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Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires are all common natural disasters in Texas. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover damage from fire, lightning, wind, and hail—but you’ll need additional coverage to guard against floods and earthquakes.
When it comes to natural disasters and home insurance, misconceptions are rife. In 2016, the Insurance Information Institute (III) found that 28% of Americans incorrectly believe that flood damage caused by a hurricane storm surge is covered by a standard home insurance policy, and 29% wrongly think earthquakes are covered. This can leave homeowners in an awful situation when disaster strikes and their insurance won’t pay.
Things get even more complicated when you break it down to the state level. Which natural disasters are most common in Texas—and will home insurance cover the damage they cause? In this article, car and homeowners insurance comparison super app Jerry covers everything you need to know about natural disasters and home insurance in the Lone Star State.
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover?
A homeowners insurance policy covers damage to your home and its contents, as well as loss of use coverage, liability coverage, and medical payments coverage for visitors injured on your property. Policies vary in terms of both levels of coverage and perils covered.
Levels of homeowners insurance coverage
HO-1: the most basic type of homeowners insurance policy (known as HO-1 in insurance lingo) only covers your primary dwelling—not personal property, loss of use, or liability. An HO-1 policy will only cover a limited number of named perils, typically including fire, lightning, hail, and volcanic eruptions.
HO-2: Another type of named perils policy is HO-2, which covers damage to your home and your personal property caused by the perils listed on your policy.
HO-3: The most common type of homeowners insurance policy is called an HO-3 policy. This includes coverage for the main structure, additional structures (think a shed or a greenhouse), personal property, loss of use, liability, and medical payments.
An HO-3 policy is an open perils policy when it comes to the main structure, meaning that it covers any peril except those listed specifically as not covered. Personal property coverage, on the other hand, only covers named perils.
HO-5: If you’re looking for the gold standard of homeowners insurance, that’s an HO-5 policy, which covers both your home and your personal property as an open perils policy—but you’ll pay next-level fees for that next-level coverage.
Having trouble wrapping your head around all of this? Let’s take a look at a simple breakdown.
|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?
If you have an HO-1, HO-2, or HO-3 insurance policy, it’s important to understand which perils are named on your policy. You’ll need to read the fine print to find the exact coverage your policy includes, but you can typically expect coverage for the following 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)
Take careful note of what isn’t on that list. Many people don’t realize that floods and earthquakes can’t be covered by homeowners insurance—which is a problem, since these are two of the most common natural disasters in the US.
Because the majority of homeowners insurance policies won’t cover all natural disasters, it’s important to understand exactly what your policy does and doesn’t cover—particularly in high-risk states like Texas.
Key Takeaway: Your homeowners insurance coverage depends on your policy type and the specific perils listed on your policy.
Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Texas?
According to U.S. News, Texas is the state that’s most prone to natural disasters.
Part of the reason comes down to Texas’s famous size. As the second-largest state in the country and the largest in the Lower 48, Texas is home to eight distinct climates. From tornadoes in the Panhandle and earthquakes across the state to hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, Texas sees more major disasters than any other state in the country.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common natural disasters in Texas and see what’s covered—and what isn’t.
For Texans on the Gulf Coast, hurricanes pose a major risk. Research by the Insurance Information Institute shows that 563,024 single-family homes in Texas are at risk for a Category 5 hurricane, with the potential for $113,491 million in property damage.
Here’s the problem: a lot of the damage associated with hurricanes can’t be covered by your regular homeowners policy. While hail and wind are typically named perils, Texans on the Gulf Coast must buy separate coverage for these perils from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
You’ll also have to buy separate flood insurance, as flooding is never covered by homeowners insurance. FEMA runs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which sells flood insurance to homeowners.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey alone generated about $8.92 billion in flood insurance payouts to Texan homeowners. That number’s even more staggering when you keep in mind that the III found in 2016 that only 12% of Americans had flood insurance!
According to the Insurance Information Institute, Texas has the second highest rate of wildfires in the country, directly behind California. An estimated 717,800 properties in Texas are at risk from wildfires.
Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage?: Yes. Every type of homeowners insurance, from the most basic HO-1 policy to an expensive HO-5 policy, covers fire damage.
Unfortunately, tornadoes are a regular part of life for many North Texans. Even though Texas makes up a relatively small portion of Tornado Alley, the Lone Star State ranked #2 in the US for tornado-related deaths in 2020.
Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?: Although tornadoes are not a separate named peril, most policies cover damage caused by wind, hail, and lightning. If a tornado hits your area, your homeowners insurance will likely cover you.
Earthquakes are fairly common in Texas, but rarely severe. A map compiled by the US Geological Survey from data from 1973 to 2017 shows that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a minor seismic hotspot—but Texas earthquakes rarely break past a 5 on the Richter scale, meaning that property damage is limited.
That’s good news, because earthquakes are not covered by homeowners insurance. If you do want coverage for earthquakes, you’ll have to purchase a separate policy.
Texas might not be the first place that pops into your mind when you think of blizzards and ice storms, but this southern state gets its share—and they can be seriously deadly. The 2021 Texas power crisis, which saw frozen pipes and failing electrical systems across the state, is proof that Texas homeowners need insurance coverage for winter disasters.
Luckily, most homeowners policies include coverage for things like damage caused by the weight of snow and ice on a roof, frozen pipes, and the water damage that can follow when those pipes burst. Put that together with fire and wind coverage, and you should be set if a blizzard or cold snap passes through.
The earth splitting open spontaneously under your home is probably the last thing on your mind when you buy a house—but that’s just what can happen in areas prone to sinkholes. According to the US Geological Survey, Texas is one of the states where sinkholes are most common.
Unfortunately, homeowners insurance won’t cover sinkhole damage. You’ll need to buy a separate policy for that.
Key Takeaway: Your homeowners insurance should cover claims associated with tornadoes, fires, and winter storms, but you may need additional coverage for hurricanes, earthquakes, and sinkholes.
How to file a home insurance claim
Whether you’re in Galveston or Amarillo, your homeowners insurance policy should cover at least some of the many natural disasters Texans face. If your home or personal property are damaged due to a natural disaster, here’s what you’ll need to do to go about submitting a claim:
- Document your losses. Take photographs and make an inventory of damaged possessions.
- Inform your insurance company that you want to submit a claim. They’ll assign an adjuster to review the evidence.
- Determine how much you paid for each item (keeping receipts, especially for big-ticket purchases, can help with this!).
- Fill out the claim paperwork your insurer provides.
- Meet with the adjuster to go over the damage. Be thorough—you don’t want to miss out on money because you skipped a room on your tour.
- Get repair estimates from local contractors to help you negotiate a fair settlement.
- Collect your funds and set to work rebuilding your home.
One easy way to make filing an insurance claim easier is to study the terms of your homeowners insurance policy before a catastrophe hits. That way, you’ll avoid scrambling to figure out what’s covered and what isn’t during a moment of crisis.
MORE: Worst claim mistakes
How to save money on homeowners and car insurance
According to a 2016 study by the Insurance Information Institute, only 17% of homeowners compare quotes online before renewing their policy. Statistically, this means that 83% of homeowners may be overpaying for home insurance.
Don’t be one of those homeowners. Instead, download the Jerry app and let the world’s best car and home insurance comparison app do the work for you. When you enter your information, Jerry will search for competitive quotes from all the top companies and let you compare rates in just 45 seconds.
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“Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y
Thousands of customers saved on average $887/year on their car insurance with Jerry
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