As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to dump water on Texas and Louisiana, you may be wondering what kind of insurance can provide financial rescue in these situations — and how far ahead you need to buy it.
Insurance for hurricane damage can involve more than one insurance policy. Waiting periods often make it tough to buy certain coverage as a storm is approaching. Other policies are more flexible and could be available depending on how close the storm is.
Here's a snapshot of the roadblocks you could encounter when trying to buy coverage before a hurricane:
Home insurance doesn't cover flooding. You'll need to buy a separate flood insurance policy, which takes 30 days to take effect, according to FloodSmart.gov.
If a hurricane strikes within that 30-day window, your policy won't pay for flood damage to your home or belongings.
Many homeowners policies include coverage for wind, especially if you don't live in a hurricane-prone coastal state, so you might not need to buy additional insurance.
But in coastal states like Texas and Florida you're more likely to need separate wind insurance. See NerdWallet's guide to hurricane insurance for a list of where to buy windstorm coverage in these areas.
Waiting periods for windstorm insurance vary by state. If a hurricane is only a day or two away, you might be out of luck.
In South Carolina and Connecticut, for example, newly purchased windstorm policies can't be activated for 15 days. In other states, like Texas and Mississippi, insurers won't offer policies once a hurricane is within a certain range. You would have to wait until the storm either dissipates or passes. Some areas require a home inspection first, which could also delay the application process.
Buying home insurance doesn't happen overnight. Your insurer must evaluate your home for potential problems and claims, which often means having an inspection. Chances are you won't be able to get a brand-new policy at the last minute.
If you already have home insurance, you may be able to make changes to your policy — as long as it's not too late. Insurers usually stop selling additional coverage once there's a hurricane watch. That's 48 hours before the expected onset of tropical-storm-force winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Here are coverage adjustments to consider if you're underinsured, and if it's not too late:
- Double-check that your homeowners policy covers damage related to wind.
- Increase coverage limits for your home's structure and belongings, to match reconstruction and replacement costs.
- Ask about increasing your coverage for additional living expenses. This pays for costs such as a hotel and meals if you can't live in your home because of hurricane damage that's covered by your policy.
Comprehensive car insurance pays to fix damage to your car from flooding, hail and other nasty weather.
Insurers typically won't sell new auto coverage if your area is under a hurricane watch. If it hasn't reached that point, however, ask your insurer about adding comprehensive coverage if you don't already have it.
This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet.