Are you under insured for fire or storm damage?

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Some families struggling to recover from recent tornadoes and flooding are now getting hit with another unwanted surprise — they are discovering they are not fully insured for the damage their homes suffered.

It turns out your home, condo or apartment may not be completely covered in the event of a fire, tornado, flood or damaging winds.

Jennifer Pike, with a state insurance board, said that’s because many policies cover just the bare minimum, similar to auto insurance policies that provide only the minimum state-required liability coverage.

“There are many people who try to save a few dollars, and they may not be covered or properly covered,” Pike said.

Pike said homeowners need to have what is called full replacement coverage, not just coverage for what you paid for home.

Restoring the home to what it looked like before the storm (especially if it is an older house) can cost three times its listed value.

“You might be able to buy the home for $250,000, but it could cost up to a million to replace it with all old fixtures, windows, plaster and everything else you may have,” Pike said.

Renters often lose everything

The situation is even worse for people who live in apartments. Many assume their landlord’s insurance policy would cover them in the event of tornado or fire.

But that’s not the case at all: A landlord’s insurance covers only the structure.

Pike says many renters own $20,000 in furniture, clothing, HDTV’s, laptops and phones. In a fire or tornado, all of it can be lost.

Two hundred dollars in renters insurance is often enough to cover it and give you peace of mind.

Keep an inventory

Finally, most people have bought new laptops and big screen 4K TVs in recent years and would not be able to prove to insurance what they owned. Pike said be sure to take inventory of everything you have.

She suggests using your phone to take pictures of everything in your place, from your TV to appliances to jewelry and even your clothing and shoes. Then upload them to a cloud service for safe storage (don’t keep them on your phone).

To make it easier, there’s an app for that. recently listed the best home inventory apps for 2019. They include:

  • Sortly
  • Memento Database
  • Nest Egg
  • My Stuff 2

Some of those apps are free; some charge a small fee but are well worth it.

Meantime, a number of insurance companies offer their own home inventory programs at no charge, so check with your agent so you don’t waste your money.

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John Matarese started Don’t Waste Your Money in 1999 to give consumers the facts and information needed to make the best buying decisions for their families. Over the past 20 years, Don’t Waste Your Money has helped millions of consumers by providing in depth research and product information.