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What Damage From a Winter Storm Does Your Home Insurance Cover?



The northern hemisphere is firmly into the fall season, which means it’s time to prep your home for the winter. Seal up any gaps around your windowsprotect your pipesset your thermostat to a money-saving schedule and learn how to safely use a space heater. If your area is prone to dangerous winter storms, prepare to safely weather any power outages. And if you have pets, learn how to prepare to get those furry friends through a storm, too.

Ideally, your home will protect you from the effects of a winter storm, but it can sustain some damage itself. In this case, you’ll turn to your home insurance to help cover the cost of repairs. But the world of insurance can be a confusing, daunting place. And, it’s always better to know ahead of time what will be covered before damage occurs. Read on for some tips deciphering your home insurance policy and what to do if a winter storm gets the best of your home this season.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on heating and electricity through the winter, consider using your ceiling fan to move warm air to you and unplugging appliances. It turns out small changes can make a big difference.

Reading your home insurance policy

If you pay for home insurance, you should have received a declarations page among your policy documents. On it you’ll find what’s covered in your policy under the categories dwelling, other structures, personal property, loss of use, liability and medical coverage. Each of these categories, while fairly self-evident, could use a bit more explanation. While the below explanations are in broad strokes, it’s always the best practice to confirm independently what your policy does and does not cover.


Coverage of your dwelling covers damage to your house. A strong wind rips shingles off your roof? That’s under your dwelling coverage. A cold snap freezes a poorly insulated pipe, which floods your basement when it thaws? That’s under dwelling too. A speeding car slips on an icy road and does damage to your deck? Dwelling coverage.

If you’re thinking about damage to your house, it’s likely covered under you dwelling coverage.

Other structures

This is like dwelling coverage for, well, other structures: a garage, a pool house or a fence.

Personal property

Personal property coverage covers the stuff you own that might be damaged by a claimable incident. If a frozen pipe floods your basement and destroys a pool table, those items are covered here.

Loss of use

If damage to your house is so severe that you can’t live there for a while, loss of use coverage will help cover your expenses of finding a new, temporary place.


Home owners policies often include some exclusions. Common inclusions cover floods, mold, maintenance issues or earthquakes. Winter storm related damages should be covered, though it’s best to confirm in your policy.

What damage will your policy cover

Damage from hazards like winter storms should be covered by your homeowners policy, though there are exclusions, mentioned above. High winds, cold temperatures and heavy snow should be covered, as should be ice- and snow-covered trees falling and doing damage to your roof.

While most damage should be covered, how it’s covered might vary.

When you file a claim for a covered damage, your insurance company will typically pay you the replacement cost or the actual cash value.

If your insurance company pays you the actual cash value, it’ll pay you what your belongings are worth, minus any depreciation like wear and tear. This will be a smaller amount than what you would get if you were paid the replacement cost. Replacement cost is just what it sounds like: the cost to replace what was damaged or lost with a new, similar item. If an ice storm breaks a window and damages a couch, the replacement cost is how much it costs to buy a new one of similar quality. If it comes to rebuilding your house, replacement cost is what it will take to rebuild it to a similar quality today.

How to avoid winter storm damage

While you certainly don’t want to deal with a damaged house without home insurance, it’s certainly better to avoid it all together. While homeowners can’t control the weather, there are things they can do to lower the odds it does damage.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners suggests protecting your home before a winter storm arrives. Protecting your home includes pruning trees and branches, clearing gutters and properly insulating your house.

Pruning trees and branches can keep them from damaging your roof if they break during an ice or snow storm. Clearing gutters helps them do their job of carrying water away from your house and your roof. If an ice dam forms and block your gutters, water will back up onto your roof. If it thaws and freezes there, it can work its way under the shingles and damage your roof.

Making sure your attic has proper insulation and that your attic is properly ventilated will help with this too. Insulating your pipes, especially in colder parts of your home, can help avoid damage from burst pipes.

While you can’t guarantee a winter storm won’t damage your house, taking these steps will help avoid it. You can also take steps to avoid high energy bills throughout the winter. You can lower your thermostat while staying comfortableemploy your ceiling fan and weatherstrip your windows and doors.

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The 10 States Where Home Insurance Rates are Rising the Fastest

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Home Insurance

The 10 States Where Home Insurance Rates are Rising the Fastest



Americans continue to feel the sting of rising prices. As measured by the Consumer Price Index, inflation is up 8.3% over the past 12 months. But some costs are increasing much faster.

Take homeowners insurance premiums. The cost to insure your home is up 12.1% on the year, according to Policygenius. And depending on where you live, things may be even worse: Homeowners in three states have seen their premiums rise at more than double the pace of inflation.

Additionally, rising costs of building materials means that things could be more expensive than expected if you actually have to use your insurance.

“It’s a two-tailed effect,” says Pat Howard, managing editor and licensed property and casualty insurance expert at Policygenius. “Not only are premiums getting more expensive, but with replacement costs going up, you could end up underinsured as a result.”

Here are the 10 states where home insurance premiums have seen the largest year-over-year increase, according to Policygenius.

  1. Arkansas: 18.5%
  2. Washington: 18.1%
  3. Colorado: 17.5%
  4. Texas: 16.0%
  5. Oregon: 15.4%
  6. Arizona: 14.8%
  7. Utah: 14.1%
  8. Minnesota: 13.9%
  9. North Carolina: 13.7%
  10. Illinois: 13.6%

Arkansas’ pace-setting increase amounts to a $228 hike to the average annual premium from 2021, bringing the average annual cost for a policy up to $1,235.

The largest increase in terms of raw dollar amount belongs to Oklahoma, with Sooners forking over $257 more per household than they did in 2021. The smallest increase belongs to New York, whose residents saw a bump of $57.

Re-shop your policy to protect yourself from inflation

Sky-high inflation is one of the main culprits behind the increase in premiums. Home insurance coverage is based on the cost to rebuild your home, and that may have gone up drastically as the price of many building materials has risen and supply chain issues have made the building process more expensive.

“Diesel fuel, copper, brass, lumber — all of these things have a bearing on what it costs to replace a home,” says Loretta Worters, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. “Plus, you don’t have enough contractors. And if supply is lower, that means they’re charging more.”

The other big factor hiking your premiums: increasingly common natural disasters. Damage from tornados, hurricanes, storms, wildfires and other natural disasters so far amounts to more than $88 billion a year in the 2020s, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s a marked uptick from $52 billion in average annual losses in the 2010s and $37 billion in the 2000s.

If you own a home, especially in a natural disaster-prone area, what can you do? First, check to make sure you’re adequately covered. Your insurance payout should cover the rebuilding cost of your house, not its current market value.

“Your house could be worth $1 million, but it could cost much more to replace it,” says Worters.

Even if you think you’re properly insured, it’s worth checking in regularly, says Howard.

“Say your home is insured for $250,000. You renewed your policy three months ago and were assured this was the rebuild value,” he says. “But lumber increased 15% in those three months. Now your home costs $300,000 to rebuild, and if it’s destroyed, you’re going to be out $50,000 out-of-pocket.”

If, after talking with your insurance agent, you determine you’re adequately covered, start to explore ways you can lower your premium. Your current agent may be able to help on that front, says Howard.

“They’re likely to look at what discounts you’re eligible for, which will vary from state to state,” he says. “Maybe you have a home security system or a smart home or a water leak censor. One of those could be a 10% discount.”

Beyond that, shop around with different insurance carriers to see if a new firm would be willing to offer you a cheaper premium. “Now more than ever, we’re recommending reaching out and exploring all your options to see if you can get a lower rate,” says Howard.

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Car Insurance

Property Insurance Market Set for Tough Renewals



Property insurers were already looking for rate hikes prior to Hurricane Ian hitting the Gulf Coast of Florida last month and big losses from the storm look likely to make a difficult renewal for commercial policyholders even worse.

While many of the losses from Ian, which various modelers say could result in more than $50 billion in insured losses, will hit auto and homeowners insurers hard, commercial insurers operating in Florida are also expected to pay significant amounts in storm-related claims.

In addition, reinsurers, which support insurers operating nationwide, are expected to see big losses and will pass on some of those costs to insurers and ultimately policyholders through higher rates at Jan. 1 renewals, according to insurance industry executives attending the Insurance Leadership Forum in Colorado Springs last week.

The conference, organized annually by the Washington-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, is a key market meeting that draws top executives from insurers, brokers, reinsurers and other industry companies.

“The property market, particularly property cat, was already in a massive transition where everyone was expecting 1/1 to be a difficult date,” said Mike Karmilowicz, New York-based CEO of Everest Insurance, a unit of Everest Re Group Ltd.

Changes in terms and conditions for reinsurance will likely have a negative effect on available insurance capacity, he said.

Prior to the storm, property rates were expected to rise, said Mike Rice, CEO of CAC Specialty.

“A lot of people were saying they thought rates probably were going to go up 10 points, but after Ian maybe it’s 20 points,” he said.

“There’s clearly a prognosis that the market is going to get more disruptive as we go into 2023,” said Kevin Smith, president of global risk solutions, North America, at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. “Capacity is going to be very, very valuable and who’s going to deploy it and where is yet to be determined, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be a tumultuous market.”

Year-end renewals were looking difficult before Hurricane Ian struck and losses from the storm likely mean that renewals will be even tougher for reinsurance cedents and primary insurance buyers, said Mike Kerner, CEO of Munich Re Specialty Insurance, a Princeton, New Jersey-based unit of Munich Reinsurance Co.

Higher demand for catastrophe coverage as valuations have increased due to inflation, the strength of the dollar reducing available U.S. capacity for some overseas insurers, and climate concerns were already putting pressure on the market, he said.

Already some insurers are making changes in pricing, said Neil Kessler, Dallas-based president and chief operating officer of CRC Insurance Services Inc.

The property market will continue to be challenging in all states, said Paul Smith, Parsipanny, New Jersey-based senior vice president, carrier relations, at H.W. Kaufman Financial Group Inc.

Little new capacity is entering the market, he said. In addition, “Existing insurers are looking to make sure that they deploy their capital in a very careful and methodical way,” he said.

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Home Insurance

Protect your Personal Finances from Natural Disasters



Hurricane Ian is shaping up to be the costliest Florida hurricane since Andrew in 1992. Wind and storm surge damage in the state are estimated between $28 billion and $47 billion dollars, according to a Sept. 29 estimate from CoreLogic. With that level of destruction, property owners are advised to make any claims to insurance quickly.

“The problem with hurricanes is that hundreds of thousands of people can be affected, so it may take time to get the help you need,” said certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida, who experienced the impact of Ian directly.


Tap emergency resources

Reach out to the Federal Emergency Management AgencyDisaster Assistance Improvement Program and the American Red Cross, as well as state and local governments, for emergency assistance. You may also find help in your community.

“Disasters bring people together,” McClanahan said. “People are really good at helping people.

“If you have the ability to help, do it,” she added. “It may be you who needs help one day.”

Contact mortgage and other lenders if you may have trouble making loan payments.

Prepare for insurance claims

If you’re going to file an insurance claim, inventory the damage before you start cleaning up.

Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, but hold off on permanent repairs until you’ve gotten approval for reimbursement. Keep a written record of the name of everyone you talk to about your claim, including the date of the conversation and summary of what was said. And keep all receipts.

Understand your flood benefits

Floods, including those from a storm surge, are not covered by most standard insurance policies. Coverage for floods requires a separate policy, either from the federally based National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer. There is a 30-day waiting period before flood coverage is effective.

Flood insurance for autos is an option under the comprehensive portion of a policy.

Know your deductible

Many property owners in Florida will face a “hurricane deductible,” which is different than the standard insurance deductible. It’s typically a percentage of the property value.

“If you have a $300,000 house, you could have a $15,000 hurricane deductible before the insurance starts paying,” said Bob Rusbuldt, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

After Hurricane Ian, Rusbuldt predicts, it will be difficult for consumers to find property insurance.

Many will now be facing even higher premiums and deductibles and may have to find a new insurance company if theirs pulls out. Many Florida property owners already have insurance through Citizens, Florida’s state-run insurer of last resort.

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