Natural disasters and your home: What tenants and owners need to know

Whether it is a fire or an earthquake, or if you rent or own a home, it is possible that one day you will be affected by a natural disaster that could displace you and your loved ones. Surviving a disaster is the number one priority; But when the smoke clears and the waters recede, the main objectives are likely to be adequate housing and the treatment of property damage. Insurance will play an important role in reconstruction. Understand what your housing or tenant policy covers in terms of floods, fires and earthquakes. Also, save your policy information in your phone, wallet or online, so you can contact it without having to re-enter your home after a natural disaster.

Disasters affecting US properties

Your area is likely to be more prone to certain types of weather, depending on your geographic location. For example, California and the southwest of the state are no stranger to earthquakes and forest fires, while Florida and the south of the state have more than enough hurricanes and tornadoes. Knowing what kind of disaster is most common in your region can help you plan and gather resources to protect where you live.

At the end of 2017, hurricanes were classified as the most damaging natural disasters in terms of property damage in the US, with hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Irma costing more than US $ 400 billion in total damage. Superstorm Sandy, an Atlantic hurricane of 2012, and the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, California, complete the five most expensive natural disasters.

The insurance information institute, which collects data and statistics on natural disasters in the US, classifies disasters into the following six categories:

  • Severe thunderstorms
  • Winter storms and cold waves
  • Floods and flash floods
  • Earthquakes and geophysical events (volcanic eruptions, tsunamis)
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Forest fires, heat waves and droughts

In early 2017, severe storms, floods and events related to droughts and heat waves were the most common disasters in the US, according to the institute.

First steps in flood preparedness

If you live near the flood plain of a river or a low coastal area, you may have the greatest risk of flooding, since these are the most susceptible places; however, floods can also occur in unusual areas. It is not necessary to live near a water source or a flood zone to experience such a disaster. For example, you can end up in a flood if a heavy rain in your area does not drain properly.

Consult with a local environmental agency to determine your level of flood risk. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website also has a tool that allows you to enter your address and receive information about the risk of flooding. This “Flood Map Service Center” provides an official flood map for your area. Because flood zones change annually, you should check these free resources every year.

Sometimes you can prevent flooding or extensive damage to your residence when flooding is imminent. Investing time and money in advance can save you thousands of dollars in repairs in the event of a flood.

Water diversion techniques, such as classic sandbags, are the most popular. In addition, the new sandbag technology that uses polyacrylate polymer eliminates the need to use large amounts of sand and saves space. Making a sandbag barrier is often the only adjustment to a home that a tenant can make to avoid a flood.

Owners have more options to prepare their properties for flooding. Building embankments in your garden or yard can divert water from your property. Terraces, which are often used to maximize space in the garden, have the additional benefit of slowing down the flow of water. Finally, planting a lot of vegetation around your home helps the earth retain water. Large trees and plant cover can help prevent significant amounts of water from accumulating and damaging your property.

Additional steps that a homeowner, landlord or tenant should take to mitigate flood damage include:

  • Raise the oven, water heater and electrical panel
  • Install check valves to prevent water from accumulating in drains
  • Apply waterproof sealant to basement wall joints and first floor joints if there is no basement
  • Turn off the power from the main switch before the flood begins

If you rent, you should ask the owner to take some of these preventive measures. It is important to learn how to disconnect electrical power from the main switch, whether you rent or own your residence.

Find flood insurance

Renters and homeowners insurance does not cover floods related to inclement weather. Homeowners and homeowners can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers certain dollar coverage limits. Some non-governmental insurance providers offer “surplus” flood insurance at an additional cost to provide coverage beyond what the NFIP covers. You don’t need to live in a flood zone to get insurance against them, and the cost varies depending on the value of the home and your risk of flooding. The average cost of flood insurance is US $ 660 at the time of publication.

Homeowners are not required to have flood insurance, but if you have a mortgage and live in a flood zone, your lender will demand it. Also, tenants may not be required to buy insurance, but it is a good idea to do so, especially if the landlord does not have a flood policy. You can buy your own flood insurance through the NFIP, and it is much cheaper compared to the owners, since the tenants do not have to rebuild or repair the damage to the structure. However, in high-risk areas, it can cost up to US $ 1,000 for a premium, and even moderate-risk areas can double your renter’s insurance premium by adding flood coverage.

Fighting fire losses

Known for their size and speed, forest fires can destroy thousands of hectares and homes in a matter of days. The good news is that most homeowners and renters insurance cover this type of fire damage. The bad news is that living near a canyon or other high-risk factor will significantly increase your premium and may even prevent you from getting insurance with certain providers. For these owners, a fire policy independent of an insurer may be the best option. In California,

Like flood insurance, fire insurance is cheaper and easier to obtain for renters than for landlords. This is because the tenants are not responsible for repairing the structure of a house. But tenants can be immediately displaced following a forest fire, either as a result of evacuation or damage to the rental unit. As a tenant, you may also experience total loss or extensive damage to your personal belongings. You must buy renters insurance, even if the landlord has an insurance policy for landlords or landlords. It is likely that an owner’s policy does not cover your personal belongings or living expenses,

Protecting yourself after a forest fire as a tenant or owner begins by taking inventory of your residence and your belongings. Landlords and tenants must walk outside and inside the home with a video recorder to document high-end possessions. This evidence can be used in the claims process to verify the existence of expensive building materials, furniture and electronic products if they are damaged in a forest fire. Also, do not throw away damaged or destroyed belongings until the claims process is over.

Tenants and landlords must also keep receipts for all expenses resulting from evacuation and reconstruction. The “ALE” or “additional living expenses” part of a homeowners or renters insurance policy may cover hotel, food and rent expenses.

You can minimize your losses in a forest fire by building and renovating your home as follows:

  • Using non-flammable building materials and fire retardant finishes
  • Keeping roofs and gutters free of branches and debris
  • Planting fire resistant plants
  • Clearing your yard of dead vegetation and debris
  • Maintaining space between trees
  • Not letting your garden dry

Approaching unstable terrain

High intensity earthquakes are unpredictable and devastating when it comes to property damage. Earthquake insurance is not included in homeowners or renters insurance policies. Most earthquake insurance in California is provided through a state-sponsored program known as the California Earthquake Authority or CEA, which is available to homeowners and renters. The purpose of a CEA policy is to restore your home, but it does not cover all your losses in an earthquake.

Generally, you can purchase earthquake insurance from your current insurance provider, whether you own or lease it as a complementary or independent policy. Earthquake insurance policies generally allow you to make repairs in your home and in the attached structures, cover your personal belongings and pay for a hotel or rent for a reasonable period of time while you repair your home. These insurances usually have a considerable deductible and a premium. Deductibles can vary between 5 and 25 percent. The average cost of an earthquake insurance policy in California is $ 1.75 for every $ 1,000 in coverage.