By a wide margin, the United States is the world leader in the number of yearly tornadoes the country sees. Statistics show that over 1,000 tornadoes occur within our boundaries every year, while Canada is a distant second with only about 100 tornadoes touching down each year. It is therefore vitally important that homeowners in the U.S. carry insurance coverage for this type of disaster, especially if they live in the area designated as tornado alley, where tornadoes are especially prevalent.
Statistics show that tornadoes and convective storms in the U.S. cause an average of about $17 billion in total property damage each year. Homeowners therefore need to ensure that their homes and personal belongings have adequate insurance protection against this threat.
When homeowners insurance covers tornado damage
Fortunately, tornado coverage is usually included in most homeowners insurance policies and does not need to be added separately the way that flood or earthquake insurance does. But there are some policies that require the homeowner to add tornado coverage as a separate rider or endorsement.
There are three separate ways that a homeowners insurance policy can cover tornado damage:
- Protection from structural damage, where the actual home structure has been directly damaged by wind from a tornado.
- Personal property coverage, which covers the cost of any loss of personal belongings from a tornado. Some policies will provide for the replacement cost of personal belongings that are lost due to a tornado, while others will only provide the actual cost of personal belongings, with depreciation factored in.
- Many policies also offer temporary housing coverage, which covers the homeowner’s dwelling expenses if they are forced to live elsewhere while their home is being repaired due to tornado damage.
Tornado insurance coverage is not specifically required by any state in the U.S., and there is usually no separate cost or charge for this type of coverage. But those who live in areas where tornadoes frequently occur will generally pay more for their homeowners coverage than those who do not. There are also no specific exclusions for tornado occurrences in the vast majority of policies, and most renters’ policies also include tornado coverage. The amount of coverage that a renter’s policy provides will depend largely upon the cost of the policy and the types of tornado coverage that it offers.
How to choose the right policy to cover for tornado damage
Given the high number of tornadoes that occur in the U.S. every year, it is vitally important for homeowners to ensure that they have adequate coverage for this type of disaster. The damage from a tornado can be very severe in some cases, and a powerful tornado can easily level a house or building.
As mentioned previously, most homeowners insurance policies include damage from the wind caused by tornadoes as part of their basic coverage. Homeowners can take the following steps to ensure that they are covered for tornado damage:
- If the policy does not specifically include this type of coverage, then the homeowner should be sure to add it on as a separate rider or endorsement. The only possible exception to this is for homeowners who live in Alaska, a state which has reported no tornadoes in the past 10 years.
- Policyholders should read their policies carefully to see exactly what will be covered if a tornado occurs. They need to know whether their policy includes coverage for structural damage, loss of personal property and the cost of temporary lodging that will be incurred if they are forced to live elsewhere while their home is being repaired.
- Policyholders should not hesitate to consult with their insurance agent or financial advisor if they have any questions about this. Whoever sold them their homeowner’s policy can probably provide an immediate answer to any question related to this.
Adding tornado coverage to your homeowner’s policy will be a relatively simple task in most cases, assuming that your policy does not specifically include tornado coverage. Your insurance agent should be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to accomplish this.
The cost of tornado insurance
As mentioned previously, tornado insurance is automatically included in most homeowners’ insurance policies. If you have recently made improvements to your home, bought new furniture or appliances or the value of your home has increased due to other factors, then you may need to increase the limits of your homeowners’ coverage to ensure that you won’t suffer a disastrous financial loss if a tornado damages or destroys your home.
If your homeowner’s policy requires you to add tornadoes as a specific separate peril, then there will be a specific additional cost that you must pay for this coverage. The cost of this rider will depend largely upon the types and amounts of coverage that are provided. There may also be a windstorm deductible that you must meet before the insurance carrier will pay for any losses.
What to do if your home suffers tornado damage
If you are unlucky enough to have your home damaged or destroyed by a tornado, take the following steps to ensure that you get all of the coverage that you deserve. Some of these steps are ones you can take even before a tornado strikes so that you are already prepared.
Itemize your possessions
Before a tornado hits, go through your home and list all of your major belongings and items that you would want to have replaced if worse comes to worse. Make a note of the cost of each item and store this list in a safe place (such as your bank safety deposit box) so that you’ll have it handy in case you need to provide it to your insurance agent or carrier.
Itemize your damages and losses
If a tornado hits your home, take detailed pictures of all of the damage that was caused and also make up a list of any and all items that were lost or destroyed. Submit this information to your insurance agent or carrier as soon as possible in order to get the ball rolling on your reimbursements or coverage.
Stay in touch
You will need to stay in regular communication with your insurance agent or carrier in order to know what steps they will take and when in order to process your claim. If you will need temporary lodging for a period of time while your home is repaired, then make sure that the place you are staying is covered by your insurance and does not cost more than the limit prescribed in your policy.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best home insurance company?
There is no one right answer to this question, as people’s needs and situations vary. Bankrate.com lists Amica Mutual as the best insurance carrier for homeowners. Their rates are affordable, their claims handling process is fast and easy and they have received high marks for customer service and satisfaction.
When is tornado damage not covered by my homeowners policy?
The only instance where tornado damage may not be covered is when the home suffers water damage as a result of the tornado that is not caused directly by structural damage. For example, if a tornado opens a hole in the side of the house, then any water damage that is caused from water or rain getting inside the house will most likely be covered. But if the tornado causes general flooding outside of the house, then the homeowner will most likely need to have a separate flood insurance policy in order to be covered.
Is tornado coverage required in my state?
There are no state-specific requirements for tornado coverage, but the vast majority of homeowners should probably carry this type of coverage. This is especially true for those who live in Tornado Alley, which is in the midwestern part of the country.