Business interruption insurance covers lost income and operating expenses when a disaster forces a business to slow operations or temporarily close down. Covered events include vandalism, fire, and some natural disasters. Business interruption insurance can be purchased as part of a business owner’s policy or added on to a commercial property policy.
Imagine if you suddenly had to close down your business tomorrow, and you had no idea when you’d be able to get it running again. It’s pretty scary for a small business owner to face such a thing, especially if you (or your employees) depend on your business for a livelihood. But fires, vandalism, storms, and other events can strike unexpectedly.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live in fear of this happening. Business interruption insurance is a type of small business insurance that can help you stay on your feet even if you company is hit by a disaster. This insurance can replace income that you lose during a slowdown or shutdown, allow you to continue paying yourself and your employees, and cover operating expenses until you’re back in business.
Learn more about business interruption insurance, what it does and doesn’t cover, the cost of this coverage, and where to purchase it.
Business interruption insurance (BII), also called business income coverage, replaces lost income and pays for operating expenses when events beyond your control force your business to slow operations or shut down. This can be vital to a business’s continued success, but only 35% of small businesses actually have business interruption coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Many small business owners forego business interruption insurance, assuming that their standard commercial property insurance or general liability policy will suffice. Commercial property insurance will repair or replace property that’s damaged or stolen. However, it won’t cover lost income or future expenses—which can be essential to keep your business going after a disaster.
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you’re most in need of business interruption insurance because you heavily depend on your store and the physical assets inside it. If you need to close down a portion or all of your shop, you clearly lose potential customers. Home-based and online business owners have less of a need for business interruption insurance, but should still consider their situation. Most homeowners policies won’t cover lost business income. And although online businesses might have their own physical assets, business interruption insurance can still help if a supplier in your supply chain is affected by a disaster.
You can’t buy business interruption insurance on its own. You either add it on to commercial property insurance or buy it as part of a business owner’s policy (BOP). A BOP combines general liability and property insurance in one policy and is more affordable than buying each type of coverage on its own.
Business interruption insurance is both backward- and forward-looking in terms of coverage. It covers income that you’ve already lost from a disaster, but it also covers the things you’ll need to keep your business operating and recover.
Here are some of the things that business interruption insurance covers:
Fires, storms, riots, vandalism, and theft are examples of events that would trigger business interruption insurance. Floods and earthquakes usually require separate commercial flood insurance or earthquake insurance.
Your commercial property insurance and business interruption insurance are two separate policies, but they work together. Commercial property insurance covers the repair or replacement of damaged property, and business interruption insurance makes sure that your business can keep operating despite the financial losses that the property damage might cause.
Business interruption insurance is a very specific type of coverage designed to keep a business on its feet when it’s recovering from a disaster or unexpected situation.
Business interruption insurance usually doesn’t cover:
In some cases, your business might be harmed indirectly by property damage down the supply chain. According to P.J. Miller, partner, vice president and chairman of the board at Wallace & Turner Insurance, “Online and, to a lesser degree, in-home businesses could actually be dependent on off-premises, non-owned locations being insured, whether it’s a storage unit or out of state from a company that supplies or ships the goods you’re selling. There’s business interruption insurance if, for example, your loss is due to the fire that destroyed the warehouse/manufacturing plant that is possibly your sole supplier.”
For example, say you have a retail wine shop in Portland, Oregon, that imports wines from a wholesale supplier in Napa, California. A fire in Napa forces the supplier to close down for several weeks, disrupting your supply of wine and slowing down your sales. If you have appropriate coverage in your business interruption insurance policy, you could claim benefits for lost income.
Business interruption insurance can only be purchased as an add-on to a commercial property policy or as part of a business owner’s policy (BOP). The average cost of a BOP is $1,191 per year, according to business insurance marketplace Insureon.
The cost of a BOP and your business interruption insurance depend on:
Obviously, a big factor that affects your cost is the amount of insurance coverage you’re looking to get. In order to calculate how much business interruption coverage to buy, you first need to figure out how much you stand to lose in a worst-case scenario—if a disaster hits your business and leaves it completely unusable.
Here’s how to calculate how much business interruption insurance you need:
Keep in mind that the amount of money you’ll receive from the insurance company for each claim is based on records of your business income and expenses, so you should have an effective business accounting software or system.
According to Cate Steane, founder of Make It Happen Preparedness Services, “Having a BII policy is useful only if you have current, accurate documentation of your business revenues and expenses. Having a good bookkeeper and having your financial records on the cloud is critical to successful pursuit of business interruption claims.” If there are disagreements about the amount of loss you experienced, the insurance company will call in an appraiser.
Remember that you can’t buy business interruption insurance on its own. You have to buy it along with a commercial property policy or as part of a BOP insurance package. Small businesses with 100 or fewer employees and up to $5 million in annual revenue are usually eligible for BOPs, and you can find them at almost any midsize or large insurance company.
When shopping around for insurance, don’t focus just on saving money. The goal is to get the right amount and type of coverage you need for the best price. You should also make sure your insurance company is A rated or higher by A.M. Best. This is a financial strength rating used in the insurance industry to assess an insurer’s ability to pay claims.
In no particular order, these are the best providers for buying business interruption insurance:
Photo credit: Chubb
Hiscox is a leading, A rated consumer and business insurance provider. They have a BOP that combines general liability and property insurance under one policy. The BOP doesn’t come standard with business interruption insurance, but you can customize it by adding it on.
Hiscox calls this “office insurance for fire and business interruption.” With this comes coverage for up to 12 months of lost income. They guarantee 60 days of payroll expenses as well. As is typical, flood, earthquake, and volcano damage aren’t covered. Utilities and computer repair also aren’t covered.
The rate for a Hiscox BOP starts at $400 per year, and you can choose to pay your premiums all at once or monthly. They even give you 14 days to review your policy. As long as you haven’t had a claim, you can cancel anytime within that time period and receive a full refund. You can get a free quote and purchase your BOP online. Alternatively, you can go through a licensed insurance agent or broker.
Chubb small business insurance is a top contender for buying business interruption insurance. Chubb is A++ rated by A.M. Best, which is the highest possible financial strength rating for an insurance company. They are very transparent about what is included in their BOP, so there are no surprises.
The business interruption insurance from Chubb doesn’t just cover your business’s office or primary site location. It also extends to disasters that might affect your company at offsite events, such as trade shows and conferences. Loss of utilities and internet is also covered in Chubb policies. You’re also covered for interruptions in your supply chain from any vendors that you’re dependent on, no matter where they are located around the world.
Chubb’s most helpful feature is their online business income coverage calculator. This will remove some of the guesswork out of how much business interruption insurance coverage you need. The calculator walks small business owners through the income and expense calculations to figure out the ideal coverage limits.
The Hartford is another A+ rated insurance company that offers various types of small business insurance. Unlike Hiscox, in which you have to pay extra to add on business interruption coverage to a BOP, basic business income coverage is already included in The Hartford’s BOP.
That said, the Hartford does offer various customizations. For instance, you can choose business interruption insurance for essential personnel so that your most valuable employees keep receiving their wages even if your business is temporarily closed. You can add coverage for unexpected interruption to your computer network or hacking into your computer systems, something that many other insurers exclude outright from business interruption coverage. There’s also optional coverage if offsite property is damaged or utilities are interrupted.
Most business interruption policies stop paying out once your business reopens, but The Hartford recognizes that while your business was closed, your customers might have gone to competitors. They’ll included extended income coverage to help you win those customers back or acquire new customers. You can get a quote online but need to complete your policy purchase by speaking with an agent or broker.
A+ rated Nationwide Insurance is a great pick for a customizable BOP. They sell your standard BOP which includes standard general liability, commercial property insurance, business interruption insurance, and equipment breakdown coverage.
However, Nationwide doesn’t stop here. They also offer industry-specific BOPs tailored to the risks most commonly faced by the auto, retail, food, and other industries. For example, restaurants tend to need more business interruption coverage because they have more expensive kitchen equipment to replace. It also takes longer for a restaurant to get back in service (due to government regulations on restaurants). Nationwide recognizes these differences with tailored product offerings.
Nationwide has a 24/7 phone line if you have a claim or question, and they even employ business experts to handle calls from commercial policy holders. You can request a quote online, but to purchase a policy, you’ll have to work with an agent.
CoverWallet is an insurance marketplace that lets you shop around for business insurance quotes. You can apply online within about 15 minutes for a BOP, which includes general liability, commercial property, and business interruption insurance.
The nice part, however, is that you won’t just see one quote when you’re finished with the form. You’ll be able to compare quotes from multiple A-rated insurance companies and choose which company is offering you the most coverage for the lowest price.
Once you get a policy, you can also add an additional insured, expand coverage, or get proof of insurance online. CoverWallet offers one of the quickest ways to get business interruption insurance. A process that can take days with an insurance company takes just minutes on CoverWallet.
Throughout the life of your business interruption insurance policy, make sure you keep accurate records on income and expenses. That way, if you have a claim, the insurance company will reimburse you the right amount of money.
Priyanka Prakash is a senior contributing writer at Fundera.
Priyanka specializes in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance, helping businesses owners navigate complicated concepts and decisions. Since earning her law degree from the University of Washington, Priyanka has spent half a decade writing on small business financial and legal concerns. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.