Can I Get Last-Minute Insurance for Hurricane Matthew?

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For homeowners in the path of Hurricane Matthew who are uninsured or underinsured, it’s probably too late to get or add coverage. That’s because insurance companies generally stop writing coverage as soon as an area is under a hurricane warning.

In most cases, however, if you have homeowner’s insurance, you have coverage for wind, unless you’re in a high-risk area. Then you might need a special rider on your insurance policy, said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for The Insurance Information Institute.

“Wind and hurricane (damage) are standard coverage in home and business policies. Wind is covered,” Salvatore said. “If you live in a very high-risk area it’s possible that you’d have to get coverage (for wind), but that’s the exception, that’s not the rule.”

Still, it’s a good idea to check your policy and ask your insurance agent what your policy cover. For those of you worried about Hurricane Matthew, you may be out of luck already though. That’s because insurers are allowed to stop writing and changing coverages in these situations.In Florida, for example, any changes to insurance policies should be made 72 hours before the storm makes landfall, according to Billy Wagner, multi-unit owner of Brightway Insurance in Jacksonville, Fla. One exception, Wagner said, is if a homeowner is closing on a new house, then a few select companies will still write a policy.

Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm at the time of publication, is widely expected to cause significant damage from Florida to North Carolina, with floods and high winds expected.

“It’s going up the entire coast, so they’ve pretty much shut down the entire state of Florida, meaning that you cannot bind or alter coverage with any of the (insurance) companies,” Wagner said.

Flooding & Storm Surges

If you’re in an area farther up the coast and are still able to get coverage, one thing to keep in mind is that, while homeowner’s insurance typically covers wind damages associated with hurricanes, it doesn’t cover flooding or storm surges. In fact, most policies cover damage from windstorms, hail, lightning and fire. Most even cover damage by airplane, but it’s good to review your exact coverages with your insurance agent. You’ll need a separate flood insurance policy to cover any damages from storm surge or rising water.

“One of the biggest misnomers for many people is that rising water from outside the house, even if caused by a hurricane, is considered flood damage,” Wagner said. But flood insurance, in general, has an even longer waiting period of 30 days, said Wagner, meaning, if you ordered flood insurance today, it would likely take about a month before flood damage would be covered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes exceptions on the 30-day waiting rule for flood coverage for homeowners who are buying flood insurance “in connection with making, increasing, extending, or renewing your mortgage loan” as long as coverage is purchased before or at closing.

If you’re in the process of buying insurance coverage, your credit score could affect your homeowner’s insurance rate. Insurance companies will obtain what’s called an “insurance-based credit score,” a score designed to predict whether you’re likely to file a claim. The score could also determine if you qualify for discounts. Similar to a traditional credit score, it considers your outside debt levels, credit balances, late payments and credit history, so your traditional credit score can give you a good idea of any problem areas you may need to address before you apply for coverage. You can get a free credit report once a year from all three bureaus, even if you’re not buying insurance. And you can get a free credit report snapshot every 14 days on Credit.com.

Image: Aneese

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10 Events Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Always Cover

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If you own a home, you most likely have homeowners insurance (it’s typically required to secure a mortgage). You know your insurance policy covers your home and the possessions inside it in the event of a fire or theft, but you may not realize there are many things which are not covered by your homeowners insurance.

Before you have a claim, it is important to know what your insurance provider will and will not cover so you can alter your policy or budget accordingly.

1. Flooding

Flooding is usually not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you may have already secured flood insurance. However, many people who do not live in this type of area do not have this additional coverage. You can visit the National Flood Insurance program to learn more about adding this to your insurance line up.

2. Earthquakes

If you haven’t experienced an earthquake in your area, you probably feel you do not need to worry about earthquake coverage. However, there have been more instances of this in less typical parts of the country, like the one that hit Oklahoma recently.

If you have a basic policy, it likely will not cover this type of damage. Therefore, you would need to take out additional insurance to cover your home. This is usually only an issue in areas which face higher risk, but you can ask your agent about this and decide if you should purchase it or not.

3. Animal Bites

Many times, basic homeowners insurance does not cover any sort of animal bite. If you have pets, you need to check your current policy to see if you are covered or not. If you are not, find out what you can do to cover yourself.

4. Sewer Backups

If your sewer backs up into your home, a standard insurance policy may not cover you. If you live in a newer home, this may not be as much of a concern. However, if your house is older, or you have a septic tank, this could be more of an issue. Ask your agent about adding in additional coverage.

5. Sinkholes

With more and more stories of these instances hitting the news, it is something you need to consider. If you reside in Missouri, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee, you are more likely to have this potential issue arise. There are riders you can add to your policy to protect your home, should this happen to you.

6. Termites

In the majority of cases, the damage caused by these little bugs is not covered and the only way you can cover these costs is by paying out of your own pocket.

7. Simultaneous Events

If you happen to suffer severe wind damage and then your home floods, you may not be covered. The reason? Flood is not covered under your policy. It is what the insurance world calls “anti-concurrent causation.” This is when two events happen at the same time — one of which is not covered under your policy.

8. Burst Pipes

While many times a burst pipe is covered, there are times when it may not be. For example, if it is due to homeowner negligence, such as not leaving the heat on when away on a winter vacation or forgetting to drain a pipe, then it may not be covered. Make sure you take the necessary steps when you are going to be away to help prevent damage. And consider talking with your insurance provider to see what your policy coverage entails.

9. Mold

Mold is horrible and, not only is it ugly, it can actually make you sick. You might check with your provider to see if mold damage is covered by your current policy. If you ever have water in your home for any reason, it’s a good idea to get it cleaned up as soon as possible to help prevent mold growth.

10. Identity Theft

This is actually slowly changing with many companies, but some do not cover the problems that arise because of identity theft. Some companies offer optional additions for your policy, which can cover things like the cost to get your credit restored. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.)

No matter which company you use for your insurance, make sure you talk about these instances and add in those riders or consider purchasing additional insurance as needed. Make sure you take the time to read your own policy, or go over it with your provider, to help you avoid any surprises.

Image: Marilyn Nieves

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