In the insurance world, a windstorm is a wind strong enough to damage your house. In most parts of the country, windstorm damage is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies; in coastal areas, particularly the Gulf Coast states, devastating hurricanes have led to insurers dropping windstorm coverage for some buyers. Some states have government insurance pools to help otherwise uninsurable homeowners.
The standard homeowners policy -- HO-3 -- covers your home against any "peril" other than specific exemptions such as flood damage, and covers the contents against a list of "named perils," including wind damage. Damage includes wind tearing off your roof or flinging loose objects through your windows. Mortgage lenders usually require homeowners provide proof of insurance at closing, and expect coverage to include wind damage. If you file a claim, you'll have to pay off your deductible before receiving any money.
In areas with a high hurricane risk, such as the Gulf Coast of Florida and Texas, insurers may refuse to write policies that include windstorm coverage or any homeowners policies at all. A number of coastal states have created government-backed insurance pools to write policies for coastal homeowners. In some parts of these states, this may be the only way for owners to obtain coverage they can afford. Florida also has created a catastrophe fund that reimburses insurers' hurricane losses above a certain level.
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Storm surge during a hurricane consists of powerful wind-driven waves that wash over coastal areas, sometimes 10 or 12 feet above normal tidal levels. A point of conflict in settling insurance claims -- after 2008's Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast, for instance -- is whether storm surge counts as wind damage or flood damage, which is only covered by federal flood insurance. In 2009, Texas passed a law requiring homeowners buying windstorm coverage from the state pool to buy federal flood insurance first, to eliminate future disputes.
Some insurers limit their vulnerability to claims by requiring higher deductibles on windstorms -- or in some cases, on hurricane winds specifically -- than other named perils in homeowners policies. Where deductibles normally run to set dollar amounts, such as $500 or $1,000, insurers may set the deductible for hurricane or windstorm damage at a percentage -- 2 or 3 percent of the value of the property for instance.
- "Palm Beach Post"; Windstorm for Dummies; Stephanie Horvath; April 2006
- U.S. Legal: Beach and Windstorm Plans Law & Legal Definition
- "Houston Chronicle"; Some Now Need Flood Insurance to Buy Wind Coverage; Purva Patel; September 2009
- Insurance Information Institute; Hurricane and Windstorm Coverage; April 2011