Homeowners Insurance and Hurricanes: What Is (and Isn’t) Covered

home with approaching hurricane

Hurricane insurance coverage is as vital to the Florida homeowner as storm shutters that withstand gale-force winds. Those sandbags, batteries, and shutters are must-haves in the emergency preparedness kit, but hurricane insurance coverage alone possesses the power of rebuild. If the worst happens, and that storm demolishes a home, the right coverage can make all the difference. Here’s what to expect as you consider coverage options:

Florida Hurricane Insurance Requirements

It may surprise you to learn that many homeowners policies consider coverage for hurricanes to be standard. However, as a Floridian, beware: a separate windstorm deductible applies to covered losses. When one speaks of ‘hurricane coverage,’ that is actually what they are referring to – the combination of coverages that add up to full protection. This a la carte coverage aspect means that it is important to talk with an insurance professional before choosing coverage. Whatever policy you select, know that the best options cover both the exterior of the home as well as the contents. That takes into account those valuables you hold dear.

Hurricane Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance

If a tree pushes a divot through your rooftop or the windows shatter (where were those shutters when you needed them)? Your homeowners insurance should cover the damage. Remember, though, that some areas require an extra oomph of coverage––whether that be through increased contents coverage or a replacement-cost endorsement for your contents. This provides you the money to replace your damaged or destroyed possessions with the same, or similarly valued, items.

Possible Damage Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Even though hurricanes often bring flooding along for the trip, homeowners insurance does not cover damage from rising surface water. Mold is also not covered by homeowners insurance unless it was added by endorsement and the result of a covered loss. Excess moisture in the air can cause mold, and this is a very real concern when a hurricane hits. 

Flood Damage (Even Resulting from a Hurricane) is Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance

You read that correctly. Even though it’s rather counterintuitive, flood insurance is a completely different coverage. Living in Florida, with shrinking shorelines and neighborhoods surrounded by water, it’s essential for your total home protection to elect for flood insurance.

If a hurricane results in flooding, those who elected to purchase flood insurance can rest easy knowing their home and property will be protected.

Every Florida Home Should Have Flood Insurance

We can’t drive this home enough. Did you know that it doesn’t take a major storm for flooding to occur? Homeowners who state that they don’t need flood insurance because they don’t live in a flood zone miss the mark. In Florida, we know that when it rains, it pours. Heavy Florida showers present a very real flood risk.

Protect yourself. Prepare your home against hurricanes and know what your policy covers. Speak with one of our experienced advisors long before that storm system appears on the radar. We will break down the intricacies of insurance and make sure you understand what you’re paying for. We’re here to help you weather the storm.

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Is Flood Damage Covered By Homeowners Insurance?

flooded house

Water, water everywhere: Unless you’re lounging on a boat or swimming laps, it’s not a good scenario––especially in your home. Insurance to protect against flooding is a specific coverage election and that’s why the policy is specifically labeled ‘flood insurance.’ So, why do you need it? Reason number one is that water can wreak havoc upon a home, and all are susceptible. 

Water Damage from Rising Surface Water

If excess rising surface water makes its way indoors, that means homeowners’ insurance will take care of the damage, right? This is a common misconception. Water damage from rising surface water will not be covered by homeowner’s insurance. Rising surface water constitutes a flood and therefore is covered by flood insurance only.

Forget the part-tsunami, part-tidal wave catastrophic flood image. Just an inch of water inside your home will do major damage. It doesn’t take a dramatic event to douse the savings you’ll need to access to repair that floor, built-in cabinetry, baseboards, etc. Often, water damage from rising surface water comes not from a rush, but a continuous flow. 

We all Live in a Flood Zone

You read that correctly: We’re all in this together. The sooner homeowners realize that they, too, live in a flood zone, the sooner they’ll realize purchasing Florida flood insurance is non-negotiable. Sure, some of us are more at risk than others. The house on the shore of Anna Maria Island is, of course, going to be located in a higher potential flood zone than the Pinellas Park bungalow. However, a well-placed storm can do major damage anywhere.

Flood Insurance at a Glance

How do you know what your Florida flood insurance covers? For the quick and comprehensive answer, contact your W3 insurance advisor. Our staff is trained to assess your exact flood insurance needs and suggest the policy that fits. Remember: The question is not whether you need to purchase a flood insurance policy – it’s which policy you should select. 

Basic flood insurance is likely going to cover the actual façade of the home. The prior example of permanent flooring damaged due to flood is covered with this type of policy in effect. The architectural integrity of the residence and more are protected as defined in the actual flood policy.  

Dwelling and Contents Coverage

Concerned about valuables being damaged because of a flood? Comprehensive Florida flood insurance coverage may be your best election. This ‘upgraded’ coverage means that should the couch be harmed by a flood, you’ll be compensated. Homeowners with valuable possessions such as antiques find these policies to be a vital part of their insurance plan. It’s important to purchase dwelling and contents coverage for flood protection. 

Flood insurance is most frequently purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private market company. The insurance company underwriting your home insurance may offer it as an endorsement to your home policy.

While being fully covered is the optimal solution, some flood coverage is better than none at all. 

Are You Covered?

If you aren’t sure, it’s time to ask the experts. Our advisors will review your policy at no charge to ensure you are fully covered. 

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A Letter from Michael to Floridians

Dear People of Florida:

Excuse me for being a tourist. I don’t understand why you’re shocked at my visit; doesn’t everyone want to vacay in Florida? Those of you without adequate insurance coverage didn’t seem happy to see me at all. Honestly, I’m hurt. If everyone would just understand the Flood + Home Insurance = HURRICANE PROTECTION equation, we’d all be better off – and I could sweep down to Orlando for a little R&R at Disney World.

But no. Here we are, fashionably late in hurricane season, and fortifications are still not the norm. We’re not talking sandbags, bottled water and nonperishable stockpiles of corned beef hash. I mean insurance. Here’s a tip: my friends might be coming over after I tell them how great this state is, so you’d better consider coverage. Your self-declared ‘hurricane season’ dictates that all of us (and by ‘us,’ I mean hurricanes) have until November 30 to plan an unforgettable Florida trek.

It’s too late to roll out the Welcome mat for me. Here’s how to prepare for the arrival of other potential 2018 storms:

  • Understand and act upon this equation: Flood + Home Insurance = HURRICANE PROTECTION. If you only carry homeowners’ insurance, waste no time in purchasing a flood policy. Most flood coverage does not become active until thirty days after purchase. Just a few inches of water in a residence can cause severe damage. That goes for more than just homes in coastal areas. My girlfriend Florence proved that in North Carolina. She’s such an overachiever.
  • Be thankful for the ‘hurricane deductible,’ which decreases the total cost of damages based on unwelcome visits from storms like me. It’s really important to talk with a knowledgeable insurance advisor about what to expect in the aftermath of a hurricane. To give yourself the best possible outcome in the worst possible scenario, plan, plan, plan. And go one step further: actually purchase coverage.

I understand your reticence. Insurance isn’t sexy. You’re not going to zoom around town yelling, “Look at this snazzy coverage!” But still – in the very real possibility that the next hurricane chooses to retire in the land of citrus and palm – I welcome you to hold that policy high and declare “I am the champion!”

Or something like that.

Talk with a W3 Insurance advisor today at 727-522-7777 or visit w3ins.com. The W3 team finds coverage for auto, home, life, flood and more. Most importantly, they insure against damages caused by unwelcome visitors.

Sincerely,

Hurricane Michael

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Suffered a Loss? Here’s What to Do.

Whether you’ve suffered a loss due to storm surge, fender bender or another insurable situation, you can take charge. Begin the recovery process immediately by choosing to act. A Florida insurance remedy for the unfortunate event is in your future. Here’s how to reach it as quickly as possible.

When you suffer a loss, complete the following steps:

  • First, make sure you are in a safe space. Calling your Florida insurance agent in the midst of a hurricane to declare that the roof has just been torn off your residence is not advisable. Instead, exercise caution. Report the devastation as soon as you are able and to the best of your ability. In most cases your insurance policy has a claims hotline accessible 24/7. The most efficient way to report your claim is directly with the insurance company. If you prefer contact with your agent first, you’ll likely need to wait to call during normal business hours.
  • Every insurance policy places the duty to protect property from further damage upon the insured. Become familiar with your duties in the event of a loss as shown in your insurance policy preferably before or right after you suffer a loss.
  • Take pictures. List any and all affected items, and if you must order any immediate repairs, keep all receipts. *Take note that extensive repairs are not advisable until you have spoken with your insurance representative. Often, the carrier will supply you with a ‘preferred list’ of contractors.
  • Get ready to file a claim. You’ll need to provide the following information: policyholder’s name, policy number, address of affected property (if this filing is in response to a homeowner claim), loss date and damage description.
  • Your claim is filed – congratulations! Now what? It’s time for an adjuster examination as to the scope of damage. Answer the professional’s questions fully and completely. Too much information is much better than erring on the side of too little.
  • A claims report will be compiled by the adjuster. No two losses are the same, so your report will be unique. Your agent will monitor the outcome of the claim and be available to assist you.
  • Remember that you may have a deductible to pay before the insurance company takes care of other charges.

Have questions throughout this process? Call your insurance agent. Working with a W3 insurance professional is a great way to ensure that you receive the assistance you deserve. From initial quote through claim fulfillment, our Florida insurance team is with you every step of the way.

Florence Called, Florida: You Need Flood Insurance Now.

The lesson from Florence is clear: Florida residents need flood insurance, and they need it now. Waiting for that tropical system to appear on the radar is not wise; the National Flood Insurance Program usually imposes a 30-day waiting period before issuing coverage. By that time, multiple storms could loom on the horizon. If you didn’t know that a typical homeowners’ policy does not cover flooding, you do now.

Water has yet to recede in North Carolina; adjusters can’t push through the dreaded surge to evaluate the extent of the damage. Flood insurance coverage is not the norm in the affected area, so even cautious damage estimates are in the low billions. The Associated Press reports that a mere 35% of properties located in ‘flood hazard areas’ were insured when Florence hit.

Florida does not have to face the same level of devastation after such a storm. Here’s how to find a flood policy that’s right for you:

  • If you don’t currently have flood insurance, contact an insurance advisor to learn about options. This professional will discuss with you the differences between private flood insurance and flood insurance obtained through the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Consider going private. The same waiting period does not usually apply in the private marketplace, and this avenue offers additional benefits.

Contact your W3 Insurance advisor today and cross ‘obtain Florida flood insurance’ off your To Do list. We’ve witnessed the devastation from Florence in the beautiful state of North Carolina. Let us all in the Sunshine State be prepared if such a storm turns our way.

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Flood Insurance on the Eve of Hurricane Season: We’ve Got You Covered.

We’ll say a reluctant “hello” to hurricane season June 1. Are you ready? Cross an item off your “Hurricane Preparation To Do” list by calling Wallace Welch and Willingham for advice. We offer multiple types of Private Flood and NFIP policies. Which one is right for you – and do you really need flood insurance? Let’s talk.

What is a flood, exactly?

Generally, insurance carriers define flooding as a “rising and overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land.” For insurance purposes, the word “rising” in this definition is the key to distinguishing flood damage from water damage.

How are Flood Zones determined?

Developing a flood map is a complicated process done by the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) under the strict supervision of the Federal government. The development of flood maps is crucial for communities to plan infrastructure and to prepare for the worst-case scenario Mother Nature may bring.

Who is at risk for a flood?

Everyone! Don’t think you are only at risk for a flood if you are located within a flood zone. More than 20% of flood claims come from homeowners living in low to moderate flood zones. Flood is one of the most common natural disasters, and Florida homes are frequently at or below sea level. No one is truly exempt from the possibly extensive damage a flood may cause.

How do I find a flood policy?

This part is easy. Protection is a quick phone call away. Contact Wallace Welch and Willingham at 727-522-7777.

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Don’t pay your flood insurance renewal payments late!

Flood Payment DueNow it is more important than ever that your NFIP flood policy renewal payment is received on time*.  If your payment is late, your premium could be adversely affected.

For all renewals effective April 1, 2016, the following rules have been added by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP):

  • For properties in special flood hazard areas (flood zones beginning with an A or V) that are currently rated with subsidized rates (no elevation certificate is used for rating), OR being rated under the Newly Mapped Program may lose their subsidized rates or Newly Mapped rates when the renewal payments are received as follows:
  • If the premium payment is received after the 30-day grace period, but within 90 days following the expiration date on or after April 1, 2016:
      • 1st time, the policy will be reinstated and the effective date will be 30 days from the date the insurer receives the payment (no change to rating).
      • 2nd time, the policy will no longer be eligible for subsidized rates or the Newly Mapped rates.  The effective date will be 30 days from the date the insurer receives the payment and a new application and/or an elevation certificate may be required to rate the policy.
  • If the premium payment is received more than 90 days after the policy expiration date, the policy will no longer be rated eligible for subsidized rates or with the Newly Mapped rates and a new application and elevation certificate will be required and the standard waiting period for new business will apply.

The above rules apply to flood premiums whether paid by you or your lender. Therefore, it is important that your renewal payments are made timely. If your lender pays your renewal premium, verify that your loan number and lender are correct and your payment has been processed.

Keep on top of flood insurance renewal payments—we want to help you stay safe and pay less.


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