insurance

Insurance Coverage for Summer Storm Damage

“If my home is damaged by a summer storm, will my insurance cover repairs?”

Where water-related damage is concerned, the answer depends on whether the water came from above or below. In general, if the damage was caused by wind-driven rain that came in through your roof, windows or doors, your insurance will cover the cost of repairs.

But if the damage is caused by flooding, a far more common problem during storm season, your homeowners insurance will not cover it. The only way to protect yourself from flood-related damage is to buy flood insurance from the federal National Flood Insurance Program. Premiums range from about $200 a year to more than $2,000, depending on your area’s risk of flooding.

Never assume you don’t need flood insurance just because you don’t live in a coastal area. In 2011, torrential rainfall from Hurricane Irene caused widespread flooding throughout the Northeast. Vermont was hard hit, and many of the victims didn’t have flood insurance. “A lot of Vermont residents never thought they’d be involved in major flooding,” says Richard McGrath, chief executive of McGrath Insurance Group, in Sturbridge, Mass.

You can purchase federal flood insurance through a local insurance agent. Don’t wait until storm clouds gather to buy a policy; typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before premiums take effect. For price quotes, go to FloodSmart.gov.

Sewage backup. If heavy rains overwhelm your storm-water system, sewage could back up into your house -- an expensive and smelly mess. Most standard homeowners policies don’t include sewage-backup coverage, but you can purchase a rider that will pay for $10,000 to $20,000 of damages for about $50 to $75 a year,
McGrath says.

Damage from trees. Old-growth trees lose their charm in a hurry when lightning, wind or heavy rain knocks them down. If the tree hits your house, garage or other insured structure, the damage is usually covered by your homeowners insurance, says Jeanne Salvatore, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.

Damage from a neighbor’s tree -- or even from one a block away that was uprooted in a windstorm -- is also covered. If your insurer believes your neighbor contributed to the problem by failing to take care of the tree, it may try to collect against your neighbor’s policy, Salvatore says. In that case, you could get a break on all or part of your deductible. But it works both ways: If your tree damages your neighbor’s property, you could be held responsible. Your insurer could refuse to cover damage to your property if it believes you were negligent.

Most policies won’t pay to remove a tree that falls in your yard but doesn’t hit anything -- although you may be eligible for some coverage if the fallen tree blocks your driveway or prevents you from getting into your house.

Get a tax break? You may be able to recover some of the costs your insurance doesn’t reimburse when you file your taxes.

Losses from hurricanes, floods and other disasters that aren’t covered by your policy are deductible, as long as you itemize. You won’t be able to deduct the entire amount of your losses, however. First, you’ll have to reduce the amount of your loss by $100. Then, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds 10% of your adjusted gross income. For example, if you suffered $20,000 in unreimbursed losses and your AGI is $100,000, you would subtract $100, then subtract $10,000 (10% of your AGI) from the $19,900 balance, bringing your deduction to $9,900.

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