Hurricane Ian should be a reminder to everyone that it’s a good idea to check up on your homeowners insurance every now and then.

That’s because your coverage may be much less than you think, and you won’t know that until after a windstorm or flood.

Jasiah Jouett watched as this tree fell on her neighbor’s home this past summer. “I saw the tree fall and I knew people lived in there, and wanted to make sure everyone was OK,” she told us, while surveying the damage from a toppled giant oak tree.

Luckily everyone was fine. But after Hurricane Ian, and many storms these days, homeowners are discovering they will have to pay thousands of dollars for storm cleanup.

Exclusions in policies can cost you thousands. That’s because most insurance policies do not cover trees downed by wind, according to Jennifer Pike of the Insurance Board.

“If a tree comes down in your yard and it causes no damage, but just falls in your yard, unfortunately that falls on you,” she said. And the cost to cut up and remove a large tree can exceed $2,000.

Pike says if a tree hit your roof, or the wind ripped off shingles, your homeowners insurance should cover cleanup and repair costs.

However, if a tree lands in your yard without damaging anything else……you are typically not covered…. unless you have paid extra for an add-on rider for tree and landscaping (typically a couple of hundred dollars a year).

Even if your policy will pick up the pieces after a storm, what kind of coverage you have makes a big difference.

Pike says an inexpensive, basic policy may not want to pay for top quality windows, real wood siding, or granite counters during a rebuild, even if your home had that before.

She says you should try to have “full replacement” coverage, which will restore everything in today’s dollars, not what you paid for the house 15 years ago.

“You want to have replacement cost,” she said, “because if you have actual cash value they are going to take depreciation off the total value.” So the rebuild may not be at today’s prices.

Finally, many Hurricane Ian victims are discovering they weren’t covered for the water damage to their homes, because flood insurance is a completely different policy, and it is only mandatory if you live in a flood zone.

While you may not want to pay for full flood insurance (which can cost an additional $500 or more), you may want to consider drain backup protection, which will cover damage caused by storm waters backing up your basement drain or toilets.

What to check for. The Insurance Insitute says you may want to find out if you are covered for the following events, and — if not — what it would cost you.

Wind damage.
Flood damage.
Earthquakes.
Downed trees in your yard.
Water backup from municipal sewers.
Full replacement costs.

Your best bet: Give your agent a call and see if you are covered for floods, fallen trees, and full replacement cost, so you don’t waste your money. Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).
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