An insurance expert has some tips for making sure your property is covered before and after a hurricane.
By Kevin Mitchell
With experts predicting a busy 2020 hurricane season, insurers around Florida are urging policyholders to make their plans now, before storms begin to approach.
Certainly, with the distractions and distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easy to neglect hurricane preparations. But this is a good time to take steps around your house and yard before hurricane season begins.
With this in mind, here are some insurance-related tips that are good to think about:
Make sure you have proper insurance coverage: Knowing you have enough insurance coverage for all your assets can bring tremendous peace of mind, especially in an evacuation situation. Reach out to your insurance agent and do a full coverage review, if you haven’t done that recently.
e sure to tell your agent if you’ve made any home improvements or upgrades that might not be reflected in your building or personal property limits. Your agent should also give you a thorough explanation of what’s covered and what’s not under your current policy.
After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Michael, many policyholders discovered that their home insurance policies did not cover flood or rising water, and they were left responsible for the damage. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Prepare your home: Even a Category 1 hurricane has winds of up to 74 mph and can cause substantial damage to your home, so make sure your largest asset is protected.
Simple steps make a big difference, such as keeping trees trimmed to prevent damage from debris, securing gutters and removing clogs, and inspecting your roof to make sure you don’t need any patches.
Take inventory of the items in your household: In the event of a claim, your adjuster will ask you for an inventory of lost, damaged or stolen items. This list is important because it is ultimately what the insurance company takes into consideration when the “contents coverage” portion of your policy is used to pay a claim.
Take photos, write down serial numbers of items and keep the list somewhere safe, both in a waterproof storage box and digitally on the cloud.
Be aware that federal flood insurance has limits: For flood insurance, it’s important to know that federal programs may not be sufficient for your home, because they max out at $250,000 in building value, and many Tampa Bay area homes are worth more. Private market options now exist that offer building coverage up to $500,000.
Other things to consider: Does your policy cover loss of use or loss of rent? And can your policy help you pay to stay somewhere else while your home is being repaired?
Look around your house for potential flooding issues: Are your electrical outlets and switch box above potential flood waters? What about washers and dryers? It’s important that your furnace and water heater are above the property’s projected flood elevation, too. If you have concerns, have a licensed contractor evaluate your risk and proposed solutions.
Make sure you know your flood zone: The boundaries on flood zones can change, so make sure you study the current map for your county. This is also essential information to know as you evaluate whether you have the proper level of insurance coverage on your home.
In some situations, if properties are moved from high-risk areas, the flood risk may be reduced. Conversely, owners of properties that have now been identified to be at high-risk might see changes in their insurance requirements.
Refresh your emergency supply kits: Make sure your emergency supply kit isn’t hard to find in the back of the storage closet. You should have kits in convenient, easy-to-reach locations at home, work and even in your car. You’ll need items on the list like:
- Flashlights, first aid kit, tools, manual can opener, local maps.
- Pet food.
- Water and food for at least three days.
- Battery-powered radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio with tone alert. (Don’t forget spare batteries!)
- Essential personal items such as glasses/contact lenses and prescription medicine.
- Copies of important documents, including an inventory of your personal belongings.