For those of you who are evacuating from Hurricane Irma, you may be able to claim evacuation expenses from your homeowner's or renter's insurance policies.
Some policies contain a provision called prohibited use. Under this provision, if you are being prohibited from using your property, your insurance would pay for you to stay elsewhere. Coverage could also include meals and incidental expenses. In the case of this hurricane, being unable to use your dwelling would generally mean that your house is in a mandatory evacuation zone as determined by local area authorities.
I checked with USAA, as the following alleged message is being circulated on Facebook:
"If your zone is evacuated and you have homeowners or renters insurance through USAA, call them and let them know they will pay for your gas, food and hotel to evacuate. It's called prohibited usage for emergencies under renters/owners insurance. They will cover lodging for up to two weeks. 1-800-531-8722"
My contact was unable to confirm whether this text message was actually sent from USAA. She advised me to share this following information:
"Homeowners and renters policies can vary state-to-state, we recommend you review what’s covered in your policy or visit USAA’s mobile app, USAA.com or call 1-800-531-USAA (8722) for questions you may have."
Regardless of your insurance company, your policy may contain similar provisions. I'm not sure if you'll be able to reach anyone by phone right now, as insurance companies are rather swamped dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Harvey and planning ahead for hurricane Irma.
Please be aware that this may count as a claim against your insurance, and may affect your rates. According to one friend, many people used this benefit during a previous hurricane and regretted it when their rates increased. I can neither confirm nor deny this, but I can report that it is possible and at least one person has told me that it will affect your rates. However, if you are in a complete jam, that may not matter.
This coverage is similar to, but slightly different from, the coverage that kicks in when your home becomes uninhabitable. That coverage is called loss of use coverage, and details will vary depending on your policy and the company issuing it.
If you are evacuating, always save all receipts. Even if your situation doesn't warrant reimbursement from the military or your insurance company when you make the decision to go, the situation may change and you may be eligible for reimbursement at a later time.
Be safe, everyone!