Archive for the ‘Homeowners’ Category

Preparing an Effective Evacuation Plan   Leave a comment

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In the event of a sudden emergency such as a hurricane, you may have just minutes to gather your family and important papers, and get out of your house, possibly for good. Are you prepared? Where would you go? What would you take with you?

With preparation and practice, you stand the best chance of getting out with what you and your family need, and ending up in the right place.

Planning ahead is crucial; this five-step plan can help get you and your family on the road to safety. 

1. Arrange Your Evacuation Ahead of Time 

  • Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
  • Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
  • In case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation, identify a specific place to meet and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 

2. Create a Home Inventory 

A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.

To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software at KnowYourStuff.org. Know Your Stuff allows you to organize easily and list your possessions, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and upload scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure storage of your inventory on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is damaged or destroyed. 

3. Plan What to Take 

  • Medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
  • Computer hard drive or laptop
  • Photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes) 

4. Gather Important Documents 

Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. In the event of an evacuation take the following documents with you: 

  • Insurance policies
  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers license or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
  • Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
  • Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
  • Home inventory 

5. Take the Ten-Minute Challenge 

To find out if you are ready, do a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Will My Policy Cover Trees and the Damage They Cause if They Fall? It Depends….   Leave a comment

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Does my insurance cover damage from falling trees?

A homeowners insurance policy covers two types of damage associated with trees: damage to your insured property (casualty damage) and damage for which you are responsible (liability).
 
For example, if a tree in your yard fell onto the roof of your home, your homeowners insurance policy would pay to repair the damage and remove the tree.
 

What if my neighbor’s tree falls on my house? 

It doesn’t matter who owns the tree. If there is damage to your property, your insurance policy would cover the loss. However, if the tree that toppled over was diseased or tilting severely and should have been removed or trimmed before the damage occurred, the neighbor could be held liable. Your insurance company will generally pay for your damage and then try to recover the money they paid from the neighbor who owned the tree.

What happens if a tree falls in my yard but does not hit anything?

Homeowners insurance policies cover real property. If nothing that was insured was damaged, there is no coverage. That means removing the tree would be done at your expense. This is why homeowners are encouraged to inspect the trees surrounding their homes to be sure they are properly maintained and are healthy enough to stand up to high winds. If a hurricane strikes and many trees are damaged, it may take a while before a crew could reach you – and when the demand is high and resources are limited, the costs of services such as tree removal are often higher.
 
If the tree hits my shed or fence, is it covered by insurance? 
 
Yes, and you should review the Other Structures section of your homeowners insurance policy to learn what the policy limits are for this coverage.  Repairs to a shed or fence are covered up to the policy limit, but if the repairs and cost of getting the tree off the damaged structure exceed the limits, there is typically additional coverage available for removing the debris, usually with a 5 percent cap. For example, if you have $10,000 in coverage for Other Structures, your insurer will pay a maximum of $10,500 for repairs and tree removal.
 
Why won’t my insurance pay to remove a damaged tree that is leaning toward my home? 
 
There is no coverage if the tree has not damaged insured property. An insurance policy covers damage, not the threat of damage. A homeowner insurance policy is not a home maintenance policy. Learning to recognize tree hazards will prevent damage from worsening and could protect your landscaping.
 
Is there another way to cover my expenses from tree removal if my insurance doesn’t cover it?

Typically, losses not covered by insurance or other means can be deducted as a casualty loss on an individual’s federal income taxes. Talk to your tax professional or review IRS publications on calculating casualty losses. The IRS defines a casualty loss as an “identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual.”
 
“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted August 20, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in General Info, Homeowners

Top 10 most common homeowners insurance claims and simple ways you can avoid costly problems   Leave a comment

hose bursting1

What can you do?

Insurance adjusters have ranked the most common, yet preventable, homeowners claims. Five of them – that’s half the list – are plumbing related. This is a busy time for everyone and the last thing you need is an unexpected plumbing breakdown. Unless you enjoy the excitement of a flooded laundry room or having a toilet take a one-way trip through the floor, the answer lies in smart preventative maintenance.

Top ten homeowners claims to avoid
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1. Burst washing machine hose – Plastic or rubber washing machine hoses eventually leak and even burst. Three bad combinations here: The machine jars and jumps; the lines get hot and cold repeatedly; laundry rooms are typically located in low-traffic areas, meaning it may go unnoticed a while. Damage is often extensive and expensive, which is why it’s ranked #1.
Precaution: Plastic hoses should be replaced at least every three years, and frequently inspected for leaks. Stainless hoses look substantially stronger and in many cases are but there are alos some that are not much better than the “cheapie” model.

2. Slow leaks around tub/shower grout and edges – Grout and caulking decay over time, and cracks can develop. Water seeps into walls and floors little by little, causing tub and shower pans to corrode or to actually sink due to softening wood supports. The problem greatly accelerates as more water intrudes, leading to major repairs in plumbing, carpentry, tile work and more. Insurance rarely covers these expenses.
Precaution: Make sure that all water from the shower or bath stays there. This means securing shower doors and tightly closing curtains. Also, frequently inspect and repair seals. A little time now can save thousands of dollars later. On a preventive maintenance trip.

3. Toilet seal leaks – If your toilet wobbles it could mean that the seal is worn, or that it was improperly installed. Since the seal prevents sewage gases and other wastes from leaking into your home, this is not just a costly repair—it’s a health issue. We’re not talking “maybe” here; sewer gases are a health risk and not to be taken lightly. Get this fixed.
Precaution: Periodically check the base of the toilet for water. If a leak is present, have it repaired immediately.

4. Refrigerator water-supply line leaks – The small water line that goes from your refrigerator—called a capillary line—can easily become kinked. Plastic lines also become brittle from use, which leads to leaks. These leaks are rarely noticed but can cause extensive damage to the walls, floor, and cabinets around the refrigerator.
Precaution: If lines become brittle, replace them as soon as possible. Be sure to check metal lines for crimps or kinks that can cause the line to form a leak.

5. Roof leaks – Weather, age, wear and tear — these conditions adversely affect your roof’s condition. Signs of a leaking roof include spots or stains that appear on the ceiling, or curled, upturned shingles around the edges of your home.
Precaution: Don’t try to stretch the life of your roof past its time. But to ensure a longer life, make sure that gutters are cleaned regularly. Also check for loose or missing shingles, especially after storms with high winds. Home owners insurance does not cover wear and tear. If your roof is leaking because it is old it is your responsibility to maintain and replace the roof as necessary. Most insurance companies in Florida allow up to 15 years on a shingle roof. Tile roofs are generally acceptable up to 20. Many companies now are settling roof claims on a depreciated basis based on the age of the roof.

6. Chimney/fireplace fires – It’s easy to think that starting a fire in the fireplace is as simple as throwing a few longs and matches together and watching it burn. Before your next family weenie roast, you should know that dirty or plugged chimneys regularly cause home fires.
Precaution: Practice fire safety: keep flammable items clear of the fireplace; be sure that children are supervised at all times; keep matches and flame accelerants in a safe, secured place. Before you start a fire, clean any excessive amounts of soot and ashes from the chimney. Also, maintain a regular chimney-cleaning schedule.

7. Hot water tank leaks – When was the last time you thought about your hot water tank? Probably not any time in the recent past unless you had a problem or repair. Since hot water tanks develop leaks and rust as they age, this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can lead to major home damage. Sometimes, you begin to notice that you run out of hot water more quickly, indicating poor performance or maybe sediment in the tank. Both indicate a service or replacement need.
Precaution: Periodically check for water damage in the flooring around your hot water heater. If your water heater was installed more than five years ago, a qualified technician should check it at least annually. It may only need cleaning and servicing.

8. Electrical cord fires – Do you have a lot of “gadgets” and appliances plugged in throughout your home? Hiding those unseemly cords with throw rugs? Bad idea. Electrical cord fires result primarily from overloaded circuits, cords under throw rugs, and baseboard heaters.
Precaution: Minimize the number of appliances in use or plugged in at the same time. This will keep your circuits operating within their safe capacity. Also, route cords around throw rugs to reduce the likelihood of fire. Make sure all furniture is a safe distance from heaters, and that they are properly ventilated.

9. Unattended cooking or candle fires – Candlelight flickering shadows on the wall is relaxing, beautiful, soothing. Standing on the curb watching the flames flicker throughout your home is, um, something less than calming. Contained fires can become ‘uncontained’ quickly and violently. It’s from one thing: Lack of attention.
Precaution: Be aware of your candles or cooking fires at all times. Is a candle burning too closely to a flammable object? Is it in a non-flammable holder? Periodically monitor all candle and cooking fires and always practice fire safety.

10. Garage door opener theft – You want your home to comfortable, safe, and secure. You may lock your doors, but sly criminals often snatch garage door openers, gaining access to garages and homes.
Precaution: If you’re not parking your car in the garage, take the garage door opener out of the car. This one, simple measure substantially increases your home security. Thieves cannot gain access to your home easily, making break-ins more difficult and therefore less likely.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Make Sure You’re Covered for Sewer Backups   Leave a comment

sewer backup
A Little Insurance and Preventive Action Offer a Lot of Protection Against Sewer Related Damage

If you’re a homeowner, here’s one of the worst nightmares you can experience. Torrential downpours deluge your property and neighborhood with rainwater, overwhelming your home’s sewer system or your sump pump’s ability to handle the water runoff. The next thing you know, you have raw sewage backing up into your home’s drains, overflowing toilets and tubs or flooding your basement. A backed up sewer can do a real number on your home, causing thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture carpeting and electrical systems, as well as pose a major health hazard.

No problem. You’ve got insurance, right? Not so fast. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most sewer system backups are not covered under a typical homeowners insurance policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance.

Uh-oh.

For homes that have been severely damaged by sewer backups and are uninhabitable, your basic homeowners policy may include Loss of Use coverage, which provides reimbursement for lodging, food and other living expenses you may incur if you have to vacate your home. Loss of Use coverage also reimburses you for the lost rental income if you rent out part of the house. but that’s about all you’re going to get with your average homeowner’s policy.

For most consumers, coverage for sewer-related problems must be purchased either as a separate product or as an addition to a homeowners policy. Fortunately, sewer backup coverage is available from most insurance companies for a nominal cost. We recommend that consumers in our rain-prone region of Florida err on the side of caution and purchase this additional insurance. You can typically purchase sewer backup insurance for an additional premium of $50-$75 per year; a small price to pay for significant piece of mind and protection.

What Causes Sewer Backups

Most homeowners probably don’t realize that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their main sewer line — the pipeline that runs between their house and the municipality’s sewer main, usually located underneath the street. The main sewer line is owned and maintained by the property owner, including any part of the line that extends into the street or public right of way.

Over time, these main sewer lines can easily deteriorate, crack, collapse or become obstructed. You may not have a clue that this kind of damage is occurring. But one severe rainstorm may be all it takes to bring the problem to a head.

Some of the more common causes of damaged sewer lines and sewer line backups are:

Aging Sewer Systems: More than half of nation’s sewer lines are 30+ years old or connected to aging municipal sewage systems. After decades of wear, tear and obstruction, the sewer line and system no longer have the capability to withstand heavy demands and so they back up and overflow.

Combined Pipelines: Some newer sewage and drainage systems combine storm water and raw sewage into the same pipeline. During intense rain storms, these combined systems are exposed to more volume and debris than they can handle. With nowhere else to go, the outgoing water and sewer backs up into basements and other low lying drains.

Tree Root Infiltration: Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way into cracks or through joints in your sewer line, causing extensive blockage and damage. Tree roots can travel a long way; the damage may occur from a tree on your property, a neighbor’s tree or a tree on public property. Samples of the tree roots can be obtained to identify which party is responsible for cleanup and repair.

Blocked Municipal Lines: Many times the problem has nothing to do with your property, but with a blockage in a your municipality’s sanitary main running under your street. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the main can back up not only into your home but your neighbors, as well.

Usually this kind of backup happens slowly, giving you plenty of time to call a licensed plumbing company or your agent to find out who they suggest. If water and sewage back into your basement at a rapid rate, don’t delay; call your municipality’s public works office or sewer department and report the problem immediately.

How You Can Prevent Sewer Line Backups

There are several preventive measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence sewer line backups.

Proper Disposal of Grease and Food: Grease, fats, gravies, sauces and cooking oils should never go down your kitchen drain but should be poured into a heat-resistant container and disposed of in the garbage. Once in your drain, these substances will cool off and solidify either in the drain or in the main sewer, eventually building up to a massive clog. Food particles should never go down the drain unless run through a garbage disposal first.

Proper Disposal of Paper Products Properly: Toilet paper and human waste is the only thing that should go down your toilet. Diapers, paper towels, feminine products and food should never be flushed; these products do not deteriorate and can easily clog your main sewer line. Even facial tissue should be avoided; it does not dissolve as easily as bathroom tissue does.

Replace Your Pipes: One way to prevent collapsed sewer lines or tree root infiltration is to replace your old clay or metal sewer lines with today’s newer plastic or PVC pipe. If you have continuing problems with tree roots in your sewer line, you may have to have the roots cut or your line cleared periodically.

Install a Backwater Prevention Valve: These fixtures are installed into a sewer line in the basement of your home to prevent sewer backups. They allow sewage to go out, but not to come back in.

What to Do If You Experience a Sewer Backup

Sewer backups can produce a host of nightmares for homeowners, including disease, mold formation, destruction of valuables, foundation damage and electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup is necessary to restore sanitary conditions and prevent further damage. If you experience a sewer backup situation, at a minimum, your cleanup should include:

Wet-vacuuming of all floodwater
Mopping floors and wiping walls with soap, water and disinfectant
Flushing and disinfecting plumbing fixtures
Steam cleaning or removing wet carpets or drapes
Repairing/removing damaged wall and floor covering
Cleanup of ductwork

How to File a Sewer Backup Claim

Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible after your sewer backup has occurred. For insurance purposes, it’s a good idea to take before and after photos of the affected areas of your home or basement and itemize any property losses. Save all receipts related to repair, cleaning or damages related to your sewer backup. Do not dispose of any damaged items until an adjuster has seen them. You cannot recover money once the items are gone or repaired unless the adjuster has seen them first.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

The Art of Coverage: Collectibles Insurance vs. Traditional Homeowners Policy   Leave a comment

stamp vase 1918 coin

The chances are good that you are a collector of something. So what makes something a collectible or when do you need to “Schedule” your personal belongings. The simple answer is: it depends.

Some of the most commonly collected items include fine art, sports memorabilia, wine, rare books, stamps and coins, antique rugs and tapestries, musical instruments, action figures, dolls, toys, auto and movie memorabilia, and guns.

Large private collections generally have proper risk management in place including fine-art insurance that covers the full value of the items. But many smaller collections (those valued below $1 million) tend to be insured under a traditional homeowners policy or have no insurance at all. If these collectors face a devastating event resulting in damage, they may discover too late that their coverage is not sufficient to address their financial losses.

In simple terms, the process of insuring collections of fine art and collectibles under a traditional homeowners policy tends to be time-consuming and difficult while possibly yielding lower limits and less expansive coverage when compared to obtaining coverage with a fine art and collectible insurance policy. The comparisons below address specific differences between the two types of policies.

Appraisals – Homeowners policies generally require appraisals for collections or individual items valued over $2000 as part of the underwriting process. Many collectibles insurance policies do not require appraisals at the time of application.

Deductibles – Zero-dollar deductibles are the standard for collectibles insurance policies with some offering additional deductible options. Homeowners policies may offer zero-deductible policies, but it is not as common.

Limits – The limit on fine art and collectibles coverage generally ranges from $500 to $2000 for a homeowners policy without the addition of a floater or rider. Even with an added floater or rider, homeowners policies tend to limit the level of exposure. A collectibles policy may offer coverage up to $1 million or more.

Coverage – One of the most important coverage differences between a homeowners policy and collectibles policy is the valuation of covered items. Homeowners policies tend to insure for actual cash value while collectibles policies insure the full collectible value of items in the collection. This distinction alone can reflect a startling difference in potential claims payments in the event of a loss. Homeowners policies generally cover named perils only, exclude coverage for items during transit, limit coverage on items stored away from the home to as little as 10 to 15 percent, and extend coverage to newly acquired items for only 30 days. By contrast, collectibles policies typically include all risk coverage and provide coverage for items in transit, items stored away from the home (such as in an office or storage facility), and newly acquired items for up to 90 days. Some collectibles policies may offer additional coverage benefits such as discounts for monitored fire and burglar alarms or items kept in a UL-rated safe.

Claims – In today’s insurance market, filing a claim against a homeowners policy may leave an insured vulnerable to premium increases at renewal or the possibility of non-renewal. With a separate collectibles policy, claims do not affect homeowner premiums or loss history. In addition, companies that offer collectibles insurance may have claims adjusters with a high level of expertise in this area. Adjusters with this specialized knowledge are better able to determine the value of unique or rare items, which should expedite the claims process and lead to a better outcome for the insured.

A detailed comparison of the benefits and limitations of standard homeowners insurance versus collectibles insurance demonstrates that specialty coverage can be very advantageous for even a small collector.

Standard homeowners policies have limitations for most common items such as Firearms, Jewelry, Furs, Silverware, Precious and Semi-precious stones, Money, Gold, Silver, Coin or Stamp collections etc. Anything that has a special value such as an oriental rug (worth more than an area rug you may purchase as a home improvement store), anything that is “one of a kind” that can’t be replaced by going to a local department store, a collection of things such a porcelain figurines, fine art, breakable art such as a vase or statue. These are things that may need to be insured by a personal articles policy. Sometimes referred to as “scheduling”, this is a policy that insures specific items at a specific value determined by an appraisal or other means of valuation.

If your $10,000 Persian rug is damaged but not insured for $10,000, it is a rug and can be replaced for about $150 at Home Depot. A 1938- 3 legged Buffalo nickel may appraise for several thousand dollars depending on the grade, but if it is not insured for that value, you guessed it, it’s just a nickel worth 5 cents. Sentimental value is dear to us and nothing can replace sentimental value but Grandma’s old wedding ring could be worth a few hundred dollars or a million bucks. Every insurance policy has limitations, exclusions and provisions that you may need to comply with before you are properly insured. Please contact Lee County Insurance Agency for additional information about insuring your valuables.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

What is a 4 Point Inspection?   Leave a comment

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A “Four Point Inspection” focuses only on four main areas of interest in a home:

• HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)
• Electrical wiring and panels
• Plumbing connections and fixtures
• Roof

The inspection and report describes the condition and age of these elements.

Insurance companies have become increasingly reluctant to issue Homeowner Insurance Policies on older homes (usually 25 years old or more).

Their common concern is that there may be conditions in an older home that could become a liability to them. For instance; a home with a roof nearing the end of its reliable service life may fail while under the policy and the homeowner may seek reimbursement from their insurance company for damages to the home or its contents. Similar concerns extend to the condition of the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems in an older home. If these elements are in poor condition, in need of being updated or replaced or were improperly installed, they may fail and cause fire or water damage to a home.

Newer homes are assumed (by the insurance companies) to not have these problems as frequently as older homes.

Is there a standard form to fill out?

There is no industry wide standard form for a Four Point Inspection. Some insurance companies provide their own forms; however, most insurance companies will accept forms from companies that perform home inspections provided that they are filled out by qualified individuals.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted May 17, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in General Info, Homeowners

Water Damage Claims: What You Should Know   Leave a comment

Water Damage Claims: What You Should Know

water damage

Did you know that over 50 percent of claims involve water damage? Some examples include pipe, supply line, and appliance failures, as well as roof or window leaks. It is very important that any damage caused by water is addressed and remediated early on during the life cycle of the claims process.
It is recommended that homeowners do not attempt to deal with the water damage themselves. A better solution is to hire a certified water restoration professional. Most insurance companies and agencies maintain a database of certified water extraction vendors that must meet strict guidelines to ensure superior customer service. As an added value to the policyholder, our knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives can put the policyholder directly in touch with one of our preferred water extraction vendors while on the line. This practice guarantees our policyholders have a trained professional in their home to assist in the drying process.
Prompt response to drying out the home is crucial in preventing further damages. Experiencing a water loss to your home can be extremely stressful, so let us help you by recommending a preferred vendor that in trained and meets rigid standards. If you have any questions, feel free to ask one of our staff at (239) 656-5551

Does your homeowners insurance policy cover the full value to replace your home or just what you think its worth?   Leave a comment

Your home’s value may have dropped in recent years. But that doesn’t mean the cost to replace it has followed suit.

When you initially buy homeowners insurance, the insurer typically calculates the rebuilding cost of your home by taking into account factors such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, construction type and square footage of the home, says Wayne Salley, a Pittstown, N.J.-based risk-management consultant who helps individuals figure out how much insurance they need.

Some companies then automatically adjust your coverage as needed to keep it in line with a number of factors, including current rebuilding costs—which have been rising in recent years and include materials and labor—says Jeanne M. Salvatore, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit industry group.

But in other instances, you may need to contact the insurer about boosting your coverage. It’s a good idea to evaluate your coverage when your annual renewal notice arrives, says Ms. Salvatore.

Even if your insurer automatically adjusts your coverage, it isn’t taking into account any renovations or upgrades you have made that will be more expensive to replace, she says. So let the insurer know about changes.

If you’re especially worried about being underinsured in a disaster, you may want to consider an extended replacement cost policy, says Mr. Salley, which will cover replacement costs that exceed the policy maximum, up to a set percentage above the policy amount.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted October 23, 2012 by leecountyinsurance in Homeowners

Citizens Homeowner Policy Coverage Gaps   Leave a comment

Citizens Homeowner Policy Coverage Gaps

In making a decision to use Citizens (either voluntarily or involuntarily), the customer needs to understand the differences between a Citizens policy and a standard Insurance Service Office (ISO) policy. This article summarizes some of the more significant differences, yet is not a complete “line by line” analysis of the policies in question.

Note: Our comparison uses the standard ISO HO-3 policy with an edition date of 04/91, the policy used by Citizens. Many carriers have filed modified ISO coverage forms, others filed “me too” type policies matching Citizens, and still others have their own unique forms; so, you must be diligent in your comparisons with each client who requests to move to Citizens. Remember, too, some carriers use the ISO “HO-2000” program forms now; ISO has even rolled out a 2011 revision to the homeowners program that is likely not being used yet by many carriers. Additionally, the coverage provided by some standard companies provides even more “bells and whistles” than the basic ISO policy. Comparing a Citizens policy to one from companies who provide “upscale” coverage would reveal even more dramatic differences.

Additional exclusions and coverage reductions are planned with Citizens. Those future changes are also addressed here.

Current Gaps 

Assessments 

No discussion about a Citizens policy is complete without a reminder (and warning) of the huge potential assessment faced by Citizens’ policyholders in the event that Citizens does not have adequate funds to pay for losses, as much as 45 percent of the premium of the policy. Policyholders should carefully review the assessment potential as outlined by the Citizens’ article available by clicking here. As one agent said, “I tell my customer that the cheapest choice today may be the most expensive choice after the loss.”

Coverage D: Loss of Use 

Citizens: 

Coverage D is ten percent of Coverage A and is limited to 24 months.

ISO: 

Coverage D is twenty percent of Coverage A and does not have a limit of 24 months.

Coverages B & C and Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse 

Citizens: 

“Catastrophic” coverage applies only to the “principle building.” Damage to other structures is not covered. Personal property in an other structure is not covered for this peril either.

ISO: 

No such limitation.

Coverage C: Food in Refrigerators and Freezers 

Citizens: 

Limited to $500. No coverage for food in refrigerators and freezers off premises.

ISO: 

No such limitations.

Coverage C: Theft Peril 

Citizens: Theft on premises is covered. Theft coverage applies off premises only if the property was stolen from a public warehouse, bank, or safe depository company.

ISO: 

No such limitation.

Coverage A: Constant or Repeated Seepage or Leakage 

Citizens: 

Excluded is damage caused by constant or repeated seepage or leakage of water or steam, or the presence or condensation of humidity, moisture or vapor; which occurs over a period of time, whether hidden or not and results in damage such as wet or dry rot, “fungi,” deterioration, rust, decay or other corrosion.

ISO:  

No such exclusion. This exclusion was removed from the ISO policy in 1991. Losses such as a slow leak from a water line or HVAC unit are typical claims under this peril.

Fungus 

Citizens: 

Limitation of $10,000 for damage caused by fungus, wet or dry rot, yeast, or bacteria.

ISO: 

No such limitation, although many carriers impose a limit.

Section I: Vacancy Limitations 

Citizens: 

If the dwelling has been vacant for more than 30 consecutive days prior to a loss, there is no coverage for damage caused by vandalism, sprinkler leakage, glass breakage, water damage, theft, or attempted theft. Payment for damage caused by any other peril is reduced by 15 percent.

ISO: 

The limitation applies only to damage caused by vandalism. The more restrictive Citizens language closely tracks the wording found in ISO’s commercial property program.

Animal Liability 

Citizens: 

There is no coverage under Coverage E, Personal Liability for bodily injury caused by an animal owned by or in the care of the insured, whether on or off premises.

Coverage F, Medical Payments to Others provides coverage for such claims only if the occurrence takes place off of an “insured location.”

ISO: 

No such exclusion, although many carriers have similar exclusions.

Liability and Medical Payments Limits 

Citizens: 

Maximum Coverage E limit available is $300,000. Maximum Coverage F limit available is $2,000. (See discussion below about further reductions to $100,000 maximum below.)

ISO: 

Limits of $500,000 and $5,000 are available. Some carriers offer even higher limits.

Section II: Lead Paint 

Citizens: 

There is no coverage for bodily injury or property damage resulting from the ingestion or inhalation of paint that has lead or lead compounds in it.

ISO: 

No such exclusion.

Section II: Radon 

Citizens: 

There is no coverage for bodily injury or property damage resulting from radon or any substance that emits radon.

ISO: 

No such exclusion.

Endorsements and Coverages Not Available (Current Gaps) 

While not all inclusive, the list below details some of the common coverages and endorsements not available under a Citizens policy.

  • Personal property limited to 50 percent of Coverage A with no option to increase above that limit.
  • “Special” property coverage (HO-15 or HO-5) not available.
  • Water/sewer back coverage not available.
  • Increased loss assessment above $3,000 not available.
  • Scheduled property (floaters) coverage not available.
  • Increased special limits of personal property (jewelry, furs, etc.) not available.
  •  
  • Watercraft liability endorsement not available.
  • Inability to schedule other structures off premises.
  • Liability coverage cannot be extended to other locations (rental property or vacation home)
  • Business pursuits liability not available.
  • Personal injury liability not available.

Changes Effective 1/1/12  

New and Renewal Policies 

Coverage A: Property Not Covered 

Citizens: 

The following property is not covered and there is no buy-back option:

  • Any structure enclosed by screens on more than one side, constructed to be open to the weather, and not constructed of and covered by the same or substantially the same materials as that of the primary dwelling.
  • Carports, open sided porches that have a roof covering, and patios that have a roof covering, not constructed of and covered by the same or substantially the same materials as that of the primary dwelling.
  • Any structure or attachment where that structure’s roof coverings or exterior wall coverings are of thatch, lattice, slats, or similar material.
  • Slat houses, chickees, tiki huts, gazebos, cabanas, canopies, pergolas, or similar structures, constructed to be open to the weather.
  • Awnings, aluminum carports, and aluminum framed screened enclosures.

ISO: 

No such exclusions.

Coverage B: Property Not Covered 

Citizens: 

The following property is not covered and there is no buy-back option:

  • Any structure enclosed by screens on more than one side, constructed to be open to the weather, and not constructed of and covered by the same or substantially the same materials as that of the primary dwelling.
  • Carports, open sided porches that have a roof covering, and patios that have a roof covering, not constructed of and covered by the same or substantially the same materials as that of the primary dwelling.
  • Any structure or attachment where that structure’s roof coverings or exterior wall coverings are of thatch, lattice, slats, or similar material.
  • Slat houses, chickees, tiki huts, gazebos, cabanas, canopies, pergolas, or similar structures, constructed to be open to the weather.
  • Awnings, aluminum carports, and aluminum framed screened enclosures.

ISO: 

No such exclusions.

Cosmetic or Aesthetic Damage to Floors 

Citizens: 

The total limit of liability for Coverages A, B, and D combined is $10,000 per policy period for cosmetic or aesthetic damages to floors.

ISO: 

No such limitation.

Future Coverage Reductions 

The Office of Insurance Regulation has approved a rather lengthy list of coverage reductions under all Citizens’ policies, including personal lines and commercial lines. Those reductions will be phased in starting in March 2012 and will not all appear all at once. Those pertaining to the homeowners policy are below.

Effective 5/1/12 for new business and 6/1/12 for renewal policies: 

  • Reduce default Coverage B from ten percent to two percent. (Option to buy back up to ten percent.)
  • Eliminate option to schedule individual Coverage B items.
  • Eliminate option to buy back coverage for other structures rented to others.
  • Eliminate option to buy back coverage for other structures used for business purposes.
  • Reduce default Coverage C from 50 percent of Coverage A to 25 percent. (Option to buy back to 50 percent.)
  • Eliminate increased loss assessment coverage. Provide only $1,000 in the HO-3 and HO-4, and the statutorily mandated $2,000 in the HO-6.
  • Implement mandatory ten percent sinkhole deductible.
  • Reduce personal liability coverage from $300,000 to $100,000. (Medical Payments to Others Coverage remains at 2,000).
  • Expand sinkhole inspection program to an additional 12 counties.
  • Eliminate increased mold limit options of $25,000 and $50,000.

Date to be determined: 

  • Eliminate liability coverage for incidental exposures related to motor vehicle, watercraft, animal, home business, and premises liability. The result will be a total exclusion of coverage for all such claims. Newly excluded examples in this category would be the use of a non-owned golf cart, use of a non-owned ATV, use of a non-owned outboard watercraft, use of an owned outboard boat under 25 horsepower, use of a sailboat under 26 feet, the occasional rental of the dwelling, and the rental of the dwelling in part, such as renting out a bedroom to a college student.
  • Implement a sublimit for items such as jewelry, furs, silver, and firearms for all perils. Currently the limitations apply only to the peril of theft.
  • Eliminate coverage for dropped objects.
  • Revise contract to reduce coverage for water losses.
  • Expand vacancy penalty.
  • Implement loss history surcharge program.
  • Restrict ordinance & law coverage to apply only to Coverage A.

This is a summary only. Please refer to the policy for specific coverage interpretations.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted September 11, 2012 by leecountyinsurance in Condo, General Info, Homeowners, Specialty

Why Should I Buy Flood Insurance   Leave a comment

Sandbags will not protect your home and they will not replace or repair the damage. You need Flood Insurance in addition to homeowners insurance

Most homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage.  This type of loss is different from others and it needs special underwriting and rating.  Because flood damage is usually more severe and affects more than one home at a time, it’s difficult for the private market to bear that burden.

For that reason, flood coverage is provided by the federal government under a program called NFIP. However, your local independent insurance agent can write the coverage for you, and administration of the policy, including claims paperwork, is usually done by a private carrier. The NFIP collects most of the premium, though, and it’s their checkbook that pays the claims.

If you even suspect you are in a flood plain, ask an independent agent to check it out for you. Foundation washout is a common problem with flooding, so even if you are a condo dweller on the 10th floor you might need the overage.  With hurricane Hugo in South Carolina, twenty story high condos came down due to the washout of the foundation, and standard policies didn’t cover the losses.

Technically, all homes are at risk of flood, but obviously the risk is much greater in states like Florida, for example. Some problems that flood insurance covers, like sewer back-up, have nothing to do with the weather.

Don’t take the risk of being without this valuable coverage. Ask your agent today about flood insurance.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted September 4, 2012 by leecountyinsurance in Condo, Flood, Homeowners