In Insurance Terms, What Is an Act of God?

by Team eLocal
illustration of natural disasters affecting a house

If a natural catastrophe — such as a flood or earthquake, damages your home — the last thing you want to worry about is whether your homeowners insurance will pay for the repairs.

Understanding what typical homeowners policies cover is essential to finding coverage that meets your needs. This guide explains what to look for in your policy.

What Is an ‘Act of God’ When It Comes to Homeowners Insurance?

Acts of God are unpreventable natural events. Generally, an act of God is an event for which no one is to blame and that humans can't control. Many businesses, including insurance companies, have “force majeure” (superior force) clauses that limit their liability for damages caused by an act of God.

However, force majeure clauses often deal with uncontrollable events beyond the scope of acts of God. While an act of God usually refers to an act of nature, force majeure clauses can refer to events, such as wars, pandemics and government-imposed lockdowns.

What Are Some Examples of Acts of God?

Acts of God include natural disasters, such as landslides, floods and earthquakes. The term can also cover adverse weather events, such as tornadoes and heavy snowfall.

The definition of an act of God can vary by area. Therefore, some insurers class name specific acts of God in their force majeure clauses and also include any unnamed event without a human cause.

Do Insurance Policies Cover Acts of God?

Most homeowners insurance policies exclude damage to homes and outbuildings caused by floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. However, some policies may cover damage caused by certain acts of God to the primary dwelling but not to any additional outbuildings or structures. Typically, policies that cover acts of God allow policyholders to claim for damage caused by events, such as wildfires and strong winds.

Understanding which acts of God a policy covers before purchasing homeowners insurance is essential. It's also wise to research which acts of God are most likely to occur where you live, so you can try to find a policy that covers as many of these events as possible. You may need additional insurance if you can't find a homeowners policy offering adequate coverage. For example, you can purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.

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