If someone tried to sell you an insurance policy for your home that did not protect you against hurricanes or fire damage you would probably go somewhere else to buy insurance. But did you know that the most common high dollar insurance claims in Florida are actually from water damage? In recent years, water damage in residential homes has resulted in higher claim payouts than hurricane and fire combined! Most homeowners insurance companies exclude (or limit) water damage coverage for older homes, so would you still buy insurance from that company knowing that you are not covered for the most common high dollar claim? If you were unaware of this don't feel bad, as not many people outside of the insurance industry know this.
The point is, insurance can be tricky and it's what you don't know that can really hurt you. No two companies write the same exact policy, and where one company may give you something another may take it away. This is why having a good agent is so important. When shopping for insurance make sure to find an agent that is willing to answer all your questions. Maybe even more importantly, find an agent who is willing to ask you all the right questions to ensure you are covered correctly.
Below, we have prepared what basically amounts to a check list of questions you should ask before buying homeowners insurance.
If you prefer click the following link to open and print out our homeowners insurance questionnaire which can be used as a check list for items you need to ask about before buying homeowners insurance.
Replacement Value Vs.
Actual Cash Value
If you don't know, then you should!
An easy way to remember this:
Replacement Cost = Non-Depreciated Value
Actual Cash Value = Depreciated Value
The calculation for a covered claim using Actual Cash Valuation will usually result in a check that will cover “some” of the cost to repair your home. The same covered claim using Replacement Cost Valuation could mean that you receive a check that will cover most or all of the cost to repair (or possibly replace) your home.
Fortunately most homeowners insurance policies cover homes in Florida at replacement cost, but this is not always the case and varies from one policy form to another. Also you may not have known that your policy may cover your home at replacement cost but your personal property at actual cash value. Make sure you check that you have Replacement Cost included. If you don't, check if it's an available option.
Questions to ask include:
- Is my home covered at replacement cost or actual cash value?
- Are my personal belongings covered at replacement cost or actual cash value?
You may know that many companies exclude (or limit) water damage coverage limits for older homes, but did you know that water damage contributes to some of the largest residential claims in Florida. To put it in perspective, water damage claims have been greater in recent years than fire and hurricane claims combined! Whether you are new to Florida or born and raised in our wonderful state you may know that there is a lot of water here. But do you know if you are covered for “all” forms of water damage? You may not have thought into this before but there are numerous ways water can cause damage to your home, and headaches for homeowners like yourself if you are not prepared.
Water Damage claims can come from many different places. Possible claims can arise from multiple water sources including but not limited to utility water pipes (outside and under), pipes within your walls, and pipes within neighboring properties (upstairs or next-door neighbor). Before buying a home owners policy you should know the answers to all these questions. If not, you could find yourself in a bad situation where you end up paying much or all of it out of your own pocket.
Questions to ask include:
- Does my homeowner’s policy cover me for Flood?
- Is my condo covered if my upstairs neighbor’s bath overflows and leaks into my unit?
- Is my water damage coverage limited?
- Does my water damage coverage only cover me for issues arising from my plumbing?
- Is my home covered for water backup and sump overflow?
- Will my company automatically exclude (or limit) my water damage if my home becomes too old?
Did you know that most homeowner’s policies exclude Screen Enclosures? Some companies may include this coverage, however most require you purchase a rider or buyback coverage. In some cases your enclosure may be covered for a fire but might not be covered in the event a hurricane rips it to shreds. You may have your Screen Enclosure covered, but do you know if it is covered at Actual Cash Value or Replacement Cost? Screen Enclosure claims are one of the most common claims after a hurricane hits so make sure you know what you are covered for before you purchase insurance.
Questions to ask include:
- Is my Screen Enclosure covered if it sustains damage from a hurricane?
- Is my Screen Enclosure covered at Actual Cash Value or Replacement Cost?
- If I have Screen Enclosure coverage, does it cover my screens, metal cage, or both?
- Is there a capped limit on how much coverage I have for my Screen Enclosure?
Did you know that most homeowner’s insurance policies include a separate deductible for hurricane? This separate deducible in many cases is much higher than your other peril deductible. Depending on your tolerance for risk, some people may prefer to save money on their premiums and accept a higher deductible. Some people don't want to come out of pockets thousands of dollars after a hurricane wreaks havoc on their home. Where ever amongst those people you are, make sure you are aware of how much you would have to come up with if a hurricane causes damage to your home.
Questions to ask include:
- Am I covered if a hurricane causes damage to my house?
- How much is my separate hurricane deductible?
- Is my home covered by a storm that is not a tropical storm or hurricane?
There have been an estimated 358,300 residential fires per year over the last several years according to the NFPA. If you have a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, fortunately you may already be covered in the event your home adds to this list. You never know when a fire could strike, so below we have listed a few tips that may help avoid one in your home.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are working and test every month. (Don’t forget to change the batteries!)
- Inspect wiring and electrical panels in your home regularly.
- Keep flammable material away from stove or other cooking equipment.
- Avoid aluminum wiring (most insurance companies won’t accept this any ways)
- Avoid using space heaters. (also something most companies do not accept)
- Never leave home while cooking.
Personal Property & Contents Coverage
Did you know that a standard homeowner’s policy may cover most the furniture (couches, armoire, bed, dining table, etc.) in your house, but your wife’s wedding ring may not be? Now you can usually fix this by scheduling that wedding ring, but the point is many things are not automatically covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. If they are covered you still need to be aware of which of your personal belongings may be capped, as almost all companies have a per item cap (electronics, jewelry, fine art, firearms, etc.). Scheduling these items is usually the only way to make sure some of these items are covered under your homeowner’s policy
If you have high value items and want to ensure you are covered for them you these are a few questions to ask when obtaining quotes:
- Which of my personal belongings are considered personal property?
- What items may have set limits that are capped under my personal property coverage?
- Are these possessions covered while they are away from my insured property?
- Is my personal property covered at Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value? (This can be a big difference in price for some companies, make sure you check)
Homeowners Insurance Discounts
Did you know that getting a wind mitigation report can drastically cut down the cost of your homeowner insurance policy? This valuable report’s primary purpose is to “mitigate” the portion of your premium derived from the risk of windstorm or hurricane damage. It also is a report that no company will require you to get, which leads to a lot of people leaving hundreds (in some cases thousands, really!) of their hard earned cash on the table when purchasing a homeowners insurance policy.
There are tons of other discounts that can be acquired, some of which you may already be eligible for and didn’t even know it! Below is a list of some possible discounts you should be asking about when obtaining insurance quotes for your home.
- Do I get a discount for my alarm system? (monitored or local)
- Do I get a discount for being in a secured community? (gated, guarded, single access, passcode)
- What discounts could I be getting on my current wind mitigation report? (additional savings may be worth upgrading)
- Was my home built by a preferred builder? (usually only new construction)
- Am I getting credit for my hurricane shutters and doors?
Did you know that your homeowners insurance can provide you liability protection? Many people are unaware of this very important part of their insurance policy. If you have this and aren’t excited in the least about it then think about this for a second.
Imagine you have some friends and family over at your home. One of your friends is heading up the stairs to use the restroom and catches their foot as they near the top of the staircase. They do a quick tumble down the stairs. Besides just breaking up the friendly game night, they have also broken their arm too. Even though this person may be your friend, what if they don't have health insurance? They may be forced to turn to you to seek help with fixing their broken arm, but if you refuse or aren’t able to help then they may be able to seek legal action against you. This is where you will be happy you had your liability coverage, something you may not have really cared much for before an incident like this.