May 30, 2013 at 12:35 PM ET
Mother Nature can be brutal. Tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, floods and earthquakes can destroy your home and all of your valuable possession inside.
Do you have enough homeowners to cover your losses should the worst happen?
“In a depressed real estate market, homes sell for much less than what it would cost to rebuild,” explained Lynne McChristian with the non-profit Insurance Information Institute. “And the cost of building materials is rising.”
During a TODAY Money web chat this week, McChristian said it’s important to read your policy and have a conversation with your insurance agent each year.
“Things change and you want your insurance to keep up,” she said.
As we enter hurricane season (which starts on Saturday), it’s important to remember that a basic homeowners policy does not cover flood damage. You need to buy a separate policy from your insurance company or from the National Flood Insurance Program. You can see your risk of flooding and learn the cost of coverage at floodsmart.gov.
Mc Christian pointed out that that 20% of flood claims are paid out in low-risk zones.
Your homeowner’s policy should cover non-flood related hurricane damage. Keep in mind that in many states there’s a hurricane deductible. This lowers your annual premium, but means higher out-of-pocket costs if get a hit by a hurricane.
Renters can also get flood insurance. This protects their clothing, furniture, appliances and other possessions in a flood.
“Your landlord has insurance for the building, not your stuff,” McChristian explained. “You need renter's insurance for your personal belongings.”
Both homeowners and renters insurance provide additional living expenses if you are displaced from a by damage and need temporary housing.
One thing everyone should do is have a home inventory. You will need this to prove your loss to the insurance adjuster.
The Insurance Information Institute's www.KnowYourStuff.org software stores your inventory safely in the cloud, so you can retrieve it from anywhere.
TODAY: If someone is not happy with the response they get from their insurance company, is there an appeal process?
Lynne McChristian: Yes. First thing to do is negotiate with your insurer. The first checks one receives after a disaster are not final checks. Keep communicating. Also, there is an appeal or arbitration process with a state's insurance department. Again, give your insurance company the chance to make everything right for you.
TODAY: Last year, the Insurance Information Institute looked social media to see what people were talking about in relation to insurance. You found that a lot of people don't know how much coverage to buy. How do you decide that?
Lynne McChristian: Look at your assets. Property insurance is for rebuilding your home and replacing the contents. Know how much it would cost to rebuild, keeping in mind that if a home is destroyed or severely damaged, it has to be rebuilt to newest building code.
Insurers typically require you to purchase enough insurance to rebuild. There are rebuilding cost calculators that you can use to verify the number with. Ask you insurer for a recommendation.