Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tornado Damage in Texas?
The bad news is that there are over 1,200 tornadoes annually across the U.S., with the largest number in the state of Texas. The good news is that homeowner insurance policies typically cover damage from tornadoes.
If you live in “tornado alley” or another state where tornadoes are commonplace, you will want to know if tornadoes are covered by homeowners insurance. And to know this, you will need to understand how insurance works for tornadoes. We provide an overview of each of these subjects in this article.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tornado Damage?
Clients ask all the time, is tornado damage covered by insurance? Do wind and hail insurance cover tornadoes? Fortunately, tornado coverage is usually included in most homeowners insurance policies, under covered damages that form the components of a tornado (like wind and hail, wind-driven rain, water and mold damage, fallen trees, and flying debris.)
Insurance experts report that separate tornado coverage is not really a thing, and homeowners do not need to add it to their policies the way they do for earthquake or flood coverage. However, separate issues related to tornadoes could still result in the carrier denying an insurance claim in certain situations.
A review of your insurance policy with an expert insurance claims attorney is recommended. Insurance policies can be detailed contracts with extensive legal language and implications.
Texas Windstorm Insurance Code
“The primary purpose of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is the provision of an adequate market for windstorm and hail insurance in the seacoast territory of this state. The legislature finds that adequate windstorm and hail insurance is necessary for the economic welfare of this state. Without that insurance, the orderly growth and development of this state would be severely impeded.”
Texas does not require windstorm insurance, but homeowners may need it to qualify for a mortgage in high-risk areas of Houston. Most homeowners’ insurance policies exclude coverage for wind, hail, or hurricane damage, but tornado insurance is covered in many homeowners’ policies.
Different Types of Tornado Damage Covered by Insurance
As we have said, the answer to the question “does home insurance cover tornado damage” is almost always yes. The following types of tornado-related damages are covered by most homeowner’s policies, and this is what to look for when selecting a new policy or reviewing a current policy:
- Dwelling Coverage: This is for the primary structure of your house, permanently attached structures like decks or garages, and what are legally called “fixtures,” like built-in kitchen appliances and property-wide systems (think security systems, internet, or other valuable technology).
- Loss of Use Coverage: This covers expenses to live offsite while your home is being fixed or rebuilt, such as hotel lodging and restaurant meals.
- Personal Property Coverage: This covers personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed, either at full replacement value or depreciation value, depending on the policy.
Choosing the Best Insurance Policy for Tornado Damage
Given that an increasingly high number of tornadoes have caused the loss of life of more than 100 victims in the U.S. in 2021 alone, not to mention a loss of $10 billion in property, obtaining coverage for tornado damage is an essential step for homeowners. The damage from a tornado can be severe in some cases, and a powerful tornado can rob you of your home, if not worse.
When choosing the best insurance policy, it is vital to take such measures as reading the policy thoroughly, asking questions of your insurance agent, and adding additional coverage, where necessary. A skilled insurance attorney can help you refine your questions to ensure that nothing important to you is left unprotected, and the investment of time and resources is certain to help you sleep better at night.
After the Storm: Documenting Your Losses
Document all items that have even small amounts of damage. Walls and ceilings may need to be replaced if the infrastructure was compromised, as well as carpets, drapes, clothing, and family heirlooms that may have been impacted by water, or weather damage. Policyholders should not attempt to clean the house, as dangerous particles in the air may cause negative health issues. Insurance claims should pay for professional cleaning.
Texas Tornado Damage FAQs
How do you file a tornado damage claim?
In the unfortunate event of tornado damage, the steps for filing a claim with your insurance carrier generally include the following:
- First, contact the insurance company immediately.
- Document the damage with photos and video.
- Make temporary repairs to make your home livable and prevent further damage.
- If repairs cannot be undertaken, relocate.
- In the case of repairs or relocation, save all receipts. Electronic payment forms like credit or debit cards can help make this easier.
- File your claim with the insurance company.
- Await an adjuster’s assignment and ensure the adjuster conducts a survey.
- Use the payment from the insurance company to cover losses and incurred costs.
See more tips for handling the insurance claims process.
How do you prepare your home for a tornado?
Before a tornado touches down, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property:
- Itemize your possessions and create an inventory listing your personal property and its value at the time of purchase. Include photos and video. Safely and securely store the inventory and update it routinely.
- Check periodically or have the appropriate professional check to ensure your home is shored up and secure. This includes inspection of your roof, doors, and windows.
- Know where your utility shut-offs, like gas and electric, are to minimize damage.
- Create an emergency plan, including where to go if you need to escape your home, meet up with loved ones, an emergency kit with food, water, and basic medical supplies, and a “go-bag” with a second set of clothing and shoes.
- If you have a dog or cat, place records of the pet’s vaccinations, ownership, medical needs, and a photo of the pet in a secure and accessible location. Unfortunately, many pets can become lost during tornadoes and other natural disasters in Texas.
- Designate a safe room or consider building a storm shelter underground, especially if you live in a highly tornado-prone area.
How much is tornado insurance in Texas?
On average, costs for homeowners’ insurance range from $1,500 to $2,000 per year, with variations in the context of tornadoes related to the size of the property, the specific location of the home, and whether claims have been filed in the past.
What happens if your tornado insurance claim is denied?
If claims in Texas are denied, the process is the same as for any insurance claim. To rectify the situation, you can review your policy, resend or send additional documentation to support your claim, and, if necessary, take the matter to court for breach of contract.
What does the policyholder’s claim documentation include?
- Documenting the damage with photos, measurements, and estimations of the damaged roof area.
- Contacting the insurer with the policy number and a detailed explanation of the claim.
- Reviewing coverages and next steps to be taken.
- Collecting several repair estimates from local contractors before the insurance adjuster visit, but do not sign any contracts or pay for any work until the insurance adjuster and company follows up.
- Scheduling an insurance adjuster appointment to assess damages and costs.
- An insurance adjuster will file a formal report with the insurance carrier.
- After the claim is approved, it is best practice to hire a contractor. Insurance will usually pay half in advance, and the rest after the project is completed, minus any deductible.
- A standard homeowner’s policy may pay for damage claims in areas where windstorm damage is less frequent.
I think my carrier is undervaluing my damage – what do I do?
An undervalued claim may be treated like a denied claim, with the same recourse of appealing with the insurance carrier and, if unsuccessful, filing a lawsuit on breach of contract grounds. Know the signs of bad faith insurance practices.
Should I contact an independent loss adjuster?
Some providers will try to deny a storm damage claim, so it is in the policyholder’s best interest to get an independent loss adjuster to verify all relevant tornado damages. Independent loss adjusters are usually contacted for damaged amounts above $10,000. Policyholders have one year from the date of loss to file a claim with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). If a policyholder thinks TWIA’s estimate of damage claims are too low, they should call TWIA at 1-800-788-8247 and provide the policy number and claim number to discuss options. Policyholders should make all requests in writing, keep a copy and list events regarding tornado damage that include:
Need a Houston Homeowner Damage Claim Attorney? Contact MMA?
As professionals who frequently help clients with homeowners’ insurance and tornado damage claims in Houston, Texas, the attorneys at McClenny Moseley & Associates are well positioned to serve as trusted advisors for all your first party insurance needs.
Policyholders not receiving insurance money to replace damaged property can complain online or mail a paper complaint with attachments to the Texas Insurance Administration. Houston homeowner damage claim attorneys at McClenny Moseley & Associates are a valuable resource for policyholders when insurance claims are denied or a carrier is undervaluing damage/not paying claims per a homeowners or windstorm policy in Texas. Contact us today so that we can help you.