Maryland Insurance Administration
July 25, 2017
Following strong storms and a tornado that damaged homes in Queen Anne’s County this week, many residents may be asking, “Will my homeowners insurance pay for the damage?”
Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, Jr. says each homeowner should look at their homeowners policy or talk with a representative from their insurance company to find out what the policy specifically covers and doesn’t cover. Homeowners should also find out what the policy deductible is, and any dollar limits on the amount of damage the policy will cover.
Queen Anne’s County residents can follow these guidelines to help with any insurance claims they may file:
• Contact your insurance company or agent immediately.
• Take photographs or video footage of any damage.
• If you have to relocate, even temporarily, make sure your insurance company or agent knows how to reach you.
• Before you remove any damaged property from the premises, be sure an insurance adjuster or your agent has seen it first.
• Keep all receipts for emergency repairs and for temporarily living expenses.
• Make only those repairs necessary to prevent any further damage to your home or business. Do not make permanent repairs without consulting your agent or company, as unauthorized repairs may not be reimbursable.
• Obtain estimates of the damage to the property from at least two licensed contractors, if available. Check with the Home Improvement Commission to confirm that they are licensed. They can be reached at (410) 230-6309 or (888) 218-5925.
• Make a detailed list of all damaged property.
• If your insurance company denies any part of your claim, keep all of the paperwork they send you. If your area is declared a disaster by the federal government, you may be eligible to file for federal relief by providing that proof. Residents can also file a complaint with the Insurance Administration: 410-468-2340 or by visiting our website: insurance.maryland.gov/Consumer/Pages/FileAComplaint.aspx
• If you hire a public adjuster, understand that your insurance company is not obligated to follow what a public adjuster determines to be your loss.
• Read your policy carefully so you understand what is covered and what is not.
For more information, visit the Maryland Insurance Administration’s website, www.insurance.maryland.gov. Look for the link to “Insurance Preparedness for Natural Disasters”, under “Hot Topics.”
Although the terms of your actual policy will determine if the damage you have incurred is covered, generally many homeowners policies will:
• Provide coverage for damage to your home and the contents of your home if a tree (even if it is your neighbor’s tree) falls on your home or other insured structure, such as a fence or a detached garage. If your neighbor’s tree was dead and the neighbor knew it was dead, then your homeowners insurance company may seek reimbursement from your neighbor for the claim. This is called, “subrogation.” Remember though, that the amount of coverage will be determined by your policy’s dollar limits. Your homeowners policy may also pay a limited amount (usually between $500 and $1,000) to remove the tree from your property. The amount paid for tree removal is typically based on the event and not the number of trees that fall. This means that you will receive the same amount of money whether one tree falls or if 10 trees fall.
• Provide some coverage for the cost of tree removal. Many policies pay a limited amount (usually between $500 and $1,000) to remove the tree(s) from your property, whether the tree damages an insured structure or just falls in your yard. The amount paid for tree removal is typically based on the event and not the number of trees that fall. This means that you will receive the same amount of money whether just one tree falls, or if 10 trees fall.
• Provide some coverage for damage to your trees, shrubs or plants in certain very limited circumstances, such as fire, lightning or vandalism; damage from snow, ice or wind is generally not covered. Generally, the amount that your homeowners policy will pay is limited to 5% of the coverage of the structure (this is called your Coverage A), and is capped at $500 for any one item.
• Not provide coverage for damage to your car if the tree falls on it. If you have comprehensive coverage on your automobile though, then your automobile policy may pay for the damage.
Additionally, your local municipality may arrange for debris removal after a major storm that affects a large area. Watch for information in the newspaper or listen to the radio for details. If there is debris removal by a government jurisdiction, you may need to sign a Right of Entry form granting permission to come onto your property and remove the debris. Before the debris is removed, you should photograph all damaged property because your policy will likely require you to prove your loss.
You should review your insurance policy annually to make sure that you have the appropriate coverage. For more information regarding your homeowners insurance policy, read the Maryland Insurance Administration’s information about homeowners and renters insurance located on our website www.insurance.maryland.gov.
About the Maryland Insurance Administration
The Insurance Administration is an independent State agency charged with regulating Maryland’s $28.5 billion insurance industry. For more information about the Insurance Administration, please visit www.insurance.maryland.gov or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MDInsuranceAdmin or Twitter at @MD_Insurance.