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Considered one of the most disaster-prone states in the US, California is no stranger to natural disasters. Over the past 20 years, Californians have experienced an average of 13 disasters per year. The state’s most common disasters include wildfires, floods, landslides, severe storms, earthquakes, power outages, droughts, and volcanoes.
Despite the frequency and variety of disasters that Californians have been forced to contend with, many residents are unclear about what perils their homeowners insurance policies actually cover. According to a 2016 study by the Insurance Information Institute, 28% of Americans incorrectly believe that flood damage is covered by a basic home insurance policy, while 29% incorrectly think earthquakes are covered.
To break down what is and what isn’t covered by your home insurance, car and homeowners insurance comparison super app Jerry has you covered for what you should know about natural disasters and homeowners insurance in California.
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?
A homeowners insurance policy will cover losses and damages to an individual’s residence. Policies vary in terms of coverage levels and specific hazards covered.
Home insurance policies may include:
- Dwelling coverage
- Other structures coverage
- Personal property coverage
- Medical payment to others
- Additional living expenses
Levels of homeowners insurance coverage
HO-1: This policy covers your primary dwelling from a limited number of named perils, such as fire, lightning, and hail. An HO-1 is typically the least expensive policy but does not cover personal property, loss of use, or liability.
HO-2: This policy pays for damage to your home and your personal property due to the named perils listed on your policy.
HO-3: The most common type of coverage, an HO-3 policy is an open perils policy. The main structure, additional structures, personal property, loss of use, liability, and medical payments will be covered, as will any peril except those specifically not covered.
HO-5: The most comprehensive policy, the HO-5 policy covers both your house and personal property. Recognized as the gold standard of homeowners insurance, the HO-5 is associated with more fees than other policies.
Each policy type is outlined in the table below:
|Policy type||What’s covered||Open perils?|
|HO-1||Main structure only||Named perils only|
|HO-2||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Named perils only|
|HO-3||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Main structure - open perils, personal property - listed perils only|
|HO-5||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Yes|
What perils are covered by homeowners insurance?
It’s critical to review your policy carefully, particularly in high-risk states like California, to understand what’s covered and what isn’t.
Unless otherwise stated (as in an HO-5 policy), your policy will typically cover these 16 named perils:
- Fire and lightning
- Volcanic eruption
- Riot or civil commotion
- Hail and windstorms
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Theft or malicious mischief
- Falling objects (not usually covered by HO-1)
- Weight of snow, ice, or sleet (not usually covered by HO-1)
- Water overflow or discharge from plumbing (not usually covered by HO-1)
- Water heater cracking (not usually covered by HO-1)
- Damage from electrical current (not usually covered by HO-1)
- Frozen pipes (not usually covered by HO-1)
Notice anything missing from the list? Despite being the two most typical natural disasters in the US, floods and earthquakes are not covered by homeowners insurance.
Key Takeaway Your homeowners insurance coverage is determined by the type of policy you have and the precise perils specified on your policy.
Does home insurance cover natural disasters in California?
California’s 164,000 square miles are variably spread over beaches, forests, deserts, and mountains, giving state residents a fair share of weather conditions to experience. From wildfires and severe storms to floods and earthquakes, California’s terrain is prone to a range of disasters.
Here are some of the most frequent natural disasters in California—and what is and is not covered by home insurance.
Fire is the most common natural disaster in the Golden State, with over 250 incidents in the last 65 years. The state’s ongoing drought, low rainfall, and shrinking snowpack are only making conditions worse.
The 2020 wildfire season was the largest recorded, with The Dixie Fire burning nearly one million acres of land, crossing 5 counties, and destroying 1,329 structures.
Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage?: Yes. All types of home insurance cover some degree of fire damage.
California has witnessed severe storms in recent years. In 2021, a “bomb cyclone” hit the Bay Area and an “atmospheric river” dropped a torrent of rainfall in Sacramento. The storm broke one-day rainfall records and was classified as the strongest storm in 26 years.
Does homeowners insurance cover storm damage?: Yes. Damage to your home due to heavy rainfall is covered by most homeowner insurance policies.
Average homeowners insurance in California does not cover flooding, and any financial assistance from the government following a flood will be limited.
With the severe storms that occur in California, you may want to purchase your own flood insurance policy through private insurance.
Alternatively, you can qualify for a federal program, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) can provide financial assistance and help you find housing after an issue directly caused by a disaster.
According to the US Geological Survey, California has more damaging earthquakes than any other state, with around 200 potentially dangerous faults. In addition, it was reported that 70% of Californians live within 30 miles of potentially ground-shaking faults.
The most recent earthquake, the 7.1 magnitude Ridgecrest earthquake in 2017, caused significant damage to the state.
Having coverage in the event of an earthquake will require you to obtain a separate earthquake insurance policy that has a separate deductible from your homeowners insurance.
Earthquake insurance typically covers:
- Other structures
- Personal property
- Additional living expenses
Key Takeaway Your homeowners insurance will likely cover claims related to fires and storms, but you may need supplemental coverage for floods and earthquakes.
How to file a home insurance claim
If your personal property has been lost or damaged thanks to a natural disaster and you know the damages are covered, you can submit an insurance claim to receive your funds.
To submit a claim, first, take photos of your losses and create an inventory of what has been damaged. Once you have documented the damages sufficiently, you can inform your insurer that you are ready to submit a claim.
An adjuster will review your evidence and provide you with paperwork to fill out regarding the claim. The adjuster will review the damages, so be sure to provide them with any information that will be necessary for you to receive money for repairs.
Have a local contractor provide you with a repair estimate and, once you have negotiated a settlement, collect your finances to repair your home.
How to save money on homeowners and car insurance
A 2016 study completed by the Insurance Information Institute revealed that 83% of homeowners fail to compare insurance quotes online before renewing their policy.
This means that the majority of homeowners are overpaying for insurance! With the Jerry app, all of the hard work is done for you. Jerry will compare competitive car and home insurance quotes from all of the top companies in less than one minute.
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