Tips for dealing with wind damage

COLUMBUS — The series of high winds around Ohio Sept. 14 have left many residents dealing with repairs and clean-up in the aftermath. Many are dealing with fallen tree debris, roof repair and damaged vehicles.

The Ohio Insurance Institute advises all homeowners to check with their insurance agent or company regarding current coverage limitations. Some of these related damages are covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy; some are covered to a noted limit; while other coverages typically apply only through policy endorsement.

Home damage

Damages caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree – whether it is your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered under your homeowners insurance policy.

Debris Removal

Typically, the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500 per tree) under the following circumstances:

- The tree was uprooted due to windstorm or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances

- The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed

- The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.

Damage to trees

The residence’s trees, shrubs, plants or lawn are NOT covered from damage caused by high winds. Such damages are covered from the perils of fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft.

The limit is 5 percent of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. If lightning strikes a tree and falls on your home, homeowners coverage applies as noted.

Vehical coverage

Vehicles damaged by debris, fallen trees or fallen limbs are covered under the “other-than-collision” (also known as “comprehensive”) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn.

The institute recommends that, if severe weather threatens, cars should be moved under cover to prevent damage from high winds or flying debris, when possible. Vehicles damaged by your or a neighbor’s tree or limb are covered under your auto policy’s comprehensive coverage. Deductibles apply.

Reasonable repairs

Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.

Home contractor repair tips

- Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. Check with family and friends for referrals, or contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.

- Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure that estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number.

Food spoilage

Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.).

Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies.

Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.

Insurance tips

- Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
- Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
- Secure property from further damage or theft. Save all receipts since many insurers will reimburse these expenses.
- Contact your insurance agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim. Insurers have tightened underwriting guidelines and may evaluate all claims filed in recent years which could impact your insurability.
- Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim as repair costs may not exceed your deductible.
- If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses up to a stated amount (like motel and dining expenses).
- Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date.

Additional resources

- Tips for settling a homeowners insurance claim
- NICB – Disaster Fraud: Don’t be victimized twice
- Insurance Information Institute – Fallen trees

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