On her way out the door to an early morning doctor’s appointment, Corrie saw the familiar orange vested men climbing the utility pole in front of her house. She approached the electricity company’s truck parked on the street and found a supervisor. He informed her the power would be out for a couple hours while they did some necessary repair work.
Already running late, she nodded and set off. She had several errands to run and the lights would be on well before she got back home.
Saddled with groceries, Corrie returned home that afternoon. The sky had darkened through the day and sheets of rain soaked her to the skin as she made three trips through the puddled driveway to carry in her bags. Well, at least the power was back on.
Groceries put away, she proceeded through the house to reset all the clocks that were now flashing that annoying twelve o’clock. She headed to the basement to reset the alarm clock in the guest room. By the time she hit the third step in the dim stairwell she realized something was wrong.
Water was swelling onto the stairwell, high enough to touch the railing above the bottom step. That meant the basement beyond the stairs was flooded with water at least waist deep.
Uncertain about how much danger she may be in given the electronic devices in the basement, she grabbed her jacket and splashed back out to her car. Wondering if the power outage had caused a problem with the sump pump, she called her insurance company with a plea for help.
Corrie found out the hard way that she did not have appropriate coverage. Like many homeowners, moving into a new home is filled with a thousand little details, one of them being insurance. At the time of the application, she only requested whatever the required basic insurance, thinking it would cover any major problems.
Understanding Your Coverage
Depending on where you live, the mandatory coverage may be different. Fire and liability are usual, but what about if a tree falls on your home? Vandalism, floods, natural disasters or damage caused by emergency services may not be included in your insurance coverage.
Take a look at your current Florida homeowners insurance policy. The majority of people don’t have so much as a crease around the staple from the paper being folded over to read the next page. No crease means you’ve never really looked at your policy. Your insurance coverage is there to protect you, so you have a responsibility to yourself to know exactly what you have. Read, ask questions and understand.
Things to Ask Your Provider
When applying for the policy or visiting a website, standard questions about the home were asked. But you should be asking a few of your own. For example, in Corrie’s case, her sump pump not working during a power outage was not covered. However, some policies will allow coverage if the pump has a battery back-up. If the pump can’t keep up during a severe situation, the battery back-up allows the claim to be accepted.
You may not understand in complete detail how your policy works, but your provider does. So start the conversation by asking detailed questions.
- Does the age and type of furnace change the insurance coverage?
- Are old windows covered in storm or damage cases? What about in the event of a break and enter?
- Do septic systems have special requirements?
- If your rental hot water tank malfunctions and floods part of the house, is that covered?
- What type of DIY projects may nullify parts of the insurance?
- Will home improvements change the policy?
- What about the barbeque? Portable backyard pools? Do they void your insurance?
- What are the requirements for having an inground pool?
- Can you be sued if someone suffers injury or accidental drowning? Are you covered against that liability or is it extra?
“What Do I Need to Know About…”
When you move into a new home, it’s obviously difficult to anticipate every detail that may inadvertently cause problems with your insurance. However, once you’ve unpacked and settled in, break out a pen and notepad and walk around the inside and outside of your property. Take pictures or videos to help you explain parts of your property.
Make notes of everything from fences to old trees to discuss your insurance coverage in detail with your provider. If you’re planning any home renovations, run it past your agent first, so you understand what coverage you need both during and after the reno. If you’re not sure what to ask, just detail your house and ask, “What do I need to know about this?”
Your provider is the best source when it comes to understanding your coverage. Set aside appropriate time to learn how your policy works. You can then set priorities on any additional coverage you need and review the estimates for the premiums. Otherwise, if you’ve never so much as glanced at your policy, you may find out the hard way how little protection you have.