As another Florida Hurricane season comes to a close and we approach the end of the year, it is a good time to take stock of your insurance policies and any deficiencies that may be present. After a loss has occurred, it is too late to adjust coverage. Therefore, it is important to be proactive regarding your knowledge of the value of your home and its contents to better understand if unexpected losses will fall under existing insurance coverage.
Understanding Hurricane Insurance and the Applicable Deductibles
By Florida statute, the application of hurricane deductibles is triggered by windstorm losses resulting only from a hurricane declared by the National Weather Service. Hurricane deductibles are the amount that a homeowner is obligated to pay before the insurance company has an obligation to pay for damages due to a loss associated with a hurricane. Hurricane deductibles apply for damage that occurs from the time a hurricane watch or warning is issued for any part of Florida, up to 72 hours after such a watch or warning ends and anytime hurricane conditions exist throughout the state.
Hurricane deductibles and their triggers are set by law and are the same for the private, or regular market, as well as Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC), the state-run program which provides property insurance to consumers. The hurricane deductible applies only once during a hurricane season. All insurers must offer a hurricane deductible of $500, 2 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent of the policy dwelling or structure limits. The percentages are based on the total value of the home. Before the hurricane strikes, it is important to know your deductible or adjust it if you want the insurance company to pay more for your losses.
Be sure to investigate loss mitigation discounts or credits due for taking steps to reduce the level of risk at your home. A new (or newer) roof will work to reduce future insurance cost. Search for and obtain a wind mitigation inspection report. The cost is not great for an inspection, but can result in the savings of hundreds, if not thousands, in insurance cost. The credits due for reducing risk are applied to property insurance premiums. Keep in mind that these discounts are available for personal and commercial residential property only.
The CPIC (Citizens), Florida’s state-run insurer of last resort will insure new homeowners in high-risk areas and others who cannot find coverage in the open private market. Under Florida law, Citizens may write a new insurance policy only if no comparable private market coverage is available or comparable private market policy premiums are more than 15 percent higher than a comparable Citizens policy.
The Florida Market Assistance Program is a free referral service designed to match consumers who cannot find property insurance with Florida-licensed agents and insurers who are writing new business. Each of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, CPIC (Citizen’s) and Florida Market Assistance Program maintain websites where a homeowner can research issues.
HomeOwner’s Insurance Wellness Check
It is recommended that every homeowner annually review insurance coverage to anticipate potential losses. Speak with your insurance agent when questions arise. Many policies don’t cover specific valuable items unless the items are listed in detail with the insurance company by a Rider. The items included will need current appraisals or receipts to verify the purchase. Photograph your valuables that are included in your list of items that will be covered. This could include jewelry, art pieces and expensive dining settings. Save receipts/appraisals by photograph or scanning into computer zipdrives. For expensive items, keep a copy or zipdrive off the site of the property (possibly using a safe deposit box at your local Bank).
Many policies do not cover simple losses of property. If you drop a ring down the sink or it is flushed down the toilet accidentally, it may not be a covered loss. Discuss with your agent to make certain that valuables are covered from every day types of losses beyond what we all think of as covered events, such as theft or fire losses.
If your property has an alarm system or other mitigating conditions to reduce the risk of theft or fire, it is possible that discounts are available. Always check with your insurance agent for discounts.
Finally, you can adjust your deductibles to reduce cost of insurance, but understand that when you raise the deductible to lessen the insurance cost burden, it will increase the Owner’s contribution to a loss if that should occur.