St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Are you insured enough?

Reviewing your policy isn't a bad idea. For example, would hotel bills and meals be covered if a disaster forced a temporary move?

Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
Published May 29, 2005

Insurance is something most people don't want to think about until they need it most. But understanding what is and isn't covered in your homeowner's or renters' insurance policy can tell you if you'll be able to rebuild your home and replace your personal belongings.

Policy limits must be adequate to replace the home if that becomes necessary.

You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs. Don't include the cost of the land. Check the value of your insurance policy against rising local building cost each year. Advise your insurer and increase the limits of your policy if you make improvements or additions to your house.

Federal flood policy is necessary for flooding and storm surge coverage.

Standard homeowner's policies do not cover damage from floods, including storm surge from a hurricane, which is considered flooding. Much of the damage from Hurricane Ivan in west Florida to homes on barrier islands was caused by storm surge. Insurance for flooding and storm surge is available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Information should be available through the agent handling the regular homeowner's policy, but also from the National Flood Insurance Program or by calling 1-888-379-9531. Remember, there is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect. Don't wait until a storm is threatening.

Make sure you are aware of your hurricane deductible.

Even though the requirements have been in effect for 10 years, many Florida residents were caught unaware of their homeowner's insurance deductible. Most homes in Florida, 70 percent, have a deductible for hurricane damage of 2 percent of the policy limits per event. For a $200,000 home, that is $4,000 per event. Homes valued at less than $100,000 may still have a $200 to $500 deductible. More expensive homes may have a 5 percent deductible. Talk with your agent to determine your potential out-of-pocket expense.

Building code upgrade coverage.

Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild your home to meet new building codes. That includes homes built before flood regulations that may require the home to be elevated. Many insurance companies offer an ordinance or law endorsement that pays a specified amount toward these additional costs.

Personal possessions.

Most homeowner's insurance policies cover personal possessions in amounts approximating 50 percent to 7 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the main structure or "dwelling." The limits of the policy typically appear on the declarations page under Section I, Coverage C. Contents. To determine if this is enough coverage, you need to conduct a home inventory and talk with your agent.

Replacement cost or actual cash value coverage for possessions.

You can insure your possessions in two ways: for their actual cash value or their replacement cost. A cash value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.

Additional living expenses after a disaster.

This is a very important feature of a standard homeowner's insurance policy. This pays the additional costs of temporarily living away from your home if you can't live in it because of a hurricane, fire or other insured peril. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses. Flood insurance does not include additional living expense coverage, so this assistance will not be available when damages to a home occurred from flooding or storm surge.

Tips for filing insurance claims

Have this information at hand when calling your agent: the name of your insurance company (your agent may write policies for more than one company), your policy number, and a telephone number or e-mail address where you can be reached.

When you file your claim, ask for a time frame during which an adjustor can be expected to visit your home.

Once you have reported your loss, an adjustor will work with you to calculate the value of the damage and prepare a repair estimate.

Before the adjustor arrives

Local officials may require the disposal of damaged items. If you dispose of items, keep a swatch or other sample of damaged items for the adjustor.

Separate damaged items from undamaged items. If necessary, place items outside the home.

Take photos of any water in the house and damaged personal property. Your adjustor will need evidence of the damage and damaged items (i.e.: cut swatches from carpeting, curtains, chairs) to prepare your repair estimate.

Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their age and value where possible. If possible, have receipts for those items available for the adjustor.

If you have damage estimates prepared by a contractor(s), provide them to the adjustor since they will be considered in the preparation of your repair estimate.

Contact your insurance company if an adjustor has not been assigned to you within several days.

- Sources: Florida Insurance Council from information provided by the Insurance Information Institute, the American Insurance Association and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.