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The most common natural disasters in Delaware are hurricanes, winter storms, and severe thunderstorms. Many forms of damage resulting from these storms are covered by standard home insurance. Flood damage, however, will never be covered.
There are many types of damages that are not covered by standard homeowners insurance. If your home is damaged by certain natural disasters, you may end up paying for some or all of the repairs out of pocket.
It’s important to be proactive and find out what your insurance covers before a disaster hits. That way you can purchase any additional coverages you might need.
Luckily, car insurance comparison super app Jerry is here to help you understand how homeowners insurance works, what your policy might cover, and what it does not.
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?
Homeowners insurance is an insurance policy that covers the damage or destruction of your house and the belongings inside. The types of damage covered depend on your specific policy.
Every policy will have certain perils it covers and different coverages it includes. Homeowners insurance policies are classified into levels based on how extensive their coverage is.
You’ll want to carefully look over your policy agreement to see what is and isn’t covered. Let’s take a quick look at perils, levels, and coverages so that you know what you are looking for.
A peril is something that causes damage to your home, like a tornado or vandalism. In other words, a peril refers to how the damage happened.
Most homeowners insurance will only pay for damages if they were caused by a named peril, meaning a peril that is specifically listed in your policy as covered. The exception is open peril policies, which cover damages from any kind of event (other than those specifically excluded).
If a policy is not open peril, it only covers damages from named perils. These will be different for every policy, but generally speaking, most home insurance covers at least the following 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
Notice that there are quite a few things not on this list. Some perils are not covered by basic home insurance, but you can buy separate insurance for them. Flood insurance and earthquake coverage, for instance, will always be sold separately.
Types of coverage
Different home insurance policies will also include different coverages. This refers to the different types of property and expenses your insurance will pay for.
Here are the different types of expenses home insurance can cover:
- Liability coverage: pays for damage to another person (or their property) that occurs while they are on your property.
- Additional Living Expenses (ALE): sometimes called loss of use coverage, this coverage pays for the expenses associated with temporarily relocating if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered event.
- Dwelling coverage: the standard baseline coverage for your primary dwelling. This coverage is specifically for your house, not for other structures like a garage or shed.
- Medical payments coverage: pays for the medical expenses of anyone injured on the property.
- Other structures coverage: extends your home’s coverage to include secondary structures on the property such as sheds, barns, and detached garages.
- Personal property coverage: pays for some or all of the cost to repair or replace personal property that is lost due to a covered event.
Scheduled personal property coverage is special coverage for high-value items which have to be specified when the policy is purchased.
An umbrella liability policy is additional coverage you can purchase to cover losses if a claim you make exceeds your policy’s maximum coverage.
If a covered item is damaged from a peril not named in your policy, you won’t be able to file a claim. For instance, if you have other structures coverage to protect your barn, but that barn is destroyed by an unnamed peril like flooding, your policy will not pay for the damages.
Levels of homeowners insurance coverage
Most insurance companies don’t allow you to pick and choose whichever coverages you’d like. Instead, coverages are sold together in packages called levels.
Levels are labeled HO-1, HO-2, HO-3, and HO-5. Level 4 is not included since it is for renters. In general, the higher the level, the more extensive the coverage you’ll get.
HO-1: level 1 offers the least extensive coverage. It provides dwelling coverage for your house only (no secondary structures) and does not include personal property, ALE, or liability coverage. HO-1 also only covers damages from a limited list of named perils.
HO-2: Level 2 includes dwelling coverage for your primary structure and personal property coverage. Like level 1, HO-2 only covers damages if they result from named perils.
HO-3: Level 3 is the most common type of home insurance. It includes dwelling coverage, other structures coverage, personal property coverage, ALE coverage, liability coverage, and medical payments coverage.
HO-3 is sometimes called “all-risk” coverage because it is an open perils policy. It covers damages to your home from any peril, not just named ones, but most HO-3 policies include policy exceptions for one or more types of perils that they specifically do not cover.
Level 3 is only an open perils policy when it comes to your house. Personal property is still only protected from named perils.
HO-5: level 5 is the most extensive coverage option. It includes everything that level 3 has, plus it has open peril protection for your personal property as well.
Key Takeaway Standard homeowners insurance is complex and only protects certain expenses under certain conditions. You’ll need to purchase additional coverage to be fully protected.
Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Delaware?
Whether a natural disaster is covered by your insurance depends on the type of disaster. The most common disasters in Delaware are hurricanes, winter storms, severe thunderstorms, and flooding.
Less commonly, there will be nor’easters, power outages, tropical storms, and even the occasional tornado.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common disasters in Delaware and review which ones are covered by insurance.
Eight hurricanes have hit Delaware since 1953, making them by far the most common type of natural disaster in the state.
While there is no such thing as hurricane insurance per se, you can get coverage for the various types of damage that result from hurricanes. You wouldn’t purchase hurricane insurance per se; instead, you would purchase insurance for wind damage and flooding.
Most home insurance policies include coverage for hail and windstorms, but you’ll have to purchase flood insurance separately.
In general, insurance companies will honor claims for windstorm damage made after a hurricane, but it is not a bad idea to check your policy for specifics about your coverage.
Floods are fairly common in Delaware. Hurricanes, winter storms, and severe thunderstorms can all cause flooding. This is a big problem since flood damage is often extensive and expensive to repair.
Unfortunately, virtually no standard homeowners insurance policies cover flood damage. You’ll have to purchase flood protection separately from your normal policy.
Some private insurance companies will sell you a stand-alone flood insurance policy. You can also get flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is run by the federal government and is usually the most affordable option.
Winter storms are the second most common natural disaster in Delaware. They can cause freezing, flooding, burst pipes, and more. Some of these damages will be covered by standard insurance and some will not.
If you have an HO-2 policy or better, you will probably be protected against damage from the weight of snow and ice, burst pipes, sleet, and hail.
Severe thunderstorms are another type of natural disaster that does not have its own specific coverage. Your policy will likely cover some of the damage resulting from a severe thunderstorm.
The majority of home insurance policies cover damage from lightning and wind. Like winter storms, thunderstorms can lead to flooding. Remember that flood insurance will not be included in your policy.
How to file a home insurance claim
Once you determine if the damages to your home are covered by your insurance, the next thing to do is submit a claim. Filing a claim is a fairly straightforward process, but it is important to be as meticulous as possible. Follow these steps while submitting your claim:
- Document your losses. Make a list of all damages to your home. If you have personal property coverage, document what items were damaged. It always helps to have photos of the damage.
- Contact your insurance company. Reach out to your insurer and let them know you’ll be submitting a claim. You’ll be assigned an adjuster to evaluate your claim.
- Determine your total losses. You’ll want to have a hard figure to report to your provider. Calculate the total amount you’ll be making the claim for. Include any repairs you’ll have to make and any lost property. You may need to estimate; just be as accurate as possible.
- File your claim. Your adjuster will supply you with the appropriate paperwork. Fill it out and return it.
- Meet with the adjuster. The adjuster will examine the extent of the damage and report back to the insurance company.
- Get repair estimates. Get a quote for your expected repairs.
- Negotiate. After reviewing your claim, the insurance company will call you to negotiate and settle on a payout amount.
- Collect your funds and begin repairs ASAP.
How to save money on homeowners and car insurance
The best way to make sure you’re not overpaying on homeowner’s insurance is to periodically compare your rates with quotes from other providers. You’ll want to look at prices from at least three insurance companies.
Another great way to save on homeowner’s insurance is to bundle it with your auto insurance policy.
The free insurance comparison app Jerry can help you bundle your insurance and compare rates from dozens of top providers. Just download the app, enter your information, and you’ll be comparing quotes in as little as 45 seconds!
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