How to cover your ass if a hurricane hits

It’s been 11 years since Miami was hit by a hurricane, and even longer since it got hit by a big one like Hurricane Andrew (Aug. 24, 1992), so it’s understandable if you’ve been a bit… er… lax in making sure you’ve got hurricane preparation locked down.

But we’ve got some things churning out there in the Atlantic, and experts have been warning about a more active hurricane season than normal.

Later this week we’ll be chatting with the Red Cross about emergency preparation. For now, here’s what to do to protect those things you dropped a whole lot of cash on.

To protect that comfy couch you love (and everything else in the apartment or house you rent):

Two words: renter’s insurance. It’s actually pretty affordable (an entire year could be as little as $100 if you’re not living in a high-risk area). A lot of landlords may already require this.

You’ll want to make sure your policy includes hurricane coverage. Sometimes it’s included, sometimes it’s an add-on. That will depend on your company. I have to pay a “hurricane premium” on top of my annual premium for protection for hurricane-related damage, whether that’s from wind, rain, hail, cyclones, or something else spawned by a storm.

Another common cop-out is a line that excludes damage caused by “acts of God.” Hurricanes fall under that designation. Read the policy, make sure there are no exceptions that are going to cause problems. Call the insurance agent to walk you through if you need it.

But hold up. None of this is going to include storm surge. Even if you buy flood damage coverage, that’s for “ground up” flooding, according to my insurance company, Assurant. That’s not what we’re facing when a hurricane blows through and kicks up eight-foot seas that breach sea walls and spill into streets and yards. The good news, if you’re a renter, is that storm surge damage is likely mostly structural damage, which is something your landlord is probably responsible for. (Here’s a rundown of flood insurance.)

To protect your wheels:

Florida only requires that we have $10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property damage protection. That’s going to work if you’re in a car accident, but when they say property damage, they don’t mean damage if a tree falls on your car because of those category-four winds or water from a storm surge seeps through the doors and ruins your interior.

If you want damage caused by a hurricane to be covered, you need to have comprehensive coverage. Ask to expand your car insurance to be comprehensive if you don’t have a safe spot like a garage to move your car in the event of a hurricane.

What if I — oops! — don’t have any renter’s insurance?

woodyWell, your landlord is responsible for repairing or replacing pretty much anything that you didn’t add to the place when you moved in — windows, floors, doors, the roof, probably even some of the electrical appliances that were in the apartment already.

What you’re responsible for is any damage to personal belongings. So if the roof leaks a ton of water into your plush couch and now it’s so moldy it’s unusable, you’re going to be responsible for that. If you have insurance you’ll be compensated for the loss, but if you don’t, you’re going to have to pay to replace that out of pocket.

Get on it, because you’ll want to have the policy locked down before we have a named storm bearing down. Many companies won’t underwrite new policies at that point.

All of this just scratches the surface. Florida’s Division of Consumer Services has a pretty comprehensive rundown of all kinds of insurance here and natural disaster-specific information here. It’s a lot trickier (and more detailed) if you’re a homeowner, so we’re going to direct you here for that information.