Most home insurance policies cover wind damage, but flood damage usually requires a separate policy. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)
If Hurricane Sandy hit your home, you've probably lost something,
from a few shingles to the whole shebang. If you've planned well, you
can keep your losses as low as possible. And if you haven't planned
well, you can take action now to minimize your losses in the next
The best thing you could have done before Sandy struck
was make an inventory of your house and your possessions. There's even
an app for that if you still want to do it. Go to the Insurance
Information Institute's website (www.iii.org/software) and download its home inventory app.
The app lets you enter information on where you
bought your possessions and how much they cost. All the information is
stored remotely, so even if your iPhone gets swept out to sea, you'll
still have a record of what you lost.
Make sure you know your
insurance policy number -- and, if possible, where a copy of your policy
is. If you haven't read your policy, this is a very good time to review
it. "Reading a policy isn't exciting, but it's very important," says
John Egan, editor of InsuranceQuotes.com.
Most policies will cover
wind damage, and they will cover water damage if a tree crashes into
your roof. But flood damage typically requires a separate policy. "There
are many people who find out the hard way that flooding can cause a lot
of damage," Egan says. "They're left holding the bag in flooded areas."
yes, it's too late to get flood insurance for Hurricane Sandy.
Typically, insurers cease writing policies when hurricanes are nearby.
"You need to think about it in dry weather," Egan says. Most flood
insurance policies kick in 30 days after you sign them.
should also check your policy to see if your deductible is higher for a
hurricane than a regular wind policy. Typically, your homeowner policy
will have a dollar deductible -- say, $1,000 -- for damage to your
Many policies have hurricane deductibles, which then
become a percentage of the home's insured value. If your home's insured
value is $200,000, for example, the policy could have a 5% deductible --
$10,000. Typically, the information is on the first page of your
The hurricane deductible is usually spelled out
carefully: Some may not kick in unless the hurricane is a Category 2 or
above, for example. If you do have to pay the higher deductible,
however, you may be able to deduct some of that loss from your income
for tax purposes. You'll need to fill out IRS Form 4684 to claim your
Once the storm is over, it's time to call your insurer. If
you don't know the number, you can find the toll-free numbers of all the
insurance companies at the III's website.
Claims adjusters are
just outside the storm area, waiting for local authorities to give them
the go-ahead to enter devastated areas, says Bob Hartwig, president of
It's crucial that you be with the adjuster when he surveys
the storm damage, Egan says. Keep a notebook and write down everything
he says, as well as the name of everyone you talk to at the insurance
company. "Point out damage, take notes of what's happening and what the
adjuster says and does," Egan says. "No one else will do that for you."
your home is uninhabitable, and your policy covers it, your adjuster
can probably cut a check on the spot for temporary housing. If you make a
temporary repair to prevent further damage -- boarding up a broken
window, for example -- you can probably get reimbursed for the cost of
Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door and ask for
an upfront fee to fix storm damage, Hartwig says. Too often, they're
scamsters who will take your money and scram.