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FAQs: Homeowners insurance and claims

These FAQs give answers to common questions about homeowners insurance policies and filing claims due to a disaster. For information about your specific coverage, always check your policy and contact your insurance agent or company.

Damage to property

Q. Can I make repairs to my property immediately?
A. Generally, you should make temporary repairs if necessary to protect your property from more damage. Do not make permanent repairs until an adjuster has inspected the damage. Your policy covers the cost of necessary temporary repairs, so save your receipts for materials and labor. You should take pictures of the damage before making temporary repairs.

Q. Can I accept payments from more than one insurance company? Can I get payments from my insurers and FEMA? 
A. Yes. Depending on the kind of damage your home has and where you live, you may need to file claims with your windstorm, flood, and homeowners policies. Each policy covers different types of damage so you may have payable claims under more than one policy. You may also apply for FEMA assistance for damage not covered by insurance.

Q. I’ve been getting rental assistance from my home insurer. Can I continue to get those payments if I move into a FEMA trailer or accept other FEMA rental assistance?
A. You cannot collect duplicate rental assistance from your insurer and FEMA. However, you may get FEMA rental help after you reach the limit on what your homeowner’s policy will cover. You also may continue to be eligible for other types of additional living expenses under your homeowner’s policy. Talk to your adjuster about your situation.

Q. Does my homeowners policy cover my detached garage or storage shed?
Typically, yes. The total amount of coverage for those other structures is usually 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have on your dwelling. Polices may not provide coverage for other structures such as portable buildings or buildings that are used for business purposes.

Q. My home was not flooded by rising water, but the sewer line backed up and caused damage in my home. Is this covered under my homeowners policy?
A. It depends on your policy. Some policies cover water or sewage from outside the residence premises plumbing system that enters through sewers or drains, while others don’t.

Q. My house was flooded, and I placed my furniture and household items in the front yard to dry out. Then they were stolen. Will my homeowners policy cover this loss?
A. It depends on your policy. Many policies cover an ensuing loss by theft or attempted theft.

Q. A storm blew my fence down. Will my homeowners insurance cover loss of my fence?
A. If your policy provides coverage for wind, you likely have some coverage for the fence. Coverage for fences is usually limited to actual cash value, which is the cost to repair with new material of like kind and quality, minus depreciation.

Q. My home flooded. Does my homeowners policy cover mold damage from the flood water?
A. Typically, no. If there is no flood coverage in the policy, any ensuing mold loss resulting from flood would not be covered under the policy.

Lodging expenses, loss of food, and FEMA assistance

Q. My home was flooded, but I didn’t have flood insurance. Does my homeowners insurer have to deny my claim before I can apply for FEMA assistance?
No. If your home sustained only flood damage, you are not required to submit documentation that your insurance company denied your claim to get FEMA rental or financial assistance for property damage caused by the disaster.

Q. I have flood insurance, but it doesn’t include additional living expenses. Can I apply for FEMA assistance?
A. Yes. You may be eligible for FEMA assistance for your uninsured or underinsured disaster-caused expenses or serious needs, including temporary housing. You are not required to provide evidence that your insurance company denied your claim for the disaster caused-loss to be eligible for temporary housing assistance from FEMA. However, if you have flood insurance, you will need evidence that you’ve been denied by your flood insurance for structure or contents losses if you’re seeking FEMA assistance for those losses.

Q. Does a homeowners insurance policy provide additional living expense coverage?
A. If you can't remain in your home because of damage caused by a peril covered by your policy, such as rain or hail damage, your homeowners or renters policy may pay for a hotel or other temporary shelter. Payments are limited based on your specific policy provisions. If damage does force you to move, be sure to tell your insurance company where you are and how to reach you.

Q. When does my additional living expense coverage begin to cover my expenses?
Generally, coverage for additional living expenses begins once a covered peril makes your home uninhabitable.

Q. Does a homeowners insurance policy provide additional living expense coverage during a mandatory evacuation?
A. It depends on the policy so contact your insurer.

Q. There is a power outage in my area, and we have no utilities in our home. Will my policy pay for a hotel until water and power are restored?
A. Probably not. Policies normally provide loss of use coverage only if your home is uninhabitable because of damage by a peril covered in your policy, and that wouldn’t include a power outage.

Q. The food in my refrigerator spoiled when the power was out. Will my homeowners policy pay for the loss?
A. Most homeowners policies provide up to $500 for spoilage of refrigerated or frozen food if the power failure is a result of a peril covered in your policy.

Payments / Settlements

Q. I got a check from the insurance company, but I’m not satisfied with the amount. I plan to file a complaint to request additional funds be paid. Should I cash the check?
A. Be careful about endorsing a check before discussing it with the company. Call the adjuster or company first before cashing the check. Some companies have a release from further liability disclaimer printed on the back of the check.

The check may be a partial payment to initiate repairs. Additional funds may be released when you submit proof that repairs have been completed. If, after discussing your concerns with your insurer, you are not satisfied, you can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance.

Q. What’s the difference between actual cash value coverage and replacement cost coverage?
A. If you have actual cash value coverage, your policy will pay the cost to repair with new material (or items of like kind and quality) minus depreciation and the deductible.

If you have replacement cost coverage, your company will pay actual cash value up front and then pay for the rest of the replacement cost, up to coverage limits, when you complete the repair within the time specified in your policy. You are still responsible for the deductible.

Q. Do checks from insurance companies have to be endorsed by both the insured and the mortgage company?
A. Yes, if the check is made out to both the insured and the mortgage company.

Q. What do I do if the check was issued to the mortgage company?
A. The mortgage company must, within 10 days after it receives the check, tell you what their requirements are to have the funds released. Once you provide sufficient evidence to show that you met those requirements, the mortgage company has 10 days to release the funds. You may be entitled to interest if the mortgage company fails to comply with the applicable law.

Damage by and to trees

Q. Wind caused my tree to fall on my house, which caused damage to my roof. Does my homeowners policy cover the damage to my house and pay for the removal of the tree from my property?
A. Maybe. If your policy provides coverage for wind, you likely have coverage for the damage. Policies also may cover debris removal. Contact your insurer to see what your policy will cover.

Q. My neighbor's tree fell down on my house and damaged my roof. Will my neighbor´s homeowners policy pay for the damage to my home and the removal of the tree?
A. Probably not. Your neighbor isn’t responsible for an act of nature. However, if the tree was dead, your neighbor may be responsible for the damage to your home. If the neighbor´s policy does not pay for your damage, you can make a claim under your policy.

Q. Will my homeowners policy pay for the loss and removal of downed trees?
A. No. Wind is not a covered peril for trees, shrubs, plants, and lawns. Removal of the trees is also not covered because they did not fall on or damage covered property.

Q. During the storm, a tree fell on my roof, and rain entered my home. I now see mold growing. Do I have coverage?
A. Most homeowners policies will cover property damaged by rain that entered through an opening caused by wind. Most homeowners policies exclude mold, but some policies will cover an ensuing mold loss caused by covered water damage. Coverage for the mold loss would include the costs to repair or replace your damaged property. Most policies do not cover mold remediation or testing.

Public insurance adjusters

Q. Do I need to hire a public insurance adjuster to file and help in the settlement of my insurance claim?
A. Hiring a public insurance adjuster is optional. Public insurance adjusters charge fees to help negotiate claim settlements with insurance companies. The fee is normally a percentage of the claim settlement and will come from your settlement.

Q. Who determines the cause of damage and who pays for an expert if one is needed?
A. The insurance company usually determines the cause of damage as its adjusters investigate and evaluate the loss. If an expert is required to determine the cause of the loss, the cost is usually paid by the insurance company.

Q. Are there limitations on the compensation of a public insurance adjuster?
A. Yes, the public insurance adjuster's fee may not exceed 10 percent of a claim settlement and must be disclosed in the public insurance adjuster written contract. In addition, if a claim is settled within 72 hours of the date the loss is reported to the insurance company, the public insurance adjuster is entitled only to reasonable compensation for time and expenses.

Q. Is a public insurance adjuster permitted to be involved in the repair of damaged property after negotiating a settlement?
A. No.

Q. Are public insurance adjusters required to be licensed?
A. Yes, public insurance adjusters are required to be licensed by the Texas Department of Insurance. You may verify the license status of a public insurance adjuster on the TDI website.

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Last updated: 7/16/2018