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Disaster Insurance in Florida

Natural disaster/catastrophe insurance covers natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes in Florida. The Florida Department of Financial Services Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) regulates different insurance policies under natural disaster/catastrophe insurance insurance. Sometimes, weather data such as wind speed, air pressure, and temperature can be used to predict the occurrence of natural disasters. In addition, the OIR provides information on disaster preparedness and resources to educate residents on how to secure their properties before a disaster and recover afterward.

Most natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policies cannot be purchased separately because they usually come as add-ons to existing standard property insurance policies. Also, Florida does not have an all-encompassing stand-alone natural disaster/catastrophe insurance. Instead, there are distinct insurance policies covering specific natural disasters in Florida. For instance, flood insurance only covers damages caused by floodwaters, while earthquake insurance only covers damages resulting from earthquakes. It is important to note that you cannot interchange one natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policy for another. For example, you cannot have flood insurance and expect your insurer to pay for earthquake damage. Hence, it is better to purchase a natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policy specific to the common natural disasters in your county.

You can search for the address of your property in the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to know the flood risk of your locality and the minimum floodplain standards in your community. You can also check the Tropical Weather Outlook on the National Hurricane Center website to know where active tropical cyclones are in your locality. Speak with a Florida-licensed insurance agent to determine the natural disaster/catastrophe insurance you may need based on the prevalent natural disasters in your city or county.

What is Disaster Insurance?

Disaster insurance protects residences and businesses against natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. This type of insurance policy is suitable for property owners with buildings in the communities along the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, individuals who live in flood risk areas (areas that experience copious amounts of floods), earthquake-prone areas, and hurricane-prone areas should consider getting disaster insurance policies like flood insurance, earthquake insurance, and windstorm insurance.

Do Disasters Need Insurance Coverage?

Yes, disasters need insurance because damages from natural disasters are usually too costly to cover out-of-pocket. Standard homeowners, renters, and commercial property insurance policies typically do not cover some of Florida's most severe natural disaster risks, like floods or earthquakes.

Natural disasters frequently occur with short notice and can also be unpredictable. Therefore, if you are a property owner or a renter, consider getting disaster insurance, especially if you live in disaster-prone areas like Lee County, Miami-Dade County, and Monroe County. So even if a natural disaster occurs, you won’t have to struggle to recover from the damages incurred.

Does Homeowners and Renters Insurance Cover Natural Disasters in Florida?

Yes, but not every natural disaster. In Florida, homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover natural disasters like hail, windstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfire, and volcanic eruptions. Still, the coverage is limited and is usually not enough to cover the cost of the damages incurred. Homeowners and renters insurance does not cover floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Property owners, business owners, and homeowners would have to get separate policies to cover natural disasters excluded from their homeowners, renters, or commercial property insurance policies.

Discuss your home insurance and its existing gaps in disaster insurance coverage with a knowledgeable residential property insurance professional licensed to work in Florida.

What Types of Natural Disasters are Common in Florida?

The natural disasters Florida experiences include:

  • Floods: Florida is highly susceptible to floods because it is surrounded by two major bodies of water and more than 1,700 lakes, rivers, and streams across its 67 counties. More than $40 billion is spent on flood damages annually in the United States. About 2,252,244 properties in Florida have a 26% chance of being affected by severe flooding over the next three decades and the number will only keep growing. About 25% of flooding is currently expanding past the earlier designated flood zones. Hurricane Ian's damage analysis promises to deliver an updated risk assessment, and it is looking less optimistic for the property owners along the coast.

  • Hurricanes: The damaging wind and storm surge from hurricanes can be destructive. Many homes and business properties in Florida are exposed to flooding risks based on the storm's strength, the surge it creates, and the distance of the structures from the coastline. Due to the climate change, the sea level is constantly rising. As a result, the surge caused by the hurricane reaches higher and goes deeper inland. In September of 2022, when Hurricane Ian rolled through Florida with the winds of up to 150 mph, the surge of water coming from the gulf reached up to 12 feet in depth in some areas such as Lee County. This was enough to cover vehicles and even some buildings. The damages in Florida from Hurricane Ian alone were projected at near $60 billion.

Storm Surge (Category Level) Exposure of single-story Florida homes to surge (in 2020)
Category 1 Hurricane 353,994
Category 2 Hurricane 1,088,511
Category 3 Hurricane 1,806,312
Category 4 Hurricane 2,362,323
Category 5 Hurricane 2,851,642
  • Tornadoes: Florida is statistically ranked 16th in the country by the amount of tornado occurrences. Besides the common occurrences, tornadoes can also be produced by the outer bands of powerful hurricanes.

  • Wildfires: About 2,262 wildfires were recorded in Florida in 2021.

What Types of Disasters are Insurable in Florida?

All common natural disasters in Florida are insurable. Such disasters include:

  • Floods: Flooding affects humans and the environment. It can lead to property damage, loss of human life and wildlife, business interruptions, damage to transport systems, power outage, the spread of waterborne diseases, and the destruction of crops. Flood insurance will help cover all flood-related damages.

  • Sinkholes: These can lead to loss of lives and damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and cars. Although insurance companies in Florida are required to provide insurance policies that cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” the best insurance policy that offers comprehensive coverage for sinkholes is sinkhole insurance.

  • Storms: These can damage railways, homes, business properties, power cables, and telephone lines. Although homeowners insurance policies help cover storm damages, the coverage is usually limited and is not enough to cover the cost of the entire damages incurred. Hence, a windstorm insurance policy is needed to provide comprehensive coverage for storm damages.

  • Hurricanes: It can lead to property damage and the destruction of crops and public infrastructures. Consider getting windstorm insurance to cover hurricane damages to your residential and business properties.

  • Tornadoes: Extreme high winds can destroy properties, and lead to the loss of wildlife and their habitats, uproot trees and plants. Windstorm insurance is the appropriate policy that covers tornadoes.

Some of these major disasters are not covered by homeowners or renters insurance; hence the need for supplementary insurance policies. Homeowners insurance only covers damages from perils like lightning, fire or smoke, theft, hail and windstorms, and volcanic eruptions.

What Type of Disasters are not Insurable in Florida?

Every natural disaster that occurs in Florida is insurable. Natural disasters like fire, windstorms, and volcanic eruptions are covered under homeowners insurance, while severe ones like floods, earthquakes, and sinkholes can be obtained as supplementary insurance policies.

What are the Types of Disaster Insurance in Florida?

Disaster/catastrophe insurance in Florida helps to cover financial losses resulting from natural disasters. There are different natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policies available in Florida. Each of these policies is distinct and non interchangeable. For instance, flood insurance only covers flood events. It does not cover earthquake damages; only earthquake insurance can provide such coverage. Hence, you cannot find a one-size-fits-all natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policy in Florida. Most natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policies are usually purchased as an addition to standard renters, homeowners, and commercial property insurance policies that exclude major natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

The types of natural disaster/catastrophe insurance policies available in Florida include:

Earthquake Insurance

Earthquakes in Florida are rare, but that does not mean you should not get earthquake insurance, especially if you live around the Florida panhandle because cities in that area have histories of earthquakes. With the average costs of $500 - $1,200, earthquake insurance provides coverage for properties damaged by earthquakes. Unfortunately, most homeowners and renters policies do not include earthquake damage. Hence, you should consider getting earthquake insurance if you live in high-risk areas. Check on the Florida Division of Emergency Management website for updates regarding natural disasters and to know whether you reside in a high-risk area. You can also discuss earthquake coverage with a Florida-licensed insurance agent who can provide the necessary information regarding natural disasters in your community. Typical earthquake insurance excludes water damage, fire damage, sinkholes, and damage to cars. These damages are covered under flood, homeowners, sinkhole, and automobile insurance policies, respectively. Some earthquake insurance policies do not cover damages to pools, fences, and land (like landscaping). Earthquake insurance covers:

  • Repairs needed after earthquake damages have occurred, such as the shaking and cracking in your dwelling and unattached structures like garages

  • Earthquake-incurred damage to personal properties

  • Cost of stabilizing the land under your home

  • Additional living expenses if you have to temporarily relocate while your home is being rebuilt or repaired

  • Cost of removing debris

Flood Insurance

Flood insurance covers damages done to both residential and commercial properties due to flooding. Flood insurance policies are provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in Florida and on average cost about $500 - $700 per year. However, you cannot buy flood insurance directly from the NFIP. You can only purchase it through a state-licensed property and casualty insurance agent, “Write Your Own” (WYO) insurance companies, or from the private market through admitted and surplus lines carriers. Flood insurance is typically available to anyone living in one of the participating NFIP communities in Florida.

Although flooding is very common in Florida, only 35% of properties in high-risk flood zone communities are covered by flood insurance policies issued by the NFIP in 2020. About 4,600 policyholders filed flood claims in Florida after Hurricane Sally, and 30% of the claims were for structures located in low-risk areas. In 2020, there were approximately 1.7 million Florida NFIP policyholders with more than $441 billion in total coverage. Flood insurance issued by NFIP does not cover the following:

  • Personal automobiles damaged by flood damage. This is covered by comprehensive automobile insurance

  • Belongings and properties outside of the insured building

  • Precious metals, currency, and valuable documents

  • Financial losses due to loss of use of insured property or business interruption

  • Additional living expenses like temporary housing

Typical flood insurance covers the physical structure of your home and its foundation, detached structures like garages, and essential systems in the home like plumbing and electronic systems, water heaters, and central air conditioners. It also covers personal belongings like furniture, clothing, portable appliances, electronics, and valuables like art. Flood insurance is good for individuals whose homes and businesses are located in flood-risk areas.

Windstorm Insurance

With the average cost of $1,000 - $3,500 per $500,000 of property coverage (depending on the proximity to the southernmost tip of the state), Florida windstorm insurance covers wind damage (resulting from tropical cyclones, tornadoes, storms, and hurricanes) to your property. Most home insurance policies in Florida include windstorm coverage except if the home is located in coastal areas of the state like the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville. Property owners in such areas who find it difficult to obtain home insurance policies that provide windstorm coverage can check with the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation provides property insurance protection to Floridians who cannot obtain coverage through the private market. Windstorm insurance covers:

  • Physical damage to residential or commercial properties like roofs, windows, or walls

  • Personal belongings inside the home

  • Food loss due to power outage caused by windstorm

  • Additional living expenses if you have to get a temporary place to live while your house is under repairs

  • Detached structures like sheds, fences, and garages

Windstorm insurance policies do not cover medical bills of injured persons, water damage, replacing or repairing a car damaged by moving debris or a wind-toppled tree.

Sinkhole Insurance

With the average cost of $1,500 - $4,000, Florida sinkhole insurance covers properties and personal belongings damaged or destroyed by sinkholes. Although Florida insurers must provide homeowners insurance policies to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” not all of them provide coverage for sinkholes. Hence, individuals are required to purchase sinkhole insurance coverage as an add-on to their existing homeowners policies. Sinkhole insurance does not cover water damage and damage to cars. Most sinkhole insurance policies do not provide coverage for damages from mine subsidence. Hence, carefully review your policy to see if you need additional insurance. Florida sinkhole insurance covers repairing or rebuilding homes or business buildings damaged by sinkholes. It also covers personal belongings and other structures on the building, depending on the policy’s coverage scope.

Individuals who own properties or have businesses in Florida’s Sinkhole Alley (Pasco County, Hernando County, and Hillsborough County) should consider getting sinkhole insurance. Speak with a local licensed property insurance professional for more information.

Do you Need Disaster Insurance in Florida?

Florida is surrounded by water and is frequently subject to flood surges, sea-level rise, and significant hurricane activity. Hence, disaster insurance is needed to protect your residential and commercial properties from damages or losses caused by natural disasters. For instance, flooding is the most common hazard in Florida, with about 2,252,244 structures that have a 26% chance of being affected by severe flooding over the next three decades. In addition, about 25% of flooding is currently expanding past the earlier designated flood zones, hence the need to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your business.

Generally, damages or losses resulting from natural disasters are relatively too expensive to cover out-of-pocket. For instance, a flood can cause property damage and affect the utility, access to transportation, emergency services, and overall economic well-being. One inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage to a home. As of 2022, over 3,500 tornadoes were recorded in Florida, causing over $1.7 billion in property damage. Therefore, it would be best to get disaster insurance if you reside in a natural disaster-prone area. Note that insurance companies do not accept new applications or requests to increase coverage once a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning has been issued for any area within Florida. Hence, it is important to get windstorm coverage before the storm season (June 1 to November 30) and ensure you are not underinsured. Always check the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for the list of all current watches and warnings on tropical or subtropical cyclones.

Standard homeowners and renters policies in Florida exclude severe natural disasters. For example, they only cover fires, hail, windstorms, and volcanic eruptions, but exclude floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. This is why it is important to purchase natural disaster/catastrophe insurance coverage based on the prevalent natural disaster in your county. Check on the Florida Division of Emergency Management website for updates regarding natural disasters in the state. You can also speak to a Florida-licensed insurance agent who can give you information on prevalent natural disasters in your locality.

Areas where specific natural disasters are common include:

  • Flood: This is one of the most common natural disasters in Florida. Floods are typically common in cities like:

  • Cape Coral,

  • Tampa,

  • Jacksonville,

  • Lehigh Acres,

  • Fort Lauderdale, and

  • St. Petersburg.

You can search the address of your residential or commercial property in the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to determine if it is located in a flood zone.

  • Tornado: The coast between Tampa and Fort Myers and the western panhandle are most susceptible to tornadoes. Many of Florida's tornadoes occur in the Spring (February-May) and Summer (June-September) months.

  • Sinkholes: Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the United States. Although no part of Florida is completely free of the risk of sinkholes, cities like:

  • Tallahassee,

  • Ocala,

  • Homosassa,

  • Spring Hill,

  • Orlando,

  • Tampa, and

  • Lakeland - are more susceptible to it.

  • Hurricane: The most hurricane-prone cities in Florida are:

  • Miami,

  • Fort Lauderdale,

  • West Palm Beach,

  • Fort Myers,

  • Naples,

  • Jacksonville,

  • Pensacola, and

  • Panama.

Floridians should consult with knowledgeable Florida-licensed insurance agents to discuss the prevalent natural disasters in their areas and which type of natural disaster/catastrophe insurance will provide the best coverage.

What Should I Do after a Natural Disaster in Florida?

If you are a victim of a natural disaster that causes damage to your insured home or business property in Florida, ensure you do the following:

  • Document the damages resulting from the disaster by taking pictures, videos are notes.

  • Notify your insurance agent immediately. Give them sufficient details about the incident and ask them to help you file a claim with your insurance company.

  • Your insurer will send an adjuster to survey the damage.

  • Make all necessary temporary repairs to prevent further damage. Ensure you document all repairs by keeping all bills and receipts from the repairs for reimbursement purposes and take before and after pictures, so your insurer knows the repairs you made.

  • Keep copies of your household inventory, invoices, canceled checks, and other documentation to help the adjuster sent by your insurance company assess the value of the destroyed property.

  • Do not throw away any destroyed properties until the field adjuster inspects them.

  • If you have to relocate to a temporary home or business property because of the damage, ensure your properties are secured and remove any valuables. Also, let your agent or insurer know about your relocation.

  • If the disaster is flood-related, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can assist with low-interest loans, disaster grants, and housing assistance.

  • Your insurance company will pay for the repairing or rebuilding of your home and the replacement of personal belongings damaged due to a natural disaster. Some insurance companies can even pay up to $500 to remove trees or shrubs that have fallen on your home.

  • Most insurance companies also cover additional living expenses incurred due to relocating to a temporary place while your home or business property is repaired.