RICHMOND — Storm activity is picking up in the tropics as we approach peak Atlantic hurricane season. The Virginia State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians to remain vigilant and act now to protect their property from loss.
Although the Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and runs through November 30, late August to early October is often the most active and dangerous time for tropical cyclone activity. No matter where you live in Virginia, hurricanes and their accompanying winds and rains can threaten lives and property. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic Ocean, it will be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write related coverage until the storm threat passes.
The Bureau of Insurance encourages homeowners, renters and business owners to review their insurance policies now to ensure they have enough coverage in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. Know what each policy does and does not cover and understand any deductibles you may have to pay in the event of a claim. Ask your insurance company or agent how you can minimize property damage and, if such damage occurs, how to expedite the processing of claims with your insurance company.
“Don’t wait until it’s too late. Know your risk and protect yourself now by ensuring you have the coverage you need before a hurricane starts to form,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline K. Cunningham.
Prepare a complete inventory of your personal property including serial numbers, photographs and videotapes. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a free smartphone app – myHOME Scr.APP.book – that can facilitate this process. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play. Keep your home inventory and your insurance policies in a safe place, and take them with you if you evacuate.
If your property is damaged by a hurricane or other disaster, call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Make any necessary emergency repairs and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your property. Record all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
If you must evacuate, know the name of your insurance companies and take your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies and home inventory with you or save them electronically. They will contain your policy number and the phone number of your insurance company in the event you have questions or need to file a claim.
The Bureau also encourages policyholders to consider the following:
- Is your home covered in the event of a flood, surface water, or storm surge? Homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia generally do not provide coverage for damage to your home and belongings due to flood, surface water, or storm surge. However, flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-225-5356 or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Keep in mind that there is typically a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect.
- Does your homeowners policy contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses? These deductibles are applied separately from any other deductible on a homeowners policy and may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or applied to a loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling. The deductible is the amount that you are responsible for paying before the insurance company pays its portion of the claim.
- Does your homeowners policy provide any coverage for such things as sewer backup? Most homeowners policies do not provide coverage for sewer backup, but policyholders may purchase additional coverage for this.
- Are automobiles and other vehicles covered in the event of a hurricane or other windstorm? If you have comprehensive coverage (also known as other-than-collision coverage) for your vehicle under your automobile policy, you will be covered for flood and wind damage.
The Bureau of Insurance has specially trained staff who can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9185. The Bureau also offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available on the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi.
The SCC is located in the Tyler Building at 1300 East Main Street in downtown Richmond. Normal business hours are from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Correspondence may be mailed to the Bureau of Insurance at P. O. Box 1157, Richmond, VA 23218.