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When a natural disaster strikes, you can end up with a lot of damage to your home and a lot of stress. Homeowners insurance helps protect you financially if a natural disaster causes damage to your home or belongings. Not to mention, it can give you a whole lot of peace of mind.

But standard homeowners insurance excludes some types of natural disasters, like earthquakes or floods.

Here’s what you need to know about the natural disasters homeowners insurance covers:

Does home insurance cover natural disasters?

Yes, homeowners insurance policies cover many potential natural disasters, like winter storms and tornadoes. However, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover all natural disasters. For example, policies typically exclude floods. You should carefully review your homeowners insurance policy to understand exactly what it covers.

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Which disasters does home insurance cover?

These are the 16 perils typically covered by homeowners insurance:

  1. Fire or lightning
  2. Smoke
  3. Windstorm or hail
  4. Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  5. Falling objects
  6. Accidental discharge of water or steam (plumbing, air conditioning, or appliances)
  7. Freezing of household systems
  8. Damage from a power surge
  9. Accidental bulging, burning, cracking, and tearing
  10. Explosion
  11. Theft
  12. Vandalism
  13. Riots
  14. Damage from vehicles
  15. Damage from aircraft
  16. Volcanic eruption

Learn More: How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?

Which disasters aren’t covered by home insurance?

Home insurance policies generally exclude the following natural disasters:.

  • Floods: Flood damage can lead to some very pricey repairs, but unfortunately it’s usually not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. You can purchase separate flood insurance coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from select private insurance carriers. If you live in a high-risk area and have a government-backed mortgage, your lender will require you to have flood insurance.
  • Earthquakes: Earthquake coverage is typically available to purchase from your homeowners insurance provider as a separate policy or as an insurance rider (add-on) to your main homeowners insurance policy. If you have homeowners insurance in California, your insurer must offer to sell you earthquake insurance every other year.

Named-perils coverage vs. open-perils coverage

It’s always wise to have enough homeowners insurance to completely replace your home if necessary. But it’s important to note that not all policy forms cover the same natural disasters.

Let’s take a closer look at which types of natural disasters are typically considered named perils (covered events if they’re listed in your insurance policy) and which are considered open perils (all perils are covered unless any are specifically excluded).

Common Named PerilsCommon Exclusions to Open Perils
  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorms and hail
  • Weight of ice, snow, and sleet
  • Smoke
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Freezing
  • Flooding
  • Earthquakes

In addition, homeowners insurance comes in eight different policy forms, each with varying rules on named and open perils:

Policy formProperty typeWhat it coversBest for
HO-1 (basic)HouseLimited named perils for structure and contentsBare-bones coverage, where available
HO-2 (broad)HouseGreater number of named perils for structure and contentsMore coverage than HO-1 but less than HO-3
HO-3 (special)HouseOpen perils for structure, named perils for contentsMost homeowners
HO-4 (contents broad)Rental unitNamed perils for contentsRenters
HO-5 (comprehensive)Higher-value houseOpen perils for structure and personal propertyHomeowners who want the most comprehensive coverage
HO-6 (unit-owners)Condo or co-op unitNamed perils for contents and certain structural itemsCondo or co-op unit owners
HO-7 (mobile home)Mobile homeOpen perils for structure, named perils for personal propertyMobile home owners
HO-8 (modified coverage)Old, high-risk homesLimited named perils for structure and personal property Homeowners who don’t qualify for any other coverage

What to do if you experience a natural disaster

If a natural disaster strikes and damages your home or personal belongings, it can be helpful to know what your next steps should be. Here’s what to do once a natural disaster causes damages or losses:

  • Contact your insurance agent or provider. You’ll want to complete this step immediately after the peril occurs, as some providers have a specific time frame for when you can make a claim. Your insurance carrier can walk you through whether your policy covers the damage, whether or not your claim exceeds your deductible, how long the claim process will take, and if you need to secure estimates for repairs.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. Fix what you can to protect your property temporarily (such as a leak), and save any receipts for what you spend so you can submit them to your insurance carrier for reimbursement. Keep in mind, you don’t want to make any permanent repairs until a claims adjuster has visited your home. Your insurer may not cover permanent repairs you make on your own.
  • Document the damage. Take photos, videos, and detailed notes of the damage. Your insurer will want to see this when you file a claim. Create an inventory of any damaged or destroyed items (including their prices) so you can give a copy to the claims adjuster, in addition to copies of any receipts you have. It’s important not to throw out any damaged items until the adjuster can review them.
  • Relocate if necessary. If you need to relocate because of extensive damage, keep track of the living expenses you take on to do so, like hotel expenses or laundry costs. Most homeowners insurance policies offer coverage for certain additional living expenses after a natural disaster strikes.
  • Meet with the claims adjuster. If your insurance provider sends a claims adjuster, you’ll need to walk them through all the damage to your property so they can inspect it.
  • Get bids from contractors. Once your insurance carrier gives you the go-ahead, you can hire a contractor to make repairs. Shop around and get bids from a few different ones to secure the best price.
  • Receive your claim check. You may get multiple claim checks. Many insurers issue the first check after the adjuster reviews the damage, and a second one after receiving the contractor’s bill for completing the repairs.
  • Stay organized. You’ll want to keep copies of any paperwork given to you by the insurance provider and take note of the names and phone numbers of anyone you speak with. Things can get messy fast after a natural disaster, and having thorough records will help ensure you get all the help you need in a timely manner.

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Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.

About the author
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco has been a personal finance writer for over seven years and is a contributor to Credible. She has contributed content to more than a dozen financial brands, including LendingTree, Credit Karma, Fundera, Chime, MagnifyMoney, Student Loan Hero, ValuePenguin, SoFi, and Northwestern Mutual.

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