Hurricane damage is one of the largest concerns shared by Florida homeowners. That’s understandable, considering how many major hurricanes have torn through Florida in recent years. For example, in 2004, a whopping four major hurricanes hit Florida. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused at least $4 billion in damage to Florida and other areas.

As a Florida homeowner, the best way you can prepare for hurricane damage is through homeowners insurance. But did you know that many insurance policies don’t cover hurricane damage?

Here’s what you need to know about selecting, maintaining, and filing homeowners insurance for hurricanes.

Selecting Hurricane Insurance

There are two ways to get hurricane insurance. The first is through a special flood-insurance policy, and the second is through standard homeowners insurance.

Flood Insurance

You can ensure coverage for hurricane damage by purchasing a special kind of insurance called flood insurance. In fact, if you live in a high-risk area, your lender might require you to take out flood insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program offers flood insurance to areas that are prone to hurricane damage. Flood insurance can cover up to $100,000 for your possessions and up to $250,000 for your property.

Keep in mind that flood insurance covers only flood-related damage caused by natural disasters. It doesn’t cover things like flooding from your plumbing or your landscaping.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, ask your insurance agent to help you locate the right flood insurance policy.

Standard Homeowners Insurance

What if you don’t qualify for flood insurance or don’t want to take out a flood-insurance policy? You might be able to rely on your standard homeowners insurance.

A standard homeowners insurance policy might cover some of the damage caused by hurricanes—but not all. You should review your policy thoroughly to determine what coverage it offers and what coverage it excludes. You don’t want to have your home damaged in a hurricane only to find out your insurance company can’t help.

Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. If your home or possessions are ruined by a hurricane’s water, your policy might not cover the costs of the damage.

Most homeowners insurance policies do cover wind-related damage. Examine your policy carefully, though—many policies don’t cover wind-related damage caused by hurricanes.

If you want coverage specific for hurricane damage, your insurance company may offer a separate hurricane deductible. You can pay more to attach hurricane coverage to your policy.

Understanding Your Hurricane Insurance Policy

Once you’ve chosen the right hurricane insurance policy, you’ll need to make sure the policy covers all your needs.

Hurricane insurance policies typically cover both structural damage and personal property damage. They’ll cover up to $250,000 in structural damage and $100,000 in damage to your belongings.

Your policy might not cover very valuable items like jewelry and precious metals. Your policy might also not cover temporary housing if your home isn’t livable. Make sure to meet with your insurance agent so you understand all the details of your policy.

Maintaining Your Hurricane Insurance Policy

As long as you pay your regular insurance premiums, your insurance company cannot cancel your insurance policy. However, the company can decide not to renew your policy when it expires.

Take a few steps to ensure renewal of your policy:

  1. Don’t file an insurance claim for every small home repair, especially within a short time period.
  2. Schedule yearly home checkups, which can pinpoint small problems in your home. Fixing small problems before they become larger problems can help you avoid making claims more often than necessary.
  3. Always pay your premium on time.

Following these steps can ensure your hurricane insurance protects you when you most need it.

Filing a Hurricane Claim

When a hurricane does occur and you need to use your insurance policy, follow these steps.

  1. Don’t try to survey the damage yourself. Leave for a safe place and call for emergency help if necessary.
  2. Contact your insurance company. Some companies let you start the claims process online.
  3. Keep a record of all your expenses. This includes not only home repairs but also personal costs such as staying at a hotel, buying food, or buying new clothing after the disaster.
  4. If it’s safe to return to your home, take pictures of the damage.
  5. Go over the damage with the insurance agent who contacts you.

Keep in mind that after a hurricane, many people file claims at the same time. Although insurance companies have procedures in place to work quickly after a disaster, it may still take a significant amount of time to finalize your claim.

If you need home insurance for hurricanes, call Metropolitan Insurance Service Consultants. We offer a wide variety of affordable and comprehensive insurance options. If you live in hurricane territory, we can help connect you with the right insurance policy to give you peace of mind.