Natural catastrophe events are becoming more frequent and severe. Here’s what agents should take into account to help homeowners.
As climate change continues to increase the severity and frequency of hurricane events, it is more important than ever for communities to be prepared for when disaster strikes. The U.S 2020 Atlantic hurricane season created a record high of 30 named storms, battering the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Three of these storms hit the Louisiana coast back to back, making landfall just 15 miles apart in less than six weeks.
The southwest Louisiana community was devastated. Homes were reduced to slabs. Roofs were missing. And in the heat that set in shortly after the storm dissipated, many homes, rife with water damage, grew mold.
This crisis highlighted an important distinction: While hurricanes are devastating for any community, the effects of disasters can be exponentially worse for lower-income areas.
This year's annual CoreLogic Hurricane Report provides insight into what to anticipate this hurricane season and how hurricane risk is changing. For independent agents, understanding the risks at a granular level is paramount to adequately protecting homeowners and supporting them at the first notice of loss. That means being a conduit between homeowners and insurers to understand the financial implications of a given degree of risk and exposure. Homes, businesses and families can be kept safe when communities and insurers work together to take steps toward mitigating risk.
Independent agents should take into account some of the following factors to help their clients navigate hurricane risk mitigation in a time when natural catastrophe events are becoming more frequent and severe.
Hurricane mitigation focuses on tying down and protecting the home from strong winds and flying objects. To hold a house down, agents should advise their clients to use hurricane ties to stop strong winds from blowing their roof off and use retrofit kits with horizontal bracing for garages. In some circumstances, homeowners tie down their boats as well.
To lower the risk of damage from flying objects, homeowners should board their windows with sheets of plywood while also removing any items in their yards that could become a projectile.
Anyone who lives in or is planning to move to an area where hurricane risk is elevated should have some of these mitigation materials ready for when disaster strikes. For a more comprehensive view of mitigation and hurricane risk, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety provides resources that explain various mitigation steps.
By incorporating multiple mitigation methods, a structure can become less susceptible to hurricane damage and destruction.
Look Out for Underinsurance
In the aftermath of hurricanes, many residents discover their homes are underinsured by hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving them without enough coverage to rebuild. This can happen when insurers base their coverage on replacement cost rather than reconstruction cost.
It is recommended to regularly reevaluate the reconstruction cost value of a home to prevent underinsurance, as material and labor costs for reconstruction are always changing.
Without enough coverage, homeowners often walk away from their mortgages, creating spikes in delinquency. After the 2020 hurricane season, there were spikes in mortgage delinquency rates as homeowners crippled by expenses were unable to make their monthly mortgage payments. After Hurricane Laura made landfall, the already-high delinquency rate in Lake Charles, a city in southwest Louisiana, shot up from 9.8% in August 2020 to 16.1% in September 2020, an increase of 6.3 percentage points.
To learn more about the human impact of hurricanes and the coming 2021 hurricane season, check out the CoreLogic 2021 Hurricane Report.
Saumi Shokraee holds the position of professional, research and content strategy at CoreLogic. He is primarily focused on working with subject matter experts to research, analyze, and communicate trends related to natural catastrophes and construction.