Nags Head, NC (Courtesy: Getty Images)
Thousands of East Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irene could find themselves stuck with bills that aren't covered by their homeowners insurance policies.
Estimates of damage left behind by Irene range from $3 billion to $7 billion and much of it flood-related, which isn't covered by private homeowners insurance. While many homeowners in hurricane-prone areas have federal flood insurance, less than 20% outside the Gulf Coast have it, says Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America.
"There are going to be some very despondent people who rejected flood insurance coverage because they thought, 'It couldn't happen to me,'" says Bob Rusbuldt, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.
Limits on other hurricane-related damages:
-- Damages to vehicles. Damage to your car from fallen trees or flooding is covered by your auto insurance, as long as you have comprehensive coverage, Rusbuldt says.
-- Living expenses. Most policies will cover temporary living expenses if your home was made uninhabitable. Some policies also cover the costs of a mandatory evacuation. State Farm, for example, will cover evacuation costs if your home or nearby homes were damaged, says Dick Luedke, spokesman for State Farm Insurance.
-- Inedible food. Most policies cover the cost of replacing food that spoiled because of a hurricane-related power outage but limit coverage to $250 to $500, the Insurance Information Institute says.
Tips for homeowners who need to file a claim:
- Make temporary repairs, such as putting a tarp over a hole in your roof, to prevent additional damage. Keep receipts.
- File your claim as soon as possible. Insurance companies generally handle claims on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the CFA.
- Take photos or video of the damage.