NEW YORK — Extreme weather has taken a toll on people across the country in recent years, including homeowners in the Tri-State Area, but many found out the hard way that their home insurance wasn’t enough to cover the damage.
Flash floods devastated parts of the Lower Hudson Valley this summer, tornadic activity in New Jersey exceeds the annual average, and yet hurricane season is fast approaching.
CBS New York’s Vanessa Murdock spoke to experts about what insurance you need.
The threats of extreme weather are many: winds that tear off shingles and siding, topple trees, or in some cases blow through with enough force to create projectiles; storm surge that drives houses off their foundations and flash floods that rip through them.
“While the concept of natural disasters is not new, the caliber and scale and intensity of what we are seeing now poses new challenges,” said Dr. Lisa Dale of Columbia Climate School.
Dale says we look to insurance not only to protect us from losses, “but also as a trigger for us to understand… potential risks we face.”
The risk, especially from extreme rainfall, extends geographically beyond the FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas.
“Over the past six years, we’ve seen up to 40 percent of all federally covered insurance claims outside of these flood zones,” said Thomas Song, a resilience specialist at FEMA.
Song encourages everyone to look into flood insurance, since flooding isn’t covered by your homeowner’s policy and just an inch of water can cost up to $25,000 in damage.
“Flood insurance is like wearing a seatbelt, right? It won’t stop something unfortunate from happening, but if it does, it can mitigate that impact somewhat,” he said.
Flood insurance covers damage from rising water and storm surges. If the sewer becomes blocked due to a flood, it is covered.
“What most people really wonder is if the pipes in my basement burst and the basement floods, or any room for that matter, is that considered flooding? And no, it’s not,” Song said.
However, it is usually covered by standard home, condo, or renters insurance.
In 2023, flood insurance backed by the National Flood Insurance Program cost an average of $1,304 in New York — a 3% increase from 2022 — and $1,209 in New Jersey — a 2% increase.
“Flood insurance is the largest insurance gap we see in the U.S. today. Only 4 percent of U.S. homeowners have flood insurance,” said Mark Friedlander, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
But most have home, condo or renters insurance, and Friedlander says this is a good thing when it comes to extreme weather.
“Whether it’s a storm, a hail storm or a snow storm — they’re all covered by standard home insurance, as well as a condo policy and a renters policy,” he said.
Your roof blows off and rainwater fills your house…
“You don’t need flood insurance for that kind of loss,” Friedlander said.
Friedlander adds that if you live in a hurricane-prone area, which we do, your standard policy will likely include a separate storm deductible. When it applies varies from state to state.
In New Jersey, it applies to damage from a storm called a hurricane where there are sustained winds of at least 74 mph in the Garden State.
In New York, the trigger varies by insurer. Some require Category 1 hurricane status, some require Category 2.
“As we enter hurricane season, it’s really essential to check your policies,” Friedlander said.
Know what cover you have – does it match your risk of impact from extreme weather?
If you don’t have flood insurance but are thinking about it, Friedlander emphasizes that flood insurance backed by the National Flood Insurance Program takes 30 days to take effect. Private policies take less time and typically cover additional living expenses.
To insure your car against extreme weather conditions, including flooding, you need comprehensive coverage, according to Friedlander, which 80% of motorists have.
Alice J. Roden started working for Trending Insurance News at the end of 2021. Alice grew up in Salt Lake City, UT. A writer with a vast insurance industry background Alice has help with several of the biggest insurance companies. Before joining Trending Insurance News, Alice briefly worked as a freelance journalist for several radio stations. She covers home, renters and other property insurance stories.