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Montana is a state known for its natural wonders—but like anywhere, along with all its splendors can also come natural disasters. Most standard homeowners insurance policies will offer coverage for damage from wildfires and severe storms, but you’ll usually need separate insurance for events like floods, earthquakes, and landslides.
The purpose of a homeowners insurance policy is to protect you from damaged caused by the unexpected—including natural disasters. While many natural disasters are covered by standard home insurance policies, many homeowners learn too late that the cause of their damage (like flooding, for example) isn’t covered under their policy.
Having a gap in coverage can put you in a financially stressful situation to come up with the money for big repairs. This makes it all the more important to understand what natural disasters your area is likely to face and whether you have insurance coverage for those events. That’s why the car and home insurance super app Jerry is here to give you the rundown on what you should know about natural disasters and home insurance coverage in Montana.
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?
Homeowners insurance will help financially protect you, your home, and your belongings from unexpected losses and damages. What’s in a home insurance policy will vary, but a standard one also typically includes loss of use coverage, personal liability coverage, and medical payments if a person is injured on your property.
Home insurance companies also offer policies with various levels of protection.
Levels of homeowners insurance coverage
HO-1: An HO-1 policy is the most minimal coverage option in home insurance, as well as the least expensive. It only covers the main structure that is your house—not additional structures, like sheds or detached garages—against a more limited number of covered perils compared to other policies. It also won’t include coverage for personal belongings, loss of use, personal liability, or medical payments.
Because of the minimal coverage HO-1 policies offer, many mortgage lenders requiring you to purchase home insurance won’t consider them satisfactory.
HO-2: Like HO-1 policies, HO-2 policies aren’t very common. An HO-2 policy will protect your home and personal property against more covered perils than an HO-1 policy, giving you slightly more coverage.
HO-3: HO-3 policies are the most common type of home insurance policy. They’re usually what comes to mind when thinking of standard homeowners insurance coverage. An HO-3 policy will include coverage for your main structure, as well as the additional ones on your property (like sheds or fences) and your personal property. You’ll also get personal liability, loss of use, and medical payment coverage.
HO-3 policies will cover your house on an open-perils basis, while personal belongings are covered under named perils.
HO-5: If you’re looking for protection against practically anything, an HO-5 policy offers the most extensive home insurance coverage. Your home and personal property are protected under an open perils policy, which means virtually any peril would be covered, as long as it wasn’t listed as an exclusion. As a result, this type of coverage is also the most expensive.
To quickly recap, here are the different levels of home insurance policies and what they cover:
|Policy||Coverage offered||Perils covered|
|HO-1||Main structure||Named perils|
|HO-2||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, personal liability, medical payments||Named perils|
|HO-3||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, personal liability, medical payments||Main structure: open perils; personal property: named perils|
|HO-5||Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical payments||Open perils|
What perils are covered by homeowners insurance?
If named perils are covering your home and/or personal belongings, it’s important to understand what they are—and aren’t—protected against. This is why it’s important to read your policy’s language closely and carefully.
Named perils can vary depending on your company, policy, and level of coverage, but common ones include:
- Volcanic eruption
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Damage caused by aircrafts
- 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)
As you review the covered perils that are in your policy, you should also look for what isn’t there. Disasters like floods and earthquakes are often not covered in a standard home insurance policy and usually require their own separate policies.
Since most home insurance policies won’t cover every kind of natural disaster, it’s important to understand which ones your location may likely face so you can have the right protection if you ever need it.
Key Takeaway What your home insurance policy covers depends on your company, policy, and level of coverage.
Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Montana?
While it’s not one of the most populous, Montana is one of the largest states in the United States, and it covers a wide range of climate conditions. To the east, you’ll find a drier climate with cold winters and warm summers, and to the west, you’ll find a more humid climate with milder winters and cooler summers.
While FEMA’s National Risk Index map assesses low to relatively low-risk levels for most of Montana, that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.
Across Montana, a wide range of natural disasters can occur. That includes wildfires, floods, winter storms, and severe storms. Earthquakes and landslides are also possible areas of concern.
Here’s a closer look at natural disasters that can occur in Montana and whether they’d be covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy.
Montana is one of the most biodiverse states in the country, and wildfires play a key role in a healthy forest ecosystem. But when wildfires get out of hand, they can cause devastating amounts of property loss and damage.
In 2017, a record-setting area of over 1 million acres burned throughout Montana over the course of the year. In 2021, almost 940,000 acres burned at the hands of wildfires.
Most home insurance policies will provide some type of protection against fire and smoke damage, including when it’s caused by a wildfire since it wasn’t your fault.
Montana can also see its fair share of severe storms, especially in the eastern part of the state, and with them, the risk of damage due to hail, lightning, high winds, or even power surges.
Luckily, these perils are commonly covered by a standard home insurance policy, but because policies can vary, it’s a good idea to confirm that yours does have these protections.
If a severe storm brought heavy rains, however, and those rains caused flash flooding, you’d likely need an additional flood insurance policy for any flood-related damage.
Severe storms can also create the right conditions for tornadoes. Tornado damage is commonly protected under home insurance policies, either as its own named peril or more broadly under windstorm coverage, but check your own policy to make sure.
Most of Montana’s seismic activity occurs in the western part of the state, especially in the counties of Flathead and Lake, according to FEMA’s National Risk Index. Experts say a major earthquake in the future is a possibility for Montana, but it’s hard to say when that could be.
Unfortunately, homeowners insurance policies rarely cover earthquake or landslide damage, so it’s a good idea to consider purchasing a separate policy for protection against this kind of damage.
Floods are also a possibility in Montana. Like earthquakes, homeowners insurance policies rarely cover flood damage. You’ll need separate coverage for this. It’s a good idea to look into whether or not your property falls within a flood zone and what the level of flooding risk is for your area.
You can find flood insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurer
While some parts of the state get more snow than others, virtually any part of the state can experience a winter storm.
Fortunately, homeowners insurance policies typically include necessary protections against winter storm damage. These could include roof damage caused by branches falling due to the weight of snow and ice (look for “falling objects” in your policy), high winds, or frozen pipes and the resulting water damage.
Key Takeaway A standard home insurance policy will likely cover losses and damages from tornadoes, severe weather, wildfires, and winter storms, but you might need additional insurance if you want protection against floods, earthquakes, or landslides.
How to file a home insurance claim
Hopefully, it’s never the case, but if your home is damaged due to a natural disaster, you’ll need to file a claim. Here are some of the steps you’ll likely need to take when you do so:
- Document the damage. Take photos and make notes on the extent of the damage to your home. Create a list of damaged and lost belongings.
- Tell your insurance company about the disaster and resulting damage. How you should file your claim may vary depending on your insurance company, but your policy documents should usually outline the necessary steps. After you’ve submitted your claim, an adjuster will visit you to assess your damages.
- Make any necessary emergency repairs in the meantime to protect your home from further damage. Save receipts so your insurance company can reimburse you for covered repairs!
- Complete claim paperwork from your insurance provider as needed.
- Get repair quotes from trusted contractors. This will help you prepare for the settlement after the adjuster visits. It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes (ideally at least three), so you can feel confident about your options.
- An adjuster will visit to evaluate the damage. Sometimes, you don’t need to be home, depending on the extent of damage and where it is, but it’s still a good idea to walk through the damage with them, so you’re on the same page. Be meticulous! These are your home and your belongings, and the purpose of your insurance policy is to cover damage appropriately when it occurs.
- Review the adjuster’s settlement carefully. While you might feel pressure to sign the settlement offer as soon as possible to get repairs underway, you also want to be satisfied with the coverage amount being offered to you. If you think the offer is less than what your coverage warrants, you should ask your insurance company to revisit your claim.
- Receive your payment from your insurance company and begin repairing your home.
Before a natural disaster rushes in, understanding your home insurance policy and what it covers ahead of time makes it much easier to file a claim when the time comes.
How to save money on homeowners and car insurance
Home insurance is designed to protect you, your home, and your belongings from the unexpected—including natural disasters. But find a good insurance policy that gives you the coverage you need at a reasonable price.
Luckily, with the Jerry app, you can make the process faster and easier! You can even bundle your car and home insurance to save on both policies. After answering just a few brief questions, and then, you can start reviewing competitive quotes from top insurance providers, like Allstate and Progressive, to find the right coverage at the right price.
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