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.


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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Read This Before You Vacay: Don’t Make Your Home and Possessions a Target

Do your vacation plans include making your home the worst on the block (for thieves)? If not, update that timeline to make anti-theft measures the first stop on your travel itinerary. After all, there’s nothing like returning from an epic adventure to discover that home sweet home is exactly as you’ve left it. Here’s how to keep your home and possessions protected while you’re gone.

  • Cool it with the social media posts – All those gorgeous pictures can wait until your return. A good tactic to quell this urge is to make albums on devices as you go – and then release them to the world with great fanfare upon your return.
  • Leave old-school GPS devices behind – Should someone steal your vehicle at the airport, it’s likely they’ve hit a double win. Your address is almost definitely listed in that little computer, and it’s obvious that you are not home to stop an invasion.
  • Secure that boat – Boat owners, repeat the following mantra: thou shall not leave keys in the vessel. If you do choose to install an alarm, give it a try before you leave – and update your contact list should it go off. You likely won’t be able to address the situation wherever your adventure is taking you. Whether the boat is on a lift or not, make it as difficult as possible for a thief to move. Robbers don’t like to stick around; they enjoy an easy target. Make it close to impossible for them to take your possessions.
  • Stop the mail (and more) – You have kind neighbors who will pick up unread papers and mail for you? That’s great! Still, if you’re going to be gone for more than a few days, do them a favor and just place a hold on it. Elect a designated ‘house checker’ who removes those pesky door hanger advertisements for pizza and sea wall construction. A buildup of these is a likely sign of home vacancy. If your pet isn’t a fan of dog boarding chaos, consider hiring a sitter who watches after Fido and your home. It’s not cheap, but you’ll have total peace of mind.
  • Consider the small details – Lights on 24/7 means you are either always having a party – or, more likely, that no one is home. The same holds true for a dormant air conditioner. Put your thermostat on a timer and give the appearance that home occupants are indeed enjoying cold air. Thieves won’t know that the cold air you’re enjoying is blowing through the fjords of Norway, which you’re exploring with your clan for two weeks.
  • Understand your homeowners insurance and update if needed – Are your contents covered? What about your flood policy? Ensure the highest protection possible by contacting your W3 Insurance agent. For boat-related questions, the W3 marine insurance advisors are a great resource.

With a bit of preparation, your vacation can end on a positive note. Bon voyage!

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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Assignment of Benefits Causing Increases to Florida Homeowner’s Premiums

In 2016, the term Assignment of Benefits (AOB) became a hot topic in the Florida Homeowner’s insurance industry.  If a contractor has a property owner sign an Assignment of Benefits agreement/contract, the policyholder has agreed to give up their rights pertaining to the handling of the claim and transferred that right to the contractor.  The contractor now has permission to act on the behalf of the insured to resolve any and all claim issues.

Assignment of Benefits

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Does Your Current Homeowners Policy Protect You?

Know the difference between being protected and cheap homeowners insurance.

Does Your Current Homeowner's Policy Really Protect You?

Do you want a homeowner’s insurance policy that provides basic coverage, one that “satisfies mortgage requirements,” or do you want a policy that gives you the additional coverage you may need in the event of a loss? Don’t be caught by surprise when the unexpected occurs. Be an informed consumer and know what you’re buying. When comparing your homeowner’s insurance quotes and policies, ask yourself if the following coverages are important to you:

  • Dog Liability – Coverage if your dog injures another person(s). Most homeowners policies exclude dog liability but will allow you to buy-back a specific dollar amount by endorsement for certain breeds of dogs. Vicious breeds, mixes of vicious breeds and dogs with a prior bite or attack history are ineligible for coverage.
  • Identity Theft – Identity theft happens when a criminal wrongfully obtains and uses personal information belonging to someone else. The average cost of restoring your identity after a loss is $8,000. This coverage reimburses you for expenses you might incur in restoring your identity and credit.
  • Ordinance or Law – This coverage provides for the cost associated with the enforcement of any ordinance or law regulating the construction, repair or demolition of a building or structure. Most policies provide some coverage automatically. It’s important to remember that the older the home, the more coverage you may need.
  • Personal injury – Injury, other than bodily injury, arising from intentional torts such as libel, slander, or invasion of privacy. This coverage is crucial in this age of social media.
  • Replacement cost on contents (RCC) – The cost to replace a covered item (same like kind and quality) without depreciation. Example: If you have a 5-year-old TV, 10-year-old washer and dryer, and 15-year-old refrigerator that are all struck by lighting, without replacement cost on contents, you will get the depreciated value of these items; with RCC you will get the same like kind and quality items at today’s prices.
  • Water backup of sewers and drains – Provides $5,000 of coverage for back up through a sewer or drain or overflow or discharge of a sump, sump pump or related equipment, even if the equipment suffers a mechanical breakdown.
  • Water damage – Provides coverage for water damage that is the result of a discharge or overflow of plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or household appliance. If you have an HO8 policy form, you do not have this coverage. Some HO-3 policies provide full water damage limits and some exclude coverage for homes over 40 years old. If the coverage is excluded, you may have the option to buy-back limited water damage coverage (usually limited to $10,000).

As consumers, we understand the premium does matter, but more importantly knowing that there is coverage at claim time is why we are buying insurance. When you make that decision to purchase your homeowners insurance, you may decide to keep your premiums lower and not to buy certain coverages. Consult with a licensed agent to discuss your options before the loss occurs.

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Protect Your Home From Water Damage

Water damage can be a nightmare!

The reality is water damage claims are the most common type of homeowner’s loss. The inconvenience of cleanup, repair and potential out of pocket costs are just not worth the aggravation.

Up to 22 gallons of water are lost daily due to leaks from dripping faucets or malfunctioning toilets. Water damage is one of the most common losses to your property. How can you prevent a water damage loss?

Water Damage Prevention

There are no single ways to prevent a water damage loss, but there are ways to minimize your loss from occurring. As a homeowner, there are many things that you are a responsible for in the maintenance of your home. There are 9 places where water damage can occur: plumbing, roof, sump pump, water heaters, shower, toilet, sink, washing machine, and the ice maker.

Age of Your Home

Homes that are thirty years old or older are three times more likely to have a plumbing or drainage problem. It is highly important that the plumbing of your home is inspected annually. If you pay close attention to your monthly water bill, you will be able to quickly spot a plumbing issue.

Are You Covered?

Being a homeowner takes great responsibility, but there are some simple precautions that can be done to prevent a water damage loss, and keep you from paying thousands in damage to your property. Make sure to check with your insurance agent to review your coverage, as many carriers can limit or exclude water damage coverage for older homes. Most carriers only offer $10,000 as a buy back option, which can be minimal if serious damage occurs, and it may not be suitable to repair all of the damage.

Being proactive in maintaining your home and preserving your claims/loss history for catastrophic loss is in your best overall interest from an insurance perspective. Your history for all locations owned follows you for 3-5 years depending on the insurance company.

We offer a free review of your home insurance policy.  If you have concerns about water damage and what you are covered for please call us at 727-522-7777.  Wallace Welch & Willingham represents many insurance companies that have policies that can be customized to fit your particular need.

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Homeowners Insurance Replacement Cost

What is replacement cost?
Replacement cost represents the amount needed to fix or repair your house. Your insurance carrier will reimburse you for the cost of rebuilding your home when you insure your home for its replacement value. This is based on the size and structure of the house that was destroyed or damaged.

It is important to insure your home for at least 100% of its estimated replacement cost. Your building coverage limit is based upon estimates only. The replacement cost is established by using information provided by you, industry standard software, county records and/or other property sites. The actual cost to rebuild your structure or replace your personal property may exceed the policy limits, especially in circumstances where a catastrophic event has disrupted the normal supply of materials, labor, and resources.

When should I update my homes replacement cost?
• Recently made upgrades to bathrooms or kitchens
• Have added rooms or living space
• Added custom windows, molding, or other unique features
• Feel that improvements, rising construction costs or economic factors make your coverage limit outdated.

Replacement cost is NOT:
• The market value of the home
• Your purchase price or the cost of the land
• What you owe on your mortgage loan

We appreciate your time to consider the importance of estimating your home’s replacement cost. Our agency makes no assurances or guarantees that the policy limits provided will be adequate to rebuild the structure or replace your personal property. If there are any questions about the adequacy of the policy limits, contact us to review your current home features.

On another note, it is most common to insure your personal property (contents) for Replacement Cost coverage. This means like kind and quality without a deduction for depreciation. In contrast, Actual Cash Value coverage is also available for a reduced premium. However, in this claim scenario, you would only be reimbursed for the replacement item after depreciation for age, condition and other factors were taken into consideration. We will gladly discuss with you coverage features and options.

Our staff of personal insurance advisors specialize in obtaining competitive rates and versatile coverage options which can be tailored to fit your needs. It is also recommended that you review your policy limits and deductibles each year as your home insurance renews.

Do you have questions about the coverage on your current homeowners policy? Contact us, we are here to help.

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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