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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Insurance Claims

Pros and Cons of Self-Insuring For Wind Coverage

Hurricane Wind Damage
On average, the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida has gone up by 32.5% since 2016. This is more than three times higher than the average rate change than the rest of the country experienced during this time (10.9%).
More and more of my clients are analyzing the pros and cons of self-insuring instead of carrying a wind insurance policy. Self-insurance entails setting aside money for a potential loss in lieu of purchasing a third-party insurance policy. Depending on the losses your home faces, this could either save or cost more money than conventional insurance coverage.
The logic behind self-insurance is that providers calculate premiums based on forecasted risk. These figures are designed to profit the insurance company by bringing in more money than they are likely to pay out. Under this reasoning, a homeowner should theoretically be able to set aside funds in case an incident occurs, thereby protecting themselves without an insurance company taking a cut. Even with wind coverage a homeowner has a minimum deductible of 2% that they will have to pay out-of-pocket before insurance covers any damages.
All forms of insurance are essentially risk transfer strategies. When you purchase an insurance policy, you are paying a third-party to shoulder some of the risk. If you self-insure, however, you are choosing to retain the risk yourself.
Pros:
Interest: The funds you earmark for self-insurance can accumulate interest until you need them, growing substantially if you don’t have infrequent losses.
More Control: With self-insurance, you’re not bound to insurance policy fine print that contains specific exclusions and stipulations. You can spend the designated funds to cover virtually any wind incident.
Cons:
Potential for Significant Loss: Some types of claims can be extraordinarily expensive. That’s a very risky proposition for most people.
Self-insuring is normally only an option if there is no bank mortgage on your home. When you have a mortgage held by a financial institution, they want to make sure their investment is protected. The mortgage holder will insist on seeing proof of insurance coverage, so dropping your coverage is not typically an option.
How high could repair costs go?
Even for the people with no mortgage, self-insuring is a risky strategy and requires you to have liquid assets set aside for repairs.  It’s hard to plan for the financial impact of hurricane damage. In South Florida, we can go several seasons without getting a wind event; but when a major storm hits, like Andrew (1992), Wilma (2005) or Irma (2017), it’s impossible to predict in advance how much damage will be left in the storm’s wake.
You may have heard how construction costs are already sky-high due to material shortages. Just imagine how high those costs will climb if a major storm hits our area. Replacing a tile roof in South Florida is one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. That cost could easily double after a storm. Without insurance, will you have enough cash or liquid resources on hand to pay for that, let alone cover months of temporary housing in this ultra-competitive rental market while you make repairs?
Other Options:
Talk to your homeowner’s insurance agent to explore other options like raising your hurricane deductible (typically 2% in Florida to 5%). Also, consider wind mitigation measures like impact glass windows and doors and installing a whole home generator, which can help protect your home and reduce premiums. If your home is located east on or near the water, hefty insurance costs may simply be a fact of life. The only way to reduce costs may be to relocate to a less hurricane-prone area ( which is not South Florida).
And one final thought – don’t forget the importance of flood insurance.  Without flood insurance, you are not protected from rising water. In past years, 25% of actual flood claims have been on properties classified as low flood risk. A small investment in insurance can protect you from major expenses.
Pocketing extra money instead of paying a premium to an insurer sounds like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t always work out in the long run. The cost of your monthly premiums over the years could end up being less than what you’ll pay for rebuilding your home on your own.
Consulting a qualified insurance professional can help you decide whether self-insurance is a viable option in your situation.

What Is Not Covered Under Standard Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners Insurance Coverage
Until it happens, most homeowners think of disasters as something that won’t happen to them. Disasters can be as minor as a tree branch falling and breaking a few windows, or as concentrated as a pinhole roof leak slowly dripping water into a residence—causing mold or other ripple effects. Sadly, too many people who experience disaster on a large or small scale may find the trauma continues when it’s time to file an insurance claim.
You need to be knowledgeable about what your Homeowner’s Insurance does and does not cover. These common held assumptions about insurance are items that are NOT covered and may require additional insurance or riders.
Wear and Tear Is Covered-Myth
Fact: Coverage typically includes damage from fire, weather and theft, not damage due to general wear and tear or neglect. As a policyholder it’s up to you to maintain your home, including making routine repairs and protecting your home from pests. If you neglect to take care of your property ( a leaky roof) you may not be covered.
You’re Insured in Case of Flood Damage, Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Hurricanes-Myth
Fact: Although some weather-related damage is generally covered, such as from hail, other storm related damage from wind or water may not be.
Floods require specific flood insurance from the Federal Government. Earthquakes might be covered, but sometimes they require additional insurance. Hurricane and tornado damage requires a separate windstorm policy. Sinkholes, mudslides and other earth movement (except in CA) requires a separate endorsement.
All Personal Belongings Are Fully Covered-Myth
Fact: Homeowners insurance typically covers furniture, clothing and other personal items, but more valuable items like jewelry and artwork may require an add-on policy. Homeowners should routinely inventory belongings to determine if policy limits meet their coverage needs.
You Have Protection Against Any Injuries That Happen at Home
-Myth
Fact: Your policy’s liability coverage protects you if a guest is hurt in your home, but if a family member is injured at home, it’s normally covered by health insurance.
Home Businesses Are Part of the Package
-Myth
Fact: A home business requires business insurance to cover property damage and liability; homeowners should consult with their insurance carrier or agent to be sure they’re fully covered from disasters large or small
You Can Rebuild For The Amount Of The Insurance Coverage-Myth
Fact: Unless you insured for “replacement value” you may be under insured to rebuild your home. “Ordinance of Law” exclusions may not cover to the changes to building codes and the additional costs of bringing the property up to code if damaged.
Overflows of back-ups from your sump pump, sewer or drain are covered-Myth
Fact: A standard policy does not include coverage for these issues and require a separate endorsement.
It may not seem like particularly interesting reading material, but it’s better to take the time to thoroughly understand what your insurance policy covers than to be stuck in a situation where you’re not sure when you really need it.

What do to if your pipes Freeze

 

 

Buying a generator: Tips to know before you make a purchase

After Hurricane Irma, much of Florida lost power. And during Hurricane Maria, all of Puerto Rico is in the dark.
The one-two punch of storms reminded Floridians of the importance of owning a generator. If you’re shopping for a power source, here are factors to consider:

How much do you want to spend?

Stand-by generators can power your whole house and usually run on natural gas or propane. They typically cost $5,000 to $10,000, according to Consumer Reports. And you’ll need to start planning the installation months in advance. Most homeowners opt for portable generators, which usually won’t run central AC and cost $400 to $1,000. (However, Consumer Reports’ top-rated portable generator is a Honda that goes for $3,999.)

What do you want to power?

If you want to run a fridge, a fan and a few lights, a small portable generator will do the job. If you hope to keep living as if the hurricane never hit, you’ll need a stationary generator. And if you’re willing to rough it but would like to run a window AC unit, you’ll want to make sure before the storm that your generator has enough juice to run your AC. Another caveat: Cheap generators can produce power surges that will fry expensive electronics.

How much noise can you stand?

Or, put another way, how many decibels do you want to bombard your neighbors with? In general, the more expensive the generator, the quieter it is.

Technology is getting better.

For decades, Floridians have been buying portable generators that were the mechanical equivalent of muscle cars, says Paul Hope of Consumer Reports. Now, though, manufacturers are designing fuel-injected engines for generators. These models are quieter, more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon monoxide. They’re also more expensive.

The smart move, says Hope, is to shop for a generator between storms or after hurricane season. That gives you time to research what you need — and to hire an electrician to install a transfer switch or interlock device that lets the generator power your house.

Flood insurance: Facts and Fiction

If a flood swamps your home, will insurance cover the damage? That depends on the value of your home, the amount of water damage and whether you have a flood insurance policy.

Let’s look at some persistent myths about flood insurance.

Myth: You must live in a flood plain to get coverage.

If you live in a flood plain, your mortgage company will likely require you to buy flood insurance. But you can purchase it even if you don’t live within a flood zone. “Almost anybody can get flood insurance who wants flood insurance,” says Chris Hackett, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The price through the federal flood insurance program is based on standardized rates and depends on the home’s value and whether or not it’s in a flood plain.

Myth: Flood insurance covers everything.

When it comes to the physical structure of your house, federal flood insurance policies top out at $250,000. If you have a $300,000 house that’s a total loss because of a flood, the most you can recoup through the program is $250,000 to cover the structure itself. For your personal possessions, the cap is $100,000 under the federal program.

 

Myth: My homeowners policy covers floods.

“Unfortunately, a lot of folks may be under the impression that their standard homeowners policy might cover flood damage,” Hackett says. But the standard policy does not! The typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover earthquakes or floods. So a homeowner wanting coverage for either of those disasters will need to pick up separate, specific coverage against those types of disasters.

 

Myth: Water damage is water damage. When it comes to your insurance, not all water damage is the same.

If there’s a storm and your “roof comes off and water comes through, that would be covered under your homeowners policy,” Hackett says. “Versus a flood situation where the water is rising from an over flowing riverbank overflows or an unnatural amount of rain that is rising from the street.

Myth: Flood maps don’t change.

Flood plains (and flood plain maps) change and evolve. Just because you weren’t in a flood plain when you bought your home a few years ago doesn’t mean you’re not in one now.

For more information, visit FloodSmart.gov.

 

Managing the post-storm insurance claims process

Florida, Georgia and North Carolina residents affected by Hurricane Matthew will begin surveying damages to their property and belongings.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier put together the following tips to help Floridians begin the process of filing insurance claims for damaged property and belongings and this may prove useful to residents in other states as well:

Tip 1: Locate all applicable insurance policies. This may include a homeowners’ policy, flood policy (flood coverage is not covered under a typical homeowners’ policy and is separate coverage), and an automobile policy (may cover damage to your car from flooding).

Tip 2: Document all damaged property and belongings. Take photos or shoot video footage before attempting any temporary repairs. When you file an insurance claim, you may be asked for visual documentation of damages.

A photographic home inventory is a handy resource for this situation. A free smartphone app developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners called “MyHome Scr.APP.book” can help you take and store a room-by-room log of photos.

Tip 3: Contact your insurance company or insurance agent as soon as possible to report damages.Insurance policies require prompt reporting of claims, so it is important to act as soon as possible.

Tip 4: Cover damaged areas exposed to the elements to prevent further damage. Your insurance company may reimburse the expense of these temporary repairs, so keep all receipts.

Do not dispose of any damaged personal property until your insurance company adjuster has had an opportunity to survey it.

Florida consumers who have questions about their insurance coverage are encouraged to call CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services’ Insurance Helpline. Helpline experts can be reached by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1- 877-693-5236), or online at: myfloridacfo.com/hurricanematthew.