another challenge: Figuring out the costs of repairing their battered homes and replacing valuables.
Climate change has put more Americans in the locus of storms and other extreme weather events that could have devastating consequences on their household finances. In the past year alone, more than 15 natural disasters have hit the U.S., with catastrophes like the Maui wildfires destroying billions of dollars worth of property, according to data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.
As natural disasters become more frequent and severe, having enough insurance coverage is essential. However, not all insurance policies cover every type of extreme weather event.
Here’s how to make sure you have the right type of insurance for your home, and how to get additional coverage if you need it.
Know your plan
Standard homeowner policies differ from company to company. Some plans may not cover losses from earthquakes, certain types of water damage, and wind damage caused by tornadoes or hurricanes, according to insurance company Allstate.
To know what your plan covers and how much, check your policy. You can request a digital or hard copy of your homeowners insurance policy directly from your insurance company. In addition, many insurers offer mobile apps that let you view and manage your policy information.
Insurance policy add-ons, also known as endorsements or riders, allow you to personalize your insurance policy to meet your specific coverage needs, according to personal-finance website Bankrate.
You can purchase different types of endorsements to alter or extend existing coverage to protect high-value items in your home that are not insured by a basic policy. This helps ensure that any valuable items destroyed in a natural disaster will be replaced by your insurance at their current market value.
A scheduled personal property endorsement, which extends coverage beyond your basic policy, is one way to insure valuable items such as jewelry. To get this type of endorsement, your insurance company will likely require an appraisal or proof of value for the items you want covered.
Alternatively, you can also insure high-end possessions by purchasing additional blanket coverage which is used to increase coverage limits for an entire class of items. For example, if your standard policy covers up to $2,000 worth of artwork, blanket coverage could increase that coverage limit to $10,000. This option doesn’t require an appraisal.
Get flood insurance
Floods are the most common weather-related natural disasters, and they occur in all 50 U.S. states, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Just one inch of flooding can cause nearly $27,000 worth of damage to a one-story, 2,500 square-foot home, data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency shows.
Flood insurance protects your home and other property against flood-related damages. As most home insurance companies don’t offer this type of coverage as an add-on, you’ll most likely have to purchase a standalone flood insurance policy.
The National Flood Insurance Program offers policies that you can purchase through an insurance carrier or private insurance company.
Keep an up-to-date inventory list
Having a list of everything you own can take some of the pain out of filing an insurance claim and help you get the most out of your policy.
Make an inventory list that includes all of the major items in your home with their dates of purchase and how much you paid for them. Then, snap photos of all the items on your list. If you have receipts for your items, store them alongside your inventory list. These documents can help you get more money from your insurance company to replace your damaged possessions after a weather-related disaster.