It’s still hurricane season: protecting yourself and your possessions
For another two months or so, hurricanes are still a threat to homes in many of the United States, bringing powerful winds and heavy storms. Their power of destruction can be incredible: 2012’s Superstorm Sandy caused more than $68 billion in insurance claims across 24 states.
Homeowners know very well what steps they need to take to keep their homes on the safe side, but renters seem to be lagging behind. Do you know how to keep your possessions and house safe in case of tropical storm or hurricane?
1. Get renter’s insurance
No, your landlord’s homeowners insurance will not cover your belongings. Even if you’re just renting a room in a shared house, the coverage only protects your landlord’s furnishings, while your property is specifically excluded.
If you are renting the entire house, your possessions still won’t be covered without renter’s insurance. However, the additions and alterations made by the tenant to the property may be covered up to 10 percent of the home’s coverage limits for contents. Storm screens or carpeting are examples of addition and alterations. Make sure the policy you are purchasing specifically includes hurricane coverage as renter’s insurance policies provide coverage only for the types of situations that are explicitly names on it.
2. Create a home inventory
The next step, following the renter’s insurance purchase, is to make a home inventory of all your belongings to have it in case you need to file a claim in case of loss or destruction during a hurricane. The inventory should include photos of the items, estimated purchase dates and values, the brand name and model, and, if possible, copies of the receipts. Also, taking a photo of the receipt is another valid option to keep these records.
It’s important to keep your inventory safe from fire; a modern way, and a very secure one, is to create a digital file of the inventory that you can save online and can be accessed from anywhere.
3. Discuss with your landlord about measures to protect the home in case of a hurricane
As a renter, you have no responsibility to protect the property, unless your lease agreement states otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make sure the place you live in is not as wind- and storm-resistant as possible; talk to your landlord about precautionary measures to protect the dwelling.
FEMA recommends securing the roof with wooden planks running along the underside of the roof in the attic, known as truss bracing. Doors can be strengthened with reinforcing bolt kits and windows and glass doors can have added storm shutters. Perhaps some of them you can add yourself, but others might require professional skills in which case hiring a contractor is the best option.
Some local governments require homeowners to assure some or all of these measures, so you might want to look into seeing if the dwelling you’re renting meets the requirements of the region you live in. if you discover that they don’t, it’s your legal right to demand them from your landlord.
4. After hurricane damage, you might receive some help to recover from the loss
If you disregarded the first tip on this list and didn’t get renter’s insurance to protect your valuables, or perhaps lost items that weren’t in your renter’s policy, you may be eligible for a low-interest disaster assistance loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace articles including clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars destroyed or lost during the super storm. You can apply for a disaster assistance loan here.