ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 21, 2018 – Keeping up with property insurance coverage in hurricane-prone Florida can be tricky, to say the least.
To help sort things out as summer and the storm season heat up, we spoke with Locke Burt of Ormond Beach-based insurer Security First and Doug Iannarelli of travel club AAA's insurance division.
Question: What do I need?
After many hurricanes, including Matthew and Irma in the past two years, insurers said they saw claims filed under homeowners policies that could only have been covered under flood policies. Rising water that makes it into your home will only be covered if you have flood insurance, Burt said.
But if a tree limb or other debris hit your house and creates a hole through which rainfall could enter, that likely would fall under windstorm coverage.
Also, weigh the amount of coverage you need – and how low you need your deductible to be, given the savings or credit limit you would have available if an emergency hits.
Although few studies have shown a strong link between hurricanes and increase in number of births nine months later, labor and delivery nurses say the phenomenon is the real thing.
Question: What's the newest flood coverage?
Alternatives to the federally backed National Flood Insurance Program are increasing. More than two dozen insurers are issuing private flood coverage – which might save you money or might simply make it easier to file claims if a storm causes wind and water damage. Security First is among a few insurers that add flood coverage as an option, called an endorsement, on homeowners' policies rather than require it as a separate policy.
New mapping technology that breaks down the entire country into blocks about the size of a tiny house makes flood maps obsolete, Burt said, and enables private insurers to issue a flood-coverage quote more accurately and easily. The private policies are an expansion of those that traditionally have been written on $1 million-plus homes.
Question: How do I fill in the gaps?
Whether buying down the deductible of your existing homeowner and windstorm coverage, or seeking another policy to plug that potential financial gap, you can reduce the financial risk storm damage can pose.
New policies called parametric coverage can use mapping technology to determine the storm conditions that hit your location and quickly pay a flat amount directly to you. This can spare the trouble of waiting for an adjuster before getting a check, but it also is designed to just provide enough coverage to make up for your deductible. StormPeace and Cat4Home are two such providers mentioned in a recent Sun-Sentinel story.
Question: What are the rules?
Keep in mind: Your property damage will most likely be your own claim. Unless you can prove the tree limb that blew over from someone else's yard is sitting on your living room floor because your neighbor was negligent, you'll be filing that claim on your own policy.
Deductibles can be set for the calendar year, much like health insurance. So even if your deductible is $7,500 and one storm causes $6,000 in damage, get it on the record in case you have another claim later in the year.
Get claims filed quickly, as you might have only a few weeks to submit damage to your insurer. Check with your agent on the amount of time your policy allows – then don't let busy signals or Internet outages deter you.
You can't buy insurance at the last minute. Whether you're comparing rates or looking for coverage you've never had before, insurers have the right to wait until after a storm passes (or misses the area) once it's coming close to Florida.
Question: Should I shop around?
Yes. Innovative policies, such as those mentioned above – or new insurers, such as Farmers which plans an August debut for Florida homeowners, according to its website – can help you save money.
Use ratings companies such as A.M. Best or Demotech to see how financially stable the insurer is. The state's Office of Insurance Regulation has this resource and others posted on its website.
Copyright © 2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.), Bill Zimmerman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.