FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Aug. 31, 2015 – There’s a storm on the way. Chances are you’re thinking about your insurance coverage.
You’ve probably already brushed up on the basics. You know the difference between wind and flood insurance. You know you need to take a detailed inventory, with photos or video, of your valuables in case you have to file a claim.
You know to protect your insurance policies and other important financial documents and have them ready to take with you in case you have to evacuate.
Here are a few hurricane-related insurance issues you might not have known about:
Claims can be reduced for failure to install hurricane shutters. If you don’t have storm-related impact glass throughout your home, you should have hurricane shutters and the means to install them over all of your openings. Having shutters qualified you for an insurance discount, and not using those shutters during a storm can result in a reduction of your claims benefit if your house is damaged, according to Citizens Property Insurance Co.
Generally, insurance companies won’t reduce a claim settlement for failure to install shutters, says Robert Norberg, of Arden Insurance Associates, although “they can reduce the claim by the amount of your discount.”
You might not be covered if your swimming pool floods your house. Flooding from an overflowing swimming pool will not be covered by flood insurance unless it’s part of a larger inundation that also floods an adjoining property.
“If the pool water just come over the edge and comes in through your sliding glass door, you have a problem,” Norberg says. “That’s why people advise to drain the pool half a foot before the storm so you’ll have room for the additional water.” And be ready to turn on your pump.
Your insurance company will cover damage from your neighbor’s fallen tree: Generally everyone’s policy covers damages to their own homes, regardless of the source of damage. That means you don’t file a claim against your neighbor’s policy when his tree falls on your house. And he won’t come after yours when your lawn chair flies through his window. The exception? If either of you can prove the other was repeatedly asked to fix the situation but refused.
“Then it becomes negligence,” Norberg says. He has seen small claims suits filed because the victim didn’t want to pay the deductible – but few resort to such measures against their neighbors.
Damage related to illegally back-fed power won’t be covered. During the prolonged power outages associated with all of the hurricanes that struck Florida a decade ago, gasoline powered generators flew out of the big box stores. Some people learned they could eliminate the spaghetti cluster of extension cords by connecting a single 220v cord to the power outlet normally used for their clothes dryer.
This can work, experts say, but some people forget to first shut off the main breaker that feeds the utility’s power into their house, and severe damage can result when they’re using their generator and the utility power resumes. That’s why “back feeding” in this manner is against code, and any damage won’t be covered. If you want to set up your house correctly, have an electrician install a transfer switch that guarantees that main power and generator power won’t be fed into your wiring simultaneously.
Put the car in the garage. If you have a car, keeping it in the garage won’t affect how it’s covered. Some may have heard advice to keep the car parked outside to ensure coverage under the auto insurance policy and avoid the need to file a claim against the homeowner’s policy if it sustains damage while parked in the garage. That’s a myth. Your car is your car and covered by its own policy, no matter where it’s parked when damaged, said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative of Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.
Boats, trucks and motorcycles are also covered by their own policies, although toys like ATVs and scooters usually would be covered under the homeowner’s policy.
Think about extra coverage. Homeowners should check their policies for two types of coverage to ensure they’ll be able to rebuild without digging into their own pockets. Review a section called building ordinance or law coverage, which covers costs of rebuilding to codes that might have been revised or strengthened since the house was originally built. The other is an inflation guard endorsement, which covers you if widespread destruction drives up costs of labor and materials.
“It’s tied to supply and demand,” McChristian said.
You probably have time to change your policy. Until the National Weather Service issues an official hurricane warning, you can usually make changes to your homeowner insurance policy, McChristian said.
Many companies will sell new insurance policies even if a storm is churning out there and your home is in the cone of uncertainty. That’s not true of flood insurance, which requires a 30-day wait period no matter when it’s purchased.
Copyright © 2015 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Source: Florida Realtors Feed