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Make Sure Your Homeowners Insurance Will Be There for You!

March 11, 2013

BlizzardLast week was National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, so with some winter weather still in store and the spring storm season just around the corner, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about disaster preparedness from my personal point of view.

Last month, the Northeast was hit by Winter Storm Nemo. At my Massachusetts home we were inundated with 16 inches of wet, heavy snow and punishing winds. By the end of the storm, many streets and yards had become resting places for downed trees, telephone poles, branches, or debris. As a result, we were without heat and electricity for four days. Many were without power for even longer, and those on wells were without water if they didn’t own a generator. My husband and I were fortunate in that we had a gas stove to cook with, city water, and three dogs to help keep us warm at night.

Working for WSRB, I read and write a lot about emergency preparedness. Because of this, my home is well prepared for a disaster and being without heat and electricity wasn’t as much of a hardship for us as it was for some of our neighbors. There are many great checklists and articles out there about how to prepare for a disaster (including one of our own articles), but in speaking with friends and family and in my readings, it seems as though insurance is an often overlooked aspect of emergency planning.

Unfortunately, it is often not until a homeowner has to file a claim that they think about their insurance coverage. Many don’t even know who their insurance company is. Their payments are bundled with their mortgage and they never have personal interaction with their company or agent.

Here are some tips to make sure your insurance is there when you need it:

  • Review your homeowners policy to make sure that you have enough coverage to cover replacement costs and so that you know what is and isn’t covered. Check your policy limits, deductibles, and exclusions. Here’s a great guide to homeowners insurance from the National Association of Insurance Commisioners.
  • Make sure you know whether your policy covers replacement costs or actual cash value (ACV). The replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild or repair damage and replace goods made with similar materials and quality, without accounting for depreciation. The ACV takes into account the depreciation of the home and goods. The difference can be a big one.
  • If you’re not sure if you have enough coverage or think something should be covered that currently isn’t, discuss it with your agent. He or she is there to help you find the insurance that is the best fit for your needs, but if you don’t tell them, they don’t know what that is.
  • Make sure you have your insurance company’s and agent’s 24-hour contact information stored in a safe place (such as a fireproof safe or safe deposit box), including your policy number, their name, email and physical addresses, and phone number. Check to see if either your insurance company or agent has an emergency claims hotline and include that phone number.
  • Consider giving your insurance information to someone you trust who lives outside your geographical area. That way, a friend or family member may be able to provide you with the information if you can’t get to it yourself.
  • Make a home inventory. Because we see our personal possessions every day, we take for granted that we know what is in our homes, but after a loss, it can be easy to miss important items. There are a lot of great checklists out there to help you do this (here’s one that I like) and even a mobile app from the Insurance Information Institute called Know Your Stuff. Make sure you review it annually to note any changes.
  • If you are a renter, get rental insurance. It not only helps you replace your household goods, but can also help you with food, lodging, and living expenses if you are unable to return to your apartment due to a covered loss.

Because I work in the industry, insurance is always close to my mind; however this isn’t necessarily the case for your clients, neighbors, or loved ones. Make sure the people in your life know how their insurance works, what it covers, and how to make sure it will be there when they need it.

Article by: April LaRita Green

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