Understanding Your Coverage
It is important to review your policies yearly and especially prior to the start of the Atlantic Tropical Storm season which runs from June 1 through November 30. Review your policy with an agent or contact the Connecticut Insurance Department to understand what is covered and what your coverage limits are to ensure you are adequate protection. Keep your policies and insurance contact information in a safe place should your property be damaged and you have to make a claim.
To help you better understand what a standard homeowner’s policy generally covers, here are some of the commonly asked storm-related questions.
Inquiry: If my tree is blown over or falls by the wind, snow or ice and damages my neighbor’s property, does my policy pay to fix the damage? What if the tree damages my house? What if the tree is blown over but no structure is damaged?
Answer: The policy does not automatically pay for the neighbor’s property. The neighbor should file a claim with his own insurer. If the owner of the tree is sued by his neighbor, the liability section of the homeowner’s policy will respond with defense coverage, and payment if the owner is found negligent. This is where the "Act of God" phrase applies. The tree owner is legally liable for the damage only if his negligence caused the tree to fall. Otherwise, it is an "Act of God" which would be covered under the neighbor’s Section I Property Coverage of the homeowner’s policy.
If the tree falls on your own house, damage to the house is covered. The insurance policy covers the cost to remove the tree from the house. Generally, the cost to remove the tree from the premises is covered up to $500 so long as the tree damaged a covered structure.
If the tree is blown over and does no damage to structures, there is no coverage for the tree and no coverage to remove the tree from the premises.
Inquiry: The food in my freezer went bad because I lost power. Does my homeowner’s policy provide coverage for this?
Answer: The basic homeowner policy usually does not. However, this is a popular coverage for insurance companies to offer and you may be able to buy this coverage for a nominal additional premium. Some policies are limited to coverage for electricity lost in the home or where the electricity enters the home. Others will limit coverage to within so many yards from the home. Your agent should be able to tell you about the availability of coverage and how much it would cost.
TEMPORARY LIVING EXPENSES
Inquiry: Does my insurance cover me for hotel expenses if I am forced out of my home to due to loss of power?
Answer: Generally, no. Standard homeowners’ policies provide coverage only for "Additional Living Expenses" if a loss covered by the policy damages the structure making it uninhabitable. Coverage is for any necessary increase in living expenses such as a hotel stay or the increased cost of meals. If you are without power due to a widespread power outage occurring away from your property, homeowners insurance does not cover additional living expenses. But because policies differ, homeowners it is important to check with your agent or insurance company to be sure.
Inquiry: My house is not fit to live in due to storm damage. Does the company pay for my motel and restaurant bills?
Answer: The HO policy includes coverage for "additional living expense" in the event you cannot live in your home due to a covered loss. This includes the cost for motel rooms, a food allowance (remember normal food bills stop) and other living costs in excess of what would have existed had the home not been damaged, such as increased transportation.
Inquiry: Does a homeowner’s policy cover loss by windstorm even though the storm is an "Act of God".
The homeowner’s policy covers damage to the homeowner’s property caused by events even though the cause is described as an "Act of God." On the "all perils" form 3 policy, all perils are covered unless the peril is specifically excluded. On the form 2 policy, the covered perils are named in the policy.
Inquiry: Does a homeowner’s policy cover loss by windstorm even after the storm is classified a tornado or a hurricane?
The homeowners policy covers loss caused by windstorm regardless of how the windstorm is classified, i.e. hurricane, tornado, cyclone, etc.
Inquiry: Do all homeowner’s policies have wind deductibles?
Some property owners may have a separate windstorm, hail, or hurricane deductible. Because there are a variety of deductible endorsement options, when there is a property claim involving a loss due to wind, hail or hurricane, it is important to review the deductibles that are indicated on the declarations page of the policy as well as any specific deductible endorsement forms. The deductible can be either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the Coverage A., Dwelling limit. The deductible may be applicable only for designated hurricanes or when wind speeds reach specific limits.
Inquiry: The stream in back of my property overflowed the banks. My basement is flooded and furniture is damaged. Am I covered?
Not unless you have a Flood Insurance Policy. The homeowner’s policy excludes damage caused by flooding, such as the overflow of streams, rivers and lakes, etc. Flood policies are subject to rules established by the Federal Government. Normally you cannot purchase a Flood policy immediately before or after a flood or hurricane.
Inquiry: I own a business that has been forced to shut down because of a power outage. Am I covered for these losses?
Answer: Commercial Policies are specialized. Call your agent or company to discuss the coverages on your policy. Coverage for losses are specific to the individual policy language and the specific fact pattern of the loss, off-site power interruption is not usually a covered Business Interruption loss unless there is an endorsement purchased for that specific coverage often called “Service Interruption Coverage.” Standard Business Interruption coverage normally pays for losses resulting from direct damages to the insured location for a loss covered under the policy.