Each year brings new challenges to homeowners insurance cases because of ever-changing laws and insurance policies. Each time an insurance company reviews its policy language, it can add new provisions and delete old ones. Sometimes it offers more protection to the homeowner, but most of the time, these changes limit coverage and exposure.
Here, I’ve answered some of the most-asked questions as you prepare for the 2021 hurricane season.
How can I be sure my policy will fully protect my home?
First, make sure your policy declarations page states amounts that are sufficient to replace your home in the event it needs to be completely rebuilt and that it doesn’t exclude major items like roof with solar panels, screened enclosures or other structures on the property like sheds or detached garage apartments. Then, ensure you didn’t select unreasonable deductibles or exclude valuable coverage such as sinkhole, liability to others or mold. The standard $10,000 for mold coverage isn’t typically enough for most claims, so purchase as much as you can afford to protect yourself.
I noticed my policy includes “right to repair.” What does that mean?
If your policy includes a right to repair or a reduced premium in exchange for a supplement to your policy that allows for the right to repair then you may find yourself in a difficult situation after a storm. This condition allows your insurance company to determine the scope of your claim and the repair company.
Insurance companies do this to control the costs associated with rebuilding your home. They work with contractors who agree to work at discounted rates in exchange for a certain number of repairs. You may even lose control over the materials they use. It’s always in your best interest to maintain control over all aspects of your home’s repair. After all, the insurance company’s loyalty is to the person signing their check – not you.
What documents should I have on hand to help expedite a claim after a storm?
I’ve won many cases by using pre-sale inspection reports maintained by title companies or receipts from roofing companies that inspected the home and made repairs while it was occupied by the client. These documents show the insurance company the roof’s condition prior to the storm for comparison. It’s a great defense against pre-existing conditions or lack of maintenance. For this reason, consider having your roof inspected or serviced every couple of years.
Also, document your home every year. Either take photos or a short video of the home’s interior, opening cabinets and drawers to show what’s inside. Do the same with the exterior to show the condition of gutters, downspouts, garage doors and mailboxes before the storm. Transfer the video or images to a USB device and store it in your hurricane kit. This is your best evidence when making a claim.
If your home suffers damage this hurricane season, consult an attorney who concentrates on insurance litigation. They can assess the damages, prepare estimates and reports, and negotiate a settlement with the proper evidence.