Homeowners insurance and flood insurance are essential aspects of owning a home. Each works to protect against damage caused by someone residing in the home, someone visiting the home or someone who is merely on the property. Homeowners also receive protection when causing damage to another property that is not their own. Each type of insurance protects against damage due to natural disasters. All of this information is covered in detail in this guide.
When disaster strikes, it rarely sends you notification that it plans on making an appearance. It simply shows up at your doorstep and leaves destruction and property damage in its wake as it passes through on a quest for its next victim.
You are enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning, reading the paper with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table when suddenly a loud crash sounds come from the living room. You rush in to find the tree from the front yard taking up half the space in the room. Its roots gave way, sending it flying through your beautiful front window. You had no prior warning this would happen, and no way to plan for the destruction ahead of time.
Flood waters are just as damaging and provide little time to protect your home and belongings before the waters rush in – paving the way toward destruction. What starts as an innocent summer rain soon turns dangerous as rainwater falls quicker than the street drainage systems can reroute it.
A hurricane strikes near your hometown, leaving an overflow of water in its path as it heads back out into the ocean. As the waters recede, you survey the damage for the first time. Your floors have ultimately become detached from the foundation. Windows were swept away by the flood waters several days ago. Your walls have stains to indicate how high the water rose inside your home. Furniture, bedding, clothing and other personal items are either damaged or ruined.
In both of these scenarios, you had absolutely no time to plan ahead, remove items of value, or stop the disaster from taking place. Your home is now an unrecognizable house, something that you now struggle to recall being a part of or finding happiness in. What once was your home is now the same four walls that are crumbling around you.
Family photographs had discoloration and tore due to the damage. Heirlooms that your children should receive one day have water damage or are missing altogether. As you look around at the damage done, there is only one thing that you know for sure: your life and your home will never be the same again.
Hurricane Sandy Lessons
When Hurricane Sandy first came onto the weather radar screen, it did not register as a storm that would do much damage. Residents in the New Jersey area heard warnings of the approaching storm and took precautions. But, for the most part, weather stations did not anticipate Hurricane Sandy doing any extensive damage to the area.
The Damage Left Behind
By the time it was all said and done, Hurricane Sandy would go into the record books as the most destructive storm opens in a new window of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Initial damage estimates came in at approximately $75 billion dollars, and there were at least 24 states that felt the impact of this massive storm. In New Jersey alone, economic damages came close to $30 billion dollars. Approximately 2 million residents of the state lost power, and 346,000 homes saw damage as Hurricane Sandy made landfall.
As Sandy quietly disappeared into the air, thousands of properties were left behind with a massive amount of damage to repair. The storm cost 72 people their lives, brought over 16, 000 flights to a halt over a two-day period and temporarily put public transportation out of service. The storm shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two days, a rare occurrence all by itself. It became one of those storms that you will always remember where you were the moment you lost everything.
How to Prepare Against Future Storms
Although Hurricane Sandy made an appearance on weather radars, people in its pathway had little preparation time available for securing homes, gathering personal belongings and evacuating. Then the storm hit, and destruction scattered cities and towns with debris until these locations were virtually unrecognizable. Although that hurricane was a difficult storm to endure, there are lessons we can walk away with that will help us prepare for future storms of equal strength.
- Be Cautious of Rising Sea Levels
The sea walls that stand along the south border of New Jersey bore a significant amount of the impact from Hurricane Sandy. As sea levels continually rose, those waters beat down on the sea walls put in place as a measure of protection. When Hurricane Sandy finally sent the waters over the sea walls and into residential and commercial areas, the damage for the future was done. Hurricane Sandy made the sea walls weak enough that any future storms that come through carry the potential for flooding to occur once again. It doesn’t have to be a strong storm like Sandy. Something a simple as several days of summer rain could be enough to raise sea levels and cause flooding to occur.
- Distrust Storm Barriers
When a storm such as Hurricane Sandy approaches, many residents and businesses get to work creating storm barriers, either from concrete or by using sand bags. These storm barriers protect against the rising flood waters. Hurricane Sandy gave proof that storm barriers are not enough to keep storm waters from crashing over the top of the barriers and spilling into the streets. Hurricane Sandy taught us not to place a false sense of hope in storm barriers. If waters could topple over the top of these man-made barriers once, it can certainly happen again.
- Plan Evacuation
It caught many residents off guard by how strong and fast Hurricane Sandy came onto land. They felt either the storm would not be as bad as initial reports showed or that there would be plenty of time to evacuate if necessary. That small window closed and many residents did not have the ability to evacuate. Hurricane Sandy taught us that we should always plan ahead and evacuate as soon as possible rather than waiting because, at that point, it may be too late.
- Create Alternate Evacuation Plans
As a storm like Hurricane Sandy approaches, traditional evacuation routes become inaccessible. Before a storm arrives, it is a good idea to map out alternative evacuation routes that will take you and your family to safer grounds. Store essential emergency items such as blankets, water, a radio that takes batteries and nonperishable food items in the trunk of your car as preparation for being stranded on the side of the road. It is a situation that is more common than you think. Everyone in your surrounding area is most likely using the same route as you are. This can cause traffic congestion and have you spending the night on the side of the road.
- Create a New Normal
There is nothing more heartbreaking than returning home after a natural disaster and finding that everything is different. It was a common occurrence after Hurricane Sandy left the area. It can make what once felt like home feel like a million miles away in a split second. To rebuild after a storm like Hurricane Sandy, you need to keep an open mind about how the new normal could look. Although it is still shocking to see your neighborhood in destruction, rebuilding will be easier to endure when you focus on the new normal in your life.
These are just a few things that can help if a storm equal to Hurricane Sandy’s strength should make its way to New Jersey once again. Although it is impossible to prevent any damage from occurring, there are steps that you can take to help lessen the impact of the storm in your area.
Homeowners insurance opens in a new window is the protection that comes to your rescue if disaster or damage strikes your home. A home is likely the biggest investment you will make in a lifetime. When something happens to it, you need insurance in place to help offset the cost of repairs, medical expenses and other costs that occur as a result of that damage. Homeowners insurance works to provide coverage for the value of the home and the contents inside the home.
Your insurance policy is part of a package that gives you protection against damage on your property and liability protection for damage that you or someone else in your home causes to another person’s property. Some homeowners insurance policies offer protection for damage the family pet may cause as well. All forms of damage receive protection except for flood damage, earthquake damage and a lack of maintenance on your part. Additional policies may cover these situations while maintenance is your responsibility.
What Homeowners Insurance Covers
It can be confusing to define which items receive coverage under a standard homeowners policy, and which items do not receive coverage under your policy details. Knowing what your policy covers is essential in the event damage occurs. You need to understand what types of damage may be covered by your standard policy or one that requires additional coverage.
Standard Coverage Qualifications
There are three mains areas of your home opens in a new window that will receive policy coverage in the event of a disaster or damage that you, someone in your home, or someone outside of your home causes. The three coverage areas are as follows:
- House Structure
The structure of your home receives standard coverage under your homeowners policy. That policy will repair or reconstruct your home should fire, hurricane, lightning or other natural disaster damage your home. The damage may render all or a portion of your home unlivable as a result.
When purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, there are two important facts to remember. The first is to purchase enough insurance that will cover the cost to rebuild your home as a result of damage or natural disaster. The second is to understand that this policy will not provide coverage for damage that a flood, earthquake or lack of home maintenance on your part causes.
- Personal Items
All of the personal items inside your home also receive standard coverage treatment on your homeowners insurance policy. These items include furniture, electronic devices, clothing, and other items of personal value. Coverage takes effect in events of fire, hurricane or theft and you are likely to receive 50 percent to 70 percent of the insurance on the structure of your home. To receive coverage for all of your personal items, you should keep a detailed list of each item, where it is in your home and what the purchase price, if any, was for each item.
Some insurance companies offer coverage for personal items that are not on your physical property when damage takes place. You may even be able to receive up to $500 for unauthorized credit card purchases as well. You might even be covered for outside items such as trees, shrubs and plants. However, you will not receive coverage for damage as a result of wind or plant disease.
- Liability Damage
One of the most beneficial aspects of homeowners insurance coverage is the liability protection you receive when you or someone in your home causes damage on another person’s property. When your dog gets loose and tramples across the neighbor’s fresh cement driveway, leaving paw prints in its path, your insurance policy will cover the cost of repaving that driveway. Liability coverage also pays legal costs that occur in the event someone sues you for the damage that you did to their property. Coverage amounts typically start at $100,000, and you can add to it as necessary for umbrella coverage or excess liability.
Additional Coverage Qualifications
Your homeowners policy coverage may offer a provision for living expenses that you incur in the event your home is uninhabitable due to damage. The additional living expense coverage pays for hotels, meals and other living expenses that fall on your shoulders when you must live somewhere else while home repairs take place. Most additional living expense coverage policies are an addition to your standard homeowners insurance policy. The coverage increases the amount of your monthly premium as well.
Different Policy Types
As a homeowner, you have several different types of homeowners insurance policies to select when looking for coverage protection. Each policy type is standard from one state to another, although some states may make minor adjustments such as calling policies by another name.
- Limited Coverage
A Limited Coverage policy provides you with coverage for the first 10 disasters that take place and impact your home. Many states no longer offer this coverage.
- Basic Coverage
Basic Coverage provides you with protection against 16 natural disasters that may cause damage or devastation to your home property. Flood and earthquake damage do not receive coverage.
- Specialty Coverage
Specialty Coverage is put in place to protect your home against damage from aircraft, hovercraft, motor vehicles and watercraft vehicles.
- Older Home Coverage
Older Home Coverage offers coverage protection for your older home and reimburses you for damage to the actual cash value of the home or the items inside the home. You receive payment for replacement costs, minus the cost of depreciation on the items. Full value replacement is not typically available with this coverage.
- Condominium Coverage
Condominium Coverage covers your condominium’s structure and the personal items inside the home. Coverage is for all 16 natural disasters as well.
Each of these types of homeowners policies offers you the option to receive actual cash value, replacement costs or guaranteed replacement costs for any items or structural damage that occurs as a result of a disaster.
Flood insurance is like the quiet cousin at the Thanksgiving dinner table that springs into action and saves grandma’s heirloom gravy boat from crashing into a million pieces on the floor. You never saw the movement, yet you are grateful for your cousin’s presence at the table. Flood insurance is the coverage you question paying extra for each month when you pay your insurance premiums.
However, should flooding opens in a new window in your area occur and cause unthinkable damage to your home, you will be grateful for having it in place. Various natural disasters can result in flooding. A few of these situations include the following:
- Heavy Rains
- Levee Breaks
- Melting Snow
- Tropical Storms or Hurricanes
A common misconception with this type of coverage is that it is already a part of a homeowners insurance policy. That is not true, and you must purchase flood insurance coverage as a separate policy from your homeowners insurance.
What Flood Insurance Covers
Two areas receive insurance coverage protection opens in a new window under a flood insurance policy. Those areas include personal property and personal items that are on that property. Each area covers specific sections as flood waters tend to cause more destruction than other natural disasters.
- Personal Property
Flood insurance provides protection of the building and its foundation – and a detachable garage if one is present. All flooring types, such as carpeting or hardwood floors, wall paneling, bookcases, and cabinets receive coverage. You will have replacement coverage for your appliances as well as all of the electrical, plumbing and air conditioning systems inside your home.
- Personal Items
Flooding creates devastation in an area near and dear to your heart, your personal items. Many of these items, such as family photographs, can never be replaced. However, your insurance company will do the best it can to ease the pain of losing these items. Other personal items that will be covered include curtains, washer/dryers, food in the freezer or refrigerator, portable microwaves, and dishwashers. You will also have coverage for furniture, clothing and electronic equipment.
What Flood Insurance Does Not Cover
There are several items that your flood insurance will not provide coverage for and those include maintenance issues that you could have repaired yet failed to handle. Things such as mold or moisture buildup that causes damage will not be covered. Your outside property such as trees, plants, septic systems, fences, patios or seawalls will also not have coverage.
Flood Insurance as a Requirement
In most cases, flood insurance is an optional insurance coverage that you can purchase in addition to your homeowners policy. There are certain circumstances where flood insurance is a requirement for all homeowners residing in a particular region or area that is prone to flooding. A home is considered to be in a high-risk area when there is a one in four chance of flooding taking place over a 30-year period. However, other areas that are at a minimal risk for flooding may offer homeowners the chance to purchase flood insurance as well.
Flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage protection takes effect. It protects insurance companies from homeowners who may attempt to add flood insurance after a flooding disaster takes place in their area. There are a few exceptions to this rule.
- Flood insurance purchases relating to making, increasing, extending or renewing a loan
- A building receives Special Flood Hazard Area designation, and a flood insurance policy purchase occurs within the first 13 months of that designation
- The selection of additional insurance coverage on a renewal bill
- Property that endures flooding on Federal land that burns as a result of post-wildfire conditions and flood insurance purchase occurs within 60 days of fire containment
Lack of Insurance Coverage
Although homeowners insurance and flood insurance are optional coverages, walking around without either policy in place can be dangerous. Disasters happen in a split second, and the absence of either type of insurance coverage could have you facing serious consequences.
Absence of Homeowners Insurance
You can own a home without insurance under the stipulation that you own the home outright. When a financial institution owns your home, you must have insurance in place to protect the investment at all times.
Not having homeowners insurance in place puts all of the financial responsibility for damages that you or someone in your home, including your pet, caused to another property. Should that property owner decide to sue for damages and medical expenses, you will face a court battle without the protection of an insurance company fighting on your behalf.
Absence of Flood Insurance
Flood insurance may not be a requirement, but it provides invaluable protection when flood waters rush in. Flooding occurs quickly and without warning. It crashes into your home, seeps into the walls and the foundation, and sweeps items along with it while damaging other items in the process.
Once that water is removed, you need to dry out your home, assess the damage and decide where to start the cleanup process. Then ensues the task of cleanup and restoration, which is necessary to make your home livable again. The cost for all of these actions can quickly add up, and you may face financial ruin by the time it is all over.
Securing a Mortgage Without Insurance
Mortgage lending institutions provide you with financing as a means to invest in your property. Should you default on the loan, the bank will look to recoup their costs in the property up to that point. Therefore, having homeowners insurance is a mandatory requirement if you are looking to secure a home loan. Dropping that coverage at any time may result in your financial institution revoking their loan, which creates a financial disaster for you.
Legal Penalties for No Coverage
There are no legal penalties for not having insurance coverage in place. However, legal costs may factor into your equation should another property owner decide to sue you for damage that you cause. At that point, you face the cost of having to hire an attorney, pay related costs such as court filing fees, and the cost of going to trial. All of these costs could result in you facing financial hardship.
Insurance Coverage Benefits
The advantages of having homeowners insurance and flood insurance in place far outweigh the costs you pay for each policy. These insurance policies protect your biggest financial investment from damage and destruction. Your monthly premium payment will also be lower, which makes the insurance easier to afford. These two benefits work to provide you with the peace of mind that, should anything happen to your home, you have the coverage in place to repair the damages as quickly as possible.
When damage occurs, the only thing on your mind (once you know everyone is safe) is receiving funding from your insurance company so that renovations can begin. Your insurance company knows that you are eager for life to return to normal. Timely insurance payouts happen once an adjuster surveys the damage and creates an estimate to determine how much repairs will cost.
An added benefit of homeowners insurance coverage is knowing that you will receive protection when you are away from home as well. It is known as ‘off premises coverage,’ and it provides protection for yourself, others in your home and your personal property items when damage occurs while you aren’t around. It provides peace of mind when your family is traveling.
Homeowners insurance provides you with protection when a natural disaster or accident takes place, causing damage or destruction to your home. You have protection against injuries that guests may endure while on your property, as well as legal protection should someone decide to sue you due to that injury.
Flood insurance is an optional insurance policy that is not an inclusive part of a homeowners insurance policy. You will receive protection that covers structural damage, personal items damage and damage to your plumbing, electrical and air conditioning systems when flood waters damage your home.
Failure to carry either one of these insurance policies could have disastrous consequences. Without this protection in place, all of the financial burdens from any accidents, injuries or damage falls on your shoulders. In the blink of an eye, this expense could add up to an amount that you are unable to pay. Now you must file bankruptcy to avoid becoming buried by the financial nightmare that you could have avoided if you had called Marine Agency and put the proper insurance policies in place.
Give us a call today to make sure your home is protected.