Good News on Insurance Front

A large tree fell into this house on Dayton Lane in East Hampton Village. Morgan McGivern

Homeowners whose properties were damaged during the weekend's storm received good news this morning when the National Weather Service declared that Irene, when it hit here, was a tropical storm and not a hurricane.

Insurance coverage for damage from hurricanes is typically subject to a high deductible.

The declaration, said Tim O'Brien, a vice president of private client services at the Cook, Hall, and Hyde insurance agency in East Hampton, will mean that insurance claims for payments to cover damage from the storm will be processed under the standard provisions of a homeowner's insurance policy rather than under provisions covering hurricanes, which typically set a deductible amount, to be paid by the property owner before insurance will kick in, at 5 percent of the value of a house.

Standard homeowner's insurance deductibles for non-hurricane damage vary according to individual policies, he said. For example, a house insured for $1 million might have a $5,000 or $10,000 deductible for all losses.

Homeowner's policies will generally cover losses from wind damage, such as when a tree falls and hits a house, as well as the ensuing damages from rain that might enter the house.

Damages from rising surface waters -- i.e., a flood -- are not covered by standard homeowner's insurance, Mr. O'Brien said, but only by separate flood insurance policies.

Whether or not removal of debris or fallen trees outside in the yard is covered by homeowner's insurance varies widely, according to individual policies, Mr. O'Brien said. Some policies, he said, might only cover the costs of tree removal if the tree has hit or is leaning against the house.

Mr. O'Brien said Cook, Hall, and Hyde agents were receiving "quite a lot of calls" this morning. The agency's Pantigo Road office was being powered by a generator, he said, though phone service was out, so staffers were standing outside in the parking lot in order to access cell service.

He recommended that owners of properties that have suffered damage as a result of the storm take photographs of the damage, and contact their insurance carriers right away to make a report and ascertain the terms of their coverage. He also advised keeping all receipts for repair work.