Hurricane guide 2014: Have you reviewed your insurance policy lately?

06/01/2014 4:26 PM

06/01/2014 5:58 PM

When you’re getting ready for hurricane season, one of the things you need to check is your insurance policy.

The beginning of the storm season is a good time to make sure you have the coverage you need to repair or replace your home or belongings in case of major damage.

“You need to make sure you have enough insurance, especially on contents,” said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, a trade group. “You want to make sure the coverage is adequate to rebuild your home in case of a loss.”

That could mean visiting or calling your agent for an insurance checkup. Have you made significant improvements that have increased the replacement cost of your home? Can you cut your premium significantly by increasing your deductible? Are you receiving all the credit you should for hurricane mitigation measures?

Ask about Law and Ordinance coverage. If the building codes passed since your house was built would add substantially to your rebuilding cost, are you covered? This could be especially important if new codes require a home’s elevation to be raised before it can be rebuilt.

Also look at your contents coverage. Do you need extra coverage for jewelry or business equipment you keep at home? Consider whether you want actual cash value coverage, which pays only the depreciated value of your belongings, or whether you want replacement cost coverage. It costs more, but if your old couch is destroyed, it will cover the cost of a new one.

The beginning of hurricane season is also a good time to draw up an inventory of your belongings. Photos and videos can help you document your losses if valuable objects are damaged or destroyed.

If you buy an older home, it’s likely that you will be required to get a four-point inspection before you can buy homeowners or windstorm insurance. If the four major systems of the house — roof, plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling — are not deemed up to standard, you may not be able to insure the home until repairs are made. And, you won’t be able to get a mortgage without an insurance policy.

In addition to homeowners insurance and windstorm insurance (which some people have in separate policies), you may need flood insurance. The cost of flood insurance is rising, as lawmakers seek to end the subsidies built into the federal food insurance program.

If you have a mortgage and live in a flood hazard zone, your lender will require flood insurance. If you don’t have a mortgage, you can choose whether to buy flood insurance, which protects you against storm surge and other flooding damage not covered by homeowners or windstorm insurance.

Some home buyers were shocked last year at massive increases in the cost of flood insurance for their new homes. Under that 2012 law, new flood policies were at full cost, with no subsidy. A new law passed in March repealed those major increases, capping the annual rate of increase at 18 percent until the nonsubsidized cost is reached.

If you live in Broward County, your need for flood insurance may have changed. New flood risk maps for Broward go into effect Aug. 18. The new maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency removed about 265,000 properties from the flood-risk zone but added about 31,000 new ones. Miami-Dade flood maps were updated in 2009.

Even if you don’t own a home, you still may need insurance. Your landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your belongings in the events of a hurricane (or fire or theft). You need a separate renters’ policy to cover your belongings.

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