How to Find Insurance Coverage in Disaster-Prone Areas

It can be difficult to find insurance in disaster-prone places, but these steps can help.

A damaged highway bridge near Barstow, California.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's been a difficult year in weather, and there's still plenty of time left in wildfire and hurricane season. Hurricane Idalia swept through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, potentially leaving behind billions of dollars in storm damage, while Maui is recovering from deadly wildfires that devastated the island. Otherwise this year, the West and Northeast have dealt with extreme flooding, while the South and Midwest have handled heat waves and tornado outbreaks. 

It all makes it seem that much more pressing to make sure your insurance coverage is up to date — but for some regions, insurance may be hard to find precisely because of the natural risks typical to the area, making insurance companies averse. 

If you live in a state where insurers are leaving the market, you still have options, says Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. 

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If you already have a policy with an insurer that leaves the state, you won’t lose your coverage and should be able to renew it. Worters also says that in most parts of these states, there are still insurers competing for your business.  

Finding coverage can be more challenging in a high-risk region, such as a forested area recently hit by wildfires. Worters suggests first contacting a broker representing your area’s remaining insurers. 

It’s possible that even if standard policies are unavailable, you could buy something called excess and surplus insurance. These policies charge higher premiums, but that’s not uncommon in high-risk areas. The premium increase is set on a case-by-case basis and depends on the level of risk in your area and your past insurance claims history, Worters says. 

To offset the higher premiums, State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips recommends taking every risk-mitigation step possible, such as rebuilding your roof with fire-resistant materials and maintaining a defensible zone around your property by removing leaves, debris and other flammable materials. You may qualify for an insurance discount while protecting your home.

Finally, if you can’t buy from private insurers, state agencies such as the California FAIR Plan and Citizens Property Insurance in Florida operate as insurers of last resort. The FAIR Plan, for example, offers a basic policy that pays for damages caused by fire, lightning and smoke, Worters says. 

However, these plans are expensive and offer less coverage. The California FAIR Plan costs three to four times the price of a typical homeowners policy and doesn’t include coverage for standard risks, such as earthquakes, theft and personal liability.

Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, a monthly, trustworthy source of advice and guidance. Subscribe to help you make more money and keep more of the money you make here.

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David Rodeck
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Retirement Report
With contributions from