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Can I Get Last-Minute Insurance for Hurricane Matthew?

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For homeowners in the path of Hurricane Matthew who are uninsured or underinsured, it’s probably too late to get or add coverage. That’s because insurance companies generally stop writing coverage as soon as an area is under a hurricane warning.

In most cases, however, if you have homeowner’s insurance, you have coverage for wind, unless you’re in a high-risk area. Then you might need a special rider on your insurance policy, said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for The Insurance Information Institute.

“Wind and hurricane (damage) are standard coverage in home and business policies. Wind is covered,” Salvatore said. “If you live in a very high-risk area it’s possible that you’d have to get coverage (for wind), but that’s the exception, that’s not the rule.”

Still, it’s a good idea to check your policy and ask your insurance agent what your policy cover. For those of you worried about Hurricane Matthew, you may be out of luck already though. That’s because insurers are allowed to stop writing and changing coverages in these situations.In Florida, for example, any changes to insurance policies should be made 72 hours before the storm makes landfall, according to Billy Wagner, multi-unit owner of Brightway Insurance in Jacksonville, Fla. One exception, Wagner said, is if a homeowner is closing on a new house, then a few select companies will still write a policy.

Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm at the time of publication, is widely expected to cause significant damage from Florida to North Carolina, with floods and high winds expected.

“It’s going up the entire coast, so they’ve pretty much shut down the entire state of Florida, meaning that you cannot bind or alter coverage with any of the (insurance) companies,” Wagner said.

Flooding & Storm Surges

If you’re in an area farther up the coast and are still able to get coverage, one thing to keep in mind is that, while homeowner’s insurance typically covers wind damages associated with hurricanes, it doesn’t cover flooding or storm surges. In fact, most policies cover damage from windstorms, hail, lightning and fire. Most even cover damage by airplane, but it’s good to review your exact coverages with your insurance agent. You’ll need a separate flood insurance policy to cover any damages from storm surge or rising water.

“One of the biggest misnomers for many people is that rising water from outside the house, even if caused by a hurricane, is considered flood damage,” Wagner said. But flood insurance, in general, has an even longer waiting period of 30 days, said Wagner, meaning, if you ordered flood insurance today, it would likely take about a month before flood damage would be covered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes exceptions on the 30-day waiting rule for flood coverage for homeowners who are buying flood insurance “in connection with making, increasing, extending, or renewing your mortgage loan” as long as coverage is purchased before or at closing.

If you’re in the process of buying insurance coverage, your credit score could affect your homeowner’s insurance rate. Insurance companies will obtain what’s called an “insurance-based credit score,” a score designed to predict whether you’re likely to file a claim. The score could also determine if you qualify for discounts. Similar to a traditional credit score, it considers your outside debt levels, credit balances, late payments and credit history, so your traditional credit score can give you a good idea of any problem areas you may need to address before you apply for coverage. You can get a free credit report once a year from all three bureaus, even if you’re not buying insurance. And you can get a free credit report snapshot every 14 days on Credit.com.

Image: Aneese

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