Had enough of this year's lousy weather? No, you haven't. William Gray, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, is predicting "higher-than-average hurricane activity this year with 14 named storms, eight of which are expected to be hurricanes, three of them intense." So batten down the hatches. And while you're at it, give your homeowner's policy a once-over.
Why? Because if you're hit by one of these windstorms, you could pay much more out of pocket than a standard deductible. In the late 1990s, insurers in 17 coastal states added further deductibles, specifically for hurricanes, to many policies. Instead of capping your losses at $500 or $1,000, typical for most policies, hurricane deductibles assess a percentage of the insured value of your house, anywhere from 0.5% to 15%. If your home is insured for $250,000 and you have a 5% hurricane deductible, you would pay for the first $12,500 of hurricane damages.
Never heard of a hurricane deductible? You're not alone. "Too many people just don't read their policies," says P.J. Crowley of the Insurance Information Institute. Here's what you can do to bring down the cost:
SHOP AROUND Hurricane deductibles vary, not just by state but by county, your house's distance from the coast, the strength of the storm and the insurer. Chubb, for example, levies a 5% deductible on homes in New York's Nassau and Suffolk counties, both on Long Island, within a mile of the North Shore and five miles of the South Shore for a Category 1 hurricane (winds 74 m.p.h. to 95 m.p.h.). But Atlantic Mutual's 5% deductible applies only to houses within 1,000 ft. of shore for Category 2 (96 m.p.h. to 110 m.p.h.) storms; after that, it's 2%.
CHANGE THE DEDUCTIBLE As with traditional insurance deductibles, you can sometimes adjust a hurricane deductible. Buying it down, or lowering it, means you're asking the insurer to assume more of the risk. Buying it up, or raising it, means you take on more of the risk.
RENOVATE WITH AN EYE TO SAFETY For example, if you're upgrading the windows or doors, look for impact-resistant ones, says Charlie Reese of the Institute for Business & Home Safety. Roofs can blow off in a hurricane because a door or window is compromised. "Once the wind gets into a house, all it wants to do is find a way out," says Reese.
Even if you don't live in a coastal area, this is a good time to audit your homeowner's insurance. Prices are expected to rise 9% on average this year. By shopping around, giving your home and auto business to a single company and raising deductibles from $250 or $500 to $1,000, you can overcome those prices increases, and more. --With reporting by Jonah Freedman