What Is Tornado Insurance?
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According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the United States experiences about 1,200 tornadoes each year. While many homeowners insurance policies include windstorm coverage which protects against tornadoes, it may be excluded if you live in a high-risk area. If this is the case with your policy, you will need to buy tornado coverage as a policy add-on or standalone policy.
Learn how much tornado insurance costs and how to file a claim if your home gets hit.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tornado Damage?
Homeowners policies will typically cover damage caused by a tornado. Tornado coverage is usually included under the “windstorm” peril in your policy, alongside hurricanes and other superstorms. Some of the damages that may be covered under windstorm insurance include:
- Damage to your home’s structure: This includes damage to the roof, walls, windows and other structural components of your home caused by high winds. Setting your homeowners insurance dwelling coverage limit at 100% of its replacement cost value (RCV) ensures you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home if it’s totaled by a tornado.
- Damage to your personal belongings: Windstorm coverage can extend to protect items such as furniture, electronics and appliances. Homeowners insurance policies typically provide coverage for your personal belongings at their actual cash value (ACV) through the personal property coverage, generally between 50% and 70% of the dwelling coverage limit.
- Damage to other structures: This includes sheds, detached garages, RV shelters, fences and other structures on your property.
- Living expenses if you need to relocate: If your home becomes uninhabitable due to windstorm damage, your policy may cover temporary living accommodations and meal costs while your home is being repaired or rebuilt
It’s also worth noting that other damages that resulted from the tornado happening but not caused by the tornado itself may be covered. For example, you would be covered if a tornado uprooted a well-maintained tree and blew it into your home, damaging the exterior. However, poor maintenance is not covered and your insurer may refuse coverage if the tree was dead and should have been removed earlier, for instance.
Tornado Deductibles and Exclusions
Note that homeowners insurance policies may have separate windstorm deductibles between 1% and 5% of the insured value of your home, usually if you live in a high-risk area. For example, a windstorm deductible may range from $3,000 to $15,000 for a policy with $300,000 in dwelling coverage in Kansas.
The following 19 states and the District of Columbia have windstorm deductibles:
|District of Columbia
Be warned: for homes located in an area prone to frequent windstorm damage, insurers may exclude windstorm coverage from standard homeowners policies. Instead, they may sell this coverage as a separate policy or an endorsement (add-on) to the base policy. These specialized policies often have higher premiums due to the increased risk.
Does Home Insurance Cover Flooding Caused By a Tornado?
Your homeowners insurance company may cover flood damage but it will depend on how it happened. Generally, two types of flooding can occur in your home:
- A buildup of naturally occurring water external to your home (e.g., water from a river or the ocean) that breaches your living structure or
- Water suddenly enters your home because say, a flying piece of debris breaks a window during a tornado.
The first type is traditionally not covered by homeowners insurance. You must purchase a separate flood policy through a private company or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The second type of flood damage, however, may be covered if it was the result of a covered peril — in this case, a windstorm or tornado.
What Type of Home Insurance Policy Do I Need for Tornado Damage?
If your home insurance policy lists windstorms as a covered peril, then your home’s structure and personal belongings should be covered if they are lost during a tornado event. Otherwise, you'll need to purchase insurance for tornadoes as a separate windstorm plan or add a windstorm rider to your homeowners policy.
There is also the option of purchasing a catastrophe insurance plan or adding a catastrophe endorsement to your home insurance policy. Catastrophe insurance is specifically designed for extreme weather events such as tornadoes.
How Much Does Tornado Insurance Cost?
Kris Lippi, a licensed real estate broker and the CEO of ISoldMyHouse.com, an online real estate website, estimates the average annual cost of a standalone windstorm plan to be $1,750. That is considerably higher than the average cost of home insurance ($1,213.89) according to SmartFinancial’s analysis.
Of course, where you live will be a substantial pricing factor. People who live in the so-called Tornado Alley will spend more on insurance than people living in California, for instance. Premiums are also likely higher in Texas, a state that sees 155 tornadoes annually on average and other high-risk states like Kansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri.
The condition of your roof can affect your tornado insurance premium, as well. “Older homes with older roofs may not withstand windstorms or hail damage as well as newer roofs, which can lead to higher costs,” Lippi told SmartFinancial in an email.
How To File a Tornado Insurance Claim
Here are some general steps to help you file a tornado insurance claim:
- Assess the damage: Take photos or videos of the affected areas to document the extent of the destruction. Make a list of damaged items and property.
- Review your insurance policy: Note any deductibles, limits or specific requirements for filing a claim.
- Contact your insurance company: Have your policy number and relevant details ready when you call. Your carrier will guide you through the claims process and provide you with specific instructions.
- Meet with an adjuster: Provide them with the necessary evidence, such as photos, videos and a list of damaged items.
- Mitigate further damage: Cover broken windows or holes in the roof. Keep records and receipts of any temporary repairs you make. However, consult with your insurance company before starting any major repairs.
- Document expenses: This includes temporary living arrangements, transportation costs and any other additional expenses. Your insurance policy may cover these.
- Complete the claims forms: Fill them out accurately and include all requested information. Attach any supporting documentation, including photographs, videos and receipts.
- Cooperate with the investigation: This may involve providing additional evidence, answering questions or allowing further inspections.
- Review the payout offer: Ensure it adequately covers your losses. If you have concerns or disagreements, communicate with your insurance adjuster or seek legal advice.
- Accept or deny the payout: Remember, feel free to seek legal assistance if you're not sure what you're being offered is correct.
How Do I Prepare for a Tornado?
If there is a possibility for a tornado to touch down in your area, make sure you keep track of weather updates and warnings by listening to the local news or weather radio or by using weather apps on your smartphone. Be alert for signs of an approaching tornado, such as a dark greenish sky, large hail, a roar similar to a freight train or a debris cloud.
You should also create a plan with your family or household members. Determine where to take shelter during a tornado, such as a basement or a storm cellar, and how to follow government evacuation orders. You can then start conducting tornado drills with your family once you have the details sorted so that everyone knows how to respond quickly and calmly during an actual tornado.
Have emergency provisions at hand in case of a tornado. Assemble an emergency kit with essential items such as a battery-powered flashlight, extra batteries, a portable weather radio, a first aid kit, non-perishable food, bottled water, blankets, medications and any necessary personal documents or identification.
Also, don't overlook ways of securing your property. Trim trees and branches near your home that could potentially fall and cause damage during high winds. Secure outdoor furniture, garden tools and other loose items that could be picked up by strong winds and become hazardous.
Regarding flying debris, consider reinforcing your home against tornadoes by installing storm shutters, reinforcing garage doors and ensuring that entry doors have sturdy hinges and locks.