Deductibles Different For Hurricane Damage
Out-of-pocket costs often higher for hurricanes than other kinds of damage.
Editor's Note: This story was first posted last year, following Hurricane Irene.
Massachusetts residents whose property is damaged by Hurricane Sandy may discover they’ll be paying more for repairs than expected.
The Associated Press reports that most homeowner insurance policies include a deductible that’s typically $500 to $1,000, but out-of-pocket expenses for hurricane damages can be much higher.
“In 18 states on the East and Gulf coasts, insurers are allowed to include hurricane deductibles in homeowners policies," the AP reported. "These amounts apply only to hurricane-caused damage, and typically range from 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value of a home. Deductibles may be higher in some coastal areas. For example, a policyholder whose home is insured for $200,000 with a 2 percent hurricane deductible would have to pay the first $4,000 to repair hurricane damage.”
And if you have flooding, that’s an entirely different problem, insurance-wise. The AP said that flood-related damage from a hurricane may not be covered unless the policy holder has flood insurance. Damage to your car will be covered only if you have comprehensive insurance.
If you need some advice on what to do next, the Massachusetts Division of Insurance set up consumer hotlines to handle homeowners’ questions about the hurricane. The number is 617-521-7777. If you call, have a book or magazine handy. Patch called the number and gave up after being on hold for 10 minutes.
The DOI website provided two other phone numbers for consumers with questions, but they were of no help Sunday. The recording on the main office number, 617-521-7794, will tell you that office hours are Monday through Friday. The other number, at 888-563-4467, is out of service.
The DOI website has an online brochure with tips to take after the storm. Here are the main ones:
--BE SAFE! Never try to re-enter your home or attempt any repairs until it is safe to do so.
--Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
--While you wait for the insurance claims adjuster, take action to prevent further damage to your property — cover holes in the roof and windows and remove as much water as possible from the house. Do not make permanent repairs until the adjuster has inspected the property.
--Make sure your address is visible from the street. One idea: paint your insurance company name, your policy number and your temporary address on a sheet of plywood.
--Move important papers and items not covered by insurance to a safer location.
--Take photographs of the damage. This is especially important if you must throw away items of value that are bacteria-laden or move items before insurance adjuster has seen them.
Residents who don't have hurricane insurance but who sustain losses may qualify for federally subsidized loans, if the resident is in an area the president declares a disaster. Small Business Administration handles these loans. Details of that program are in the attached PDF.