Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tornado Damage?

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Cara Carlone
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If you live in a part of the country that experiences quite a lot of tornado activity, you might be asking yourself if homeowners insurance offers coverage for tornado damage.

Yes, homeowners insurance does cover tornado damage. If you’d like to learn more about what’s covered by your home insurance policy regarding tornados, keep reading. With more than twenty years of helping consumers gain a greater knowledge of what homeowners insurance is all about, I’m here to help you better understand your coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance typically provides coverage for tornado and wind damage

  • Insurance coverage for tornado damage provides dwelling coverage, which is damage to the actual physical structure of your house, as well as structures on your property that are not attached to your house

  • Your home insurance policy also provides coverage for personal belongings due to tornado damage, often a specific percentage of your dwelling coverage

Does Your Home Insurance Include Coverage For Tornado Damage?

Tornado damage is generally covered by homeowners insurance. It’s important to know that not only is your house itself covered; but your personal property, unattached structures on your property such as fences, sheds or barns, too.

Additionally, if your house is unlivable due to tornado damage, your insurance will typically pay meals, hotel bills, and other costs including laundry services, pet boarding fees and more.

In most cases, your payment for additional living expenses will be a percentage of the amount of coverage on your home. For instance, if your home is insured for $200,000, and your policy states that you have 30% of your dwelling’s insurance coverage  for additional living expenses, you would have up to $60,000 to spend on these expenses.

What Losses Are Covered By Home Insurance For Tornado Damage?

There are many possible scenarios in which tornado damage is covered by your home insurance policy. Here are a few examples:

  • Hail damage
  • Fire damage
  • Fallen trees
  • Broken windows
  • Debris removal
  • Roof repair or replacement
  • Food spoilage
  • Wind driven rain damage
  • Mold from wind driven rain

Note: Some homeowner insurance policies have a separate deductible for hurricanes or wind storms. The deductible might be a percentage of your dwelling amount, so check your deductible before you file a claim. You don’t want to file a claim if your deductible is going to be more than the amount of the damage.

When Is Tornado Damage Not Covered By Home Insurance?

While tornado damage is covered by home insurance policies, you should note that water damage caused by flooding is not covered. So, if you live in Tornado Alley or any place in the United States that is prone to heavy tornado and wind activity, it might be prudent to invest in additional coverage for flooding and wind damage.

In the same vein, your vehicles will not be covered for tornado damage by your homeowners insurance policy, which means you will want to have your vehicles covered by separate insurance. A comprehensive auto insurance policy will cover tornado damage.

If your home is flooded due to a tornado, your homeowners insurance is unlikely to settle a claim.

To cover all the bases, it would be a wise move to purchase additional coverage for flooding, especially if you live in an area that’s at high risk for tornadoes.

What Should You Do If There Is Tornado Damage To Your Home?

First, call your utilities department to get electricity, water, and natural or propane gas shut off. If your home appears to have structural damage, stay out. Don’t go in because you could be injured, or worse, if the building or roof collapses on you.

If you do go inside, be sure to wear heavy boots with thick soles to protect against broken glass, exposed nails and other debris that could cause an injury.

Notify your insurance company. You can contact the company’s claims department, local office, or agent, and let them know about the damage.

If emergency repairs need to be made in order to avoid further damage, such as getting a tarp over a damaged roof, for instance, take care of those repairs. Otherwise, don’t make any non-emergency repairs until the insurance adjuster has come and gone.

Document all of the tornado damage. Take photos, and possibly videos as well, that clearly show the damage.

After an insurance adjuster has made an assessment of the damages, file a claim.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. experienced 1,376 tornadoes last year, which was double the previous record. Texas has the highest number of tornadoes, but these extreme weather events are increasing almost everywhere in the country.

So, you can see why having the right type and amount of homeowners insurance is vitally important to safeguarding your assets.

Are There Ways To  Avoid Tornado Damage?

You can’t avoid a tornado. However, there are steps you can take that might help minimize the damage. These tips might also come in handy if you file a claim with your home insurance company following a tornado.

  • Make an inventory of your belongings. Take photos and keep receipts with your inventory list. This will facilitate matters if you have to file a claim.
  • Keep dead limbs trimmed off any trees close to your house, and cut any dead trees. Both of these could add to damage if a tornado comes through.
  • Move items like lawn furniture inside if a tornado is likely, so that it doesn’t get blown into your house and cause damage.
  • If you live in “Tornado Alley” which is the central United States from the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Appalachian Mountains to the east, or the Southeast, you might think about installing storm proof shutters on the windows of your home.
  • Check your policy to be sure it doesn’t have a windstorm exclusion, which could apply to a tornado. If it does, talk to an agent about purchasing extra coverage.

Besides making sure your home insurance policy doesn’t exclude tornados or windstorms, check to see if it has a separate wind deductible for tornado/windstorm damage.

When To File A Home Insurance Claim For Tornado Damage?

There is no cut-and-dried answer to this question because there are several factors to take into consideration.

For example, if your deductible is $2,500 and the tornado damage to your home is $2,000, you wouldn’t be gaining a thing by filing a claim. However, if your damages from a tornado are more than your deductible, it comes down to how much more. Naturally, if your home is completely demolished along with all of its contents, you would certainly want to file a claim.

Heads up: Your home insurance provider won’t pay your claim until you pay your deductible.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do file a claim, chances are your premium will increase. You’ll have to weigh all of the pros and cons of filing a claim and then make your decision.

How Do You File An Insurance Claim For Tornado Damage?

Filing a claim for tornado damage is basically the same as filing any other type of claim.

Note: Some insurers have separate deductibles for wind or hurricane losses. These  deductibles may be a percentage of your home’s dwelling limit and not a flat amount. Always look at the correct deductible before deciding whether the damage is more than that amount.

Here are some steps you need to take when filing a claim for tornado damage:

  • Notify your insurance provider as quickly as possible. Take photos of the damage, along with thorough notes. The insurance carrier will send a claims adjuster to assess the amount of damage.
  • Make a copy of your inventory list of personal belongings to give the adjuster, along with photos of the items and photos of the damage to your home and/or outside structures.
  • Get estimates in writing for repairs caused by the tornado damage.
  • If your home is unlivable after a tornado and you have to seek shelter elsewhere, be sure to keep all receipts for housing as well as food and personal items that were destroyed. Don’t overlook things such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, clothing, shoes, and assorted toiletry items like shampoo. Keep your receipts and be sure to turn these expenses over to your insurer.

Are There Additional Types Of Coverage Available For Tornado Damage?

Yes, there are, and if you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, it might be prudent to check into some of them.

A lot of homeowners purchase a separate policy for additional coverage of wind storm damage, especially in parts of the country that experience wind storms and tornadoes.

You might also consider getting an endorsement that will pay for damage caused by a tornado. Even though most homeowners insurance will cover tornado damage, when it comes to insurance it’s better to have too much than too little.

Most home insurance pays a fixed percentage, usually 30%, for loss or damage of your personal belongings due to a covered peril. While this percentage is better than nothing, anyone with valuable items such as an art collection or fine jewelry might do well to purchase additional insurance that will cover the actual value of the items

FAQs

Can you buy separate insurance coverage for tornado damage?

Yes, it is possible to secure separate coverage for tornado damage. You might also get an endorsement, or rider, to your homeowners policy that will provide extra coverage for tornado damage.

According to USA Today, the average cost of homeowners insurance is between $1116 and $2949 annually, depending on where you live. In Texas, where they have the most tornado and windstorm activity in the nation, a separate policy to cover windstorm or tornado damage averages around $1749 per year.

Does a standard home insurance policy cover tornado damage?

Yes, it does. However, if your home is flooded during a tornado, you can’t count on having coverage since the majority of policies do not cover flooding.

Sources

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