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I-Team: Does your homeowner’s insurance cover storm damage?


DALLAS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Along with the storms that came in recent weeks, also came the damage left in their aftermath. Damage that can be very expensive to repair.

Many people were stunned to learn that some damage, they assumed was covered, is not covered by home insurance.

What the I-Team found might surprise you. Unfortunately, many people learned their home insurance policy does not cover all storm-related damage when it’s too late. Then they are forced to fork out tens of thousands of dollars from their own pockets.

Bill Watchulonis of Dallas Township told the I-Team he assumed he was covered.

“Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I didn’t know how much, but absolutely I assumed it was covered and it was like when they told me no, it’s like wow I’m glad I’m sitting down,” Watchulonis said.

Watchulonis described what he saw when a violent storm ripped through the back mountain of Luzerne County last week as it took down two massive eastern white pine trees in his backyard.

“I saw the ground start to move. I lived in California for a bunch of years so if you’ve ever been through an earthquake before, you see the ground start moving, wow. And it just went. I didn’t even have time to take my phone out of my pocket to photograph. It took five to seven seconds,” Watchulonis described.

The trees caused a lot of damage to his backyard and landscaping. He immediately called his insurance company and got quite the surprise.

“Well they’re asking me questions, did anything happen to the house? ‘It’s like well no, why? Well because not all incidents of trees falling or debris is covered,” said Watchulonis.

Now he has to pay out of pocket to repair and clean up the storm damage.

“I got some quotes 10-plus-thousand dollars to get rid of these because they are so large,” Watchulonis explained.

“I would say first thing to make sure, don’t assume anything is covered. Be sure,” Gary McNealis of McNealis Insurance Agency said.

McNealis from Hazleton has been in the insurance business for 40 years. While he is not Watchulonis’ agent, he does hear similar stories.

“Trees typically in Pennsylvania on homeowner’s policy are not covered unless they damage the property first. That’s something a lot of people don’t know,” said McNealis.

McNealis also advises people to check out their coverage when it comes to water damage.

“Water damage, a lot of people think ok so I get water in my basement because water running downhill goes into my basement, automatically that’s covered. That’s not true, most insurance policies require, most companies require a rider to cover water backup,” McNealis explained.

Watchulonis has this advice for property owners.

“Double check, you know, all the covenants in your policy. Make sure what’s covered and what’s not. If it’s a gray area, not sure call your agent and tell them your concerns,” said Watchulonis.

McNealis echoed those comments saying don’t leave anything to chance and when in doubt call your insurance agent or company before the storms arrive.

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