By Katha Treanor
The 2021 hurricane season already has had a busy start with eight named storms and one reaching hurricane strength. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians that late August to early October is often the most dangerous and active time for tropical storm activity – and the potential property damage those storms can cause.
If you have not already reviewed your property insurance, the Bureau urges Virginians to do so now as the hurricane season is underway. Whether you’re a homeowner, renter or business, protect yourself financially by making sure you have the coverage you need before disaster strikes.
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30. Even areas hundreds of miles from the coast can be impacted by the high winds, heavy rains and flooding that accompany hurricanes and tropical storms. You may have a difficult time increasing your insurance coverage once a hurricane develops and until the threat has passed, so review your coverage now and make any necessary changes.
“Disasters can happen anywhere and anytime. Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect yourself and your property from a hurricane or other disaster,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Assess your risk now and make sure you have the coverage you need before a storm begins to brew.”
The Bureau encourages Virginians to talk to their insurance agent or company if they have questions about what is and is not covered, how to reduce property damage and what to do if damage does occur.
Most homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies do not cover losses due to flooding. Talk to your insurance agent about flood insurance or visit the National Flood Insurance Program’s website at www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about protecting your home or business from damage due to floods, surface water or storm surge. There is typically a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect.
The Bureau also encourages Virginians to create a detailed home inventory with photos, videos and serial numbers of your belongings. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) free smartphone app can facilitate this process. Place your insurance policies and home inventory in a safe place and take them with you if you must evacuate. These records will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
If your property is damaged by a hurricane, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. To protect your property from further damage, make necessary emergency repairs. Document all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
Policyholders should consider the following questions related to potential hurricane damage when reviewing their policies:
- Does your homeowners policy contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses? These deductibles are applied separately from any other deductible on a homeowners policy and may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or applied to a loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling.
- Does your homeowners policy provide coverage for such things as sewer backup? Most homeowners policies do not provide coverage for sewer backup, but policyholders may purchase additional coverage for this.
- Are vehicles covered in the event of a hurricane or windstorm? If you have other-than-collision (or comprehensive) coverage for your vehicle under your automobile policy, your vehicles generally will be covered for flood and wind damage.
To learn more, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185. The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. The Bureau also offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These are available on the disaster readiness section of its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Disaster-Readiness.
For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at www.vaemergency.gov.