What Natural Disasters Does Home Insurance Cover in Virginia?

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In Virginia, the most common disasters include severe storms, tropical storms, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, winter storms, extreme heat, landslides, and power outages. While many of these events are covered by standard homeowners insurance, others are not. 
Understanding the ins and outs of your homeowners policy can mean the difference between quickly repairing damage and being forced to give up your home. 
Recent studies by the Insurance Information Institute (III) found that a considerable number of Americans believe their policies cover more than they actually do. Being misinformed about your coverage can lead to denied claims when it matters most. 
No matter where you live, homeowners insurance is a critical step in protecting what is likely your most expensive asset. But policies can be confusing. Fortunately, Jerry covers everything you need to know about natural disasters and home insurance in Virginia. 
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What is homeowners insurance—and what does it cover? 

Homeowners insurance is designed to help repair or replace your home and personal property if it is damaged during an event covered by your policy. There are a variety of policy types, and most of them can be customized by adding riders or additional coverage. Before you dive in, here are some terms that you are likely to encounter:
  • Perils: A peril refers to any event that may cause damage to your property. Your individual policy will outline which perils may or may not be covered.
  • Depreciation: Over time, your home’s value will decrease due to age, wear and tear, and exposure to the elements. This decrease in value is called depreciation. 
  • Open perils policy: Open perils means that your property is covered by any type of damage that is not expressly excluded in your policy.
  • Named perils policy: A named perils policy only covers your home from the perils listed in your policy. 
  • Actual cash value: If you have an actual cash value (ACV) policy, you will be reimbursed for the value of your home minus depreciation. 
  • Replacement cost: Replacement cost coverage means that your insurer will pay to replace or repair your damaged property at the current market rate, regardless of the age of your home. 

Levels of homeowners insurance coverage

HO-1: This type of policy only covers your primary dwelling—it does not include personal property, loss of use, or liability (if someone is injured while on your property). Additionally, an HO-1 is a named perils policy that covers a smaller number of named perils. You can expect your HO-1 policy to cover fire, lightning, hail, and volcanic eruptions at a minimum. 
HO-1 policies generally payout at actual cash value, which may leave you short of the amount you need for repairs. 
HO-2: Another named perils policy, HO-2 coverage extends to your home and your personal property like clothes, jewelry, art, and furniture. HO-2 policies cover more perils than the HO-1.
HO-3: The most popular home insurance policy is the HO-3 policy. The vast majority of homeowners choose this policy because it includes coverage for the house itself, additional structures on the property, personal property, loss of use, liability, and medical payments. 
With an HO-3 policy, the main structure (house) is covered by an open perils policy meaning that it covers any peril other than those listed as exceptions in your policy. Personal property coverage, however, is covered against named perils only. 
HO-5: This coverage is a more exclusive policy generally reserved for those with the highest insurance needs. If you have a custom home, high-value personal property, or live in a high-risk area, you may consider HO-5—an open peril policy for both your home and your personal property
HO-5 policies also cover loss of use, liability, and medical payments—all of the same contingencies covered by HO-3.
Here are the basics:
Policy typeCoveragePeril type
HO-1Main structureNamed perils
HO-2Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical paymentsNamed perils
HO-3Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical paymentsMain structure–open perils, Personal property–named perils only
HO-5Main structure, personal property, loss of use, liability, medical paymentsOpen perils

What perils are covered by homeowners insurance?

Whatever policy type you choose, it’s important to understand which perils are named in your policy. It is worth it to read the fine print and find the exact coverage your policy includes, but you can generally expect coverage for the standard 16 named perils listed below.
HO-1, HO-2, and HO3 named perils:
  • Fire and lightning 
  • Smoke
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Explosion
  • Riot or civil commotion
  • Hail and windstorms
  • Damage caused by vehicles 
  • Damage caused by aircraft
  • Vandalism 
  • Theft or malicious mischief
HO-2 and HO-3 named perils:
  • Falling objects 
  • Weight of snow, ice, or sleet 
  • Water overflow or discharge from plumbing 
  • Water heater cracking 
  • Damage from electrical current 
  • Frozen pipes 
Key Takeaway: There are several types of coverage available to homeowners in Virginia. Make sure that you understand your policy, and that you have the right coverage for the state you live in. 

Does home insurance cover natural disasters in Virginia? 

Severe storms

Virginia is part of a region that experiences harsh weather conditions, and some may not be covered by standard insurance policies. Tropical storms and winter storms are both common occurrences. Coverage can be confusing—most standard policies include coverage for lightning, hail, snow, and wind, but will not cover flooding, hurricanes, or mudslides. 
Your claim may be denied if the damage is caused when snow and ice are allowed to remain or build up on the structure of your home. It is important to address these potential issues before they cause a problem.
Hail damage is more common in Virginia than in most states, so make sure it is included in your named perils.

Flooding

Flooding is not covered in a standard homeowners policy, including when caused by a hurricane. Virginia is among the highest risk states in America when it comes to experiencing hurricanes, so making sure you are covered is imperative. 
As it is a very common declared disaster in Virginia, homeowners should add flood insurance to their policies. Some private insurers offer flood insurance, but most people opt for insurance provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Wildfires

Wildfires and other fire-related damage are covered by most standard homeowners policies. Wildfires do occur in Virginia, so fortunately this is one area where you can rest assured that you are covered.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are another common peril in Virginia, and fortunately they—and other windstorms—are typically covered in your home insurance policy. However, you will want to make sure that your personal property coverage also includes windstorms as a named peril. 

Earthquakes

Earthquakes and other “earth movement” events, like landslides and mudslides, are not covered in standard home insurance policies. Virginia residents are less likely to suffer damage from an earthquake, so you are less likely to need this type of coverage.
Key Takeaway:  Most natural disasters that happen in Virginia are covered by standard insurance policies, but the most common occurrences—hurricanes and flooding—are not covered, so flood insurance should be purchased separately. 

How to file a home insurance claim

If you have to file a claim, these are the steps you will need to follow:
  • File a police report, if applicable. If you suffer a loss due to criminal activity including theft, vandalism, riot, and criminal mischief, start by filing an official report with your local police department. You will want a copy of the report for your claim. 
  • Contact your insurance agent. As soon as possible, reach out to your agent to let them know about the event you’ve experienced. Reaching out in person will allow you to get questions answered about your next steps. Your agent can help you navigate the waters so that you have the best shot at claim approval. 
  • Make any repairs that are immediately needed. Take whatever steps you need to secure your belongings and ensure your personal safety. This is generally encouraged—and sometimes required—by your provider.
  • Document your claim. Make sure to list out and photograph all of your lost and damaged possessions. The more thorough you are during this step, the easier it will be to support your claim. 

How to save money on homeowners and car insurance

One of the best ways to save on your homeowners policy is to bundle it with your car insurance. Every state has different requirements but no matter where you live, the insurance pros behind the Jerry app can help make sure that you are getting the best deals on all your insurance policies. 
Jerry customers save an average of $877 per year on auto insurance alone—we can help you find the cheapest rates, and bundle your home insurance at the same time. 
 “I saved $130 by switching over to Progressive through Jerry. They took care of my cancellation and signup. It was great to do everything virtually!” —Roman Z.

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