State insurance commissioner urges people to review policies
HONOLULU - Preparing for the storm should also include a check of your insurance to see what's covered and what's not! The state's insurance commissioner reminds homeowners and renters to review their policy so there are no surprises.
Gordon Ito tells people to "take pictures of what they have in their homes or condos. Take inventory, keep it in a safe place. If they have their policy, put it in a waterproof bag and keep that in a safe place."
Just as important, make sure you understand what's covered! Did you know that different policies cover tropical storm force winds, versus hurricane strength winds?
"Homeowner's policies apply if there is a wind storm of 73 mph or less. That's where your homeowner's policy would cover wind damage or loss. If you had only a homeowner's policy but not a hurricane policy, and the National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch or warning, the hurricane policy would be applicable and not your homeowner's," Ito explains. That means your homeowner's insurance policy will not cover any damages done during a hurricane.
Flooding is another threat. People are not often prepared for that, he says, because people often don't buy a flood insurance rider if the mortgage lender doesn't require it because your dwelling is not in an official flood zone.
That may be a mistake. "A lot of the flood damage we've seen happens outside the flood zone," Ito cautions.
For instance, if water runs off a hill and into your home, or a stream nearby overflows and floods your ground floor, you're on the hook if you lack flood insurance. "If it goes into your home, that's flood insurance. It's not covered by homeowner's or hurricane insurance," Ito defines.
The federal government's National Flood Insurance Program covers flood risk; more on that at floodsmart.gov.
But what about water damage caused by your roof blowing off and rain getting inside? Ito clarifies, that's covered by either the homeowner's insurance or hurricane insurance, whichever is in effect based on the wind speeds as determined by the National Weather Service.
Ito sums up, "There's three basic policies people should consider if you're a homeowner: Homeowner's insurance, hurricane insurance, flood insurance."
As for the numerous hurricane watches and warnings that have hit Hawaii so far this storm season, Ito says he feels a sense of storm-fatigue from the community, "but we're not over it yet. We are in the middle of hurricane season." Stay vigilant, he cautions.
The state has advice on how to strengthen your home against a hurricane, and more information about insurance policies. Those links are: