Personal Finance

How to prepare your home — and your finances — for a hurricane

Key Points
  • Scientists predict a "slightly above average" season with 14 named storms, seven of which could become hurricanes.
  • Hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.
  • Combined insured losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 hit $92 billion, according to Swiss Re.
Warren Faidley | Getty Images

With an "above average" hurricane season just weeks away, now is the time to go over your homeowners policy and ensure that your coverage is watertight.

This year we can expect to see 14 named storms, according to forecasts from the Colorado State University. That includes seven that could become hurricanes — three of which will be major or at least register a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The 2017 season (which forecasters had also pegged as above average) proved devastating for the Caribbean and the southeastern part of the U.S, as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused a combined $92 billion in insured losses, according to insurer Swiss Re.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 30, so you have about three weeks to review the insurance policy covering your dwelling and belongings.

Science Photo Library - NASA | Getty Images

"It's key to understand the nuances of your insurance policy and be fully protected before the storm hits," said Annmarie Camp, executive vice president at Chubb Personal Risk Services.

"You don't want to find out that you're underinsured after a storm," she said.

Having the appropriate amount of coverage is all the more important this year, as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits your ability to take a tax deduction for personal casualty and theft losses.

From 2018 to the end of 2025, you can only claim these losses if the damage is attributable to a disaster declared by the president.

Here's where to begin shoring up your home and your insurance policy.

Mind the coverage gap

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Pop quiz: What's your hurricane deductible?

Separate from the standard deductible on your homeowner's coverage, there may be an additional amount you'll need to pay out-of-pocket before your insurer will cover hurricane damage.

Depending on your policy and where you reside, your hurricane deductible can be as high as 5 percent of your home's insured value. You could be on the hook for even more if you reside in a high-risk location: Hurricane deductibles in Florida can be up to 10 percent of the insured value.

These deductibles are in effect in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The states are Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Be sure to have the money you'll need either in your emergency fund or in a home equity line.

Further, if you've made updates to your home, contact your insurance agent or broker. You'll probably need to increase your coverage, Camp said.

Know your flood insurance

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While your homeowner's insurance policy may cover damage from wind and hail, it almost certainly doesn't cover flooding.

In that case, you'll have to buy separate coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program or through a private insurer. There's a 30-day waiting period for new policies to take effect, so it's better to assess your needs now, before hurricane season begins.

Under the federal program, the structure of your dwelling is covered up to $250,000. You can buy a separate policy to cover the contents of your home, up to $100,000.

If your dwelling exceeds the $250,000 mark, you'll need excess flood insurance.

Don't be lulled into a false sense of security if your home is in a "moderate risk" zone based on the flood maps.

"When we look at Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, both were significant flooding events, and even people in preferred zones can still flood," said Camp.

Insurance review prep

At a glance, here's what you need to know about your policy.