Consumer Connection: Storms and Homeowners Insurance
By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Officer for the Iowa Insurance Division
Iowa’s recent devastating tornadoes remind us to review our insurance policies to ensure we have proper insurance coverage on our autos, homes and their contents. Damage caused by a tornado, a type of windstorm, is usually a scheduled peril on both auto and homeowners insurance policies and will cover your autos, home and the personal contents inside your home. You may also want replacement cost coverage, or the amount to replace your dwelling and the contents instead of actual cash value, the replacement cost less depreciation at the time of the loss. If you have questions about your coverage, call your licensed insurance agent.
If your home or property has been damaged consult the Post-Disaster Claims Guide, and remember these tips:
- Have the policy number, name, and phone number of your insurance company in your phone since paper documents may have been destroyed.
- If your policy has been destroyed, ask your agent for a copy.
- Contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible. The company will ask questions such as the type of storm, the date and time, and a summary of damage.
- Homeowners policies will have a clause stating the insured must do what is necessary to prevent further damage. When you report the damage, inquire about these temporary repairs.
- After contacting the insurance company, an adjuster will come out to survey the damage. Document the damage with pictures, videos and specific lists, don’t throw anything away until it is reviewed.
- If you have a household inventory let the insurance company know which items have been damaged or destroyed. It’s best to store your household inventory online for easy access after a disaster.
- Do not contract for repairs without discussing with your adjuster or agent. When discussing repairs with a contractor, obtain their credentials.
- Most homeowners insurance policies have coverage for debris removal caused by a covered loss such as a windstorm or tornado. There may be limits for debris removal, make sure you understand what the policy covers.
- Review your policy for additional living expenses or loss of use, if you are unable to live in your home. Usually, this coverage is a percentage of the total covered value of the house.
- If the estimated settlement proves to be inadequate, you may request a re-inspection if additional damage is discovered.
Iowans who have wind or tornado coverage under their insurance policies and believe they are not receiving proper handling of their claim may file a complaint with the Iowa Insurance Division. All Iowans should review the Post-Disaster Claims Guide to help complete a home inventory and assist with the filing of any future insurance claims.