College is expensive enough without finding out too late that an accident or theft isn’t covered under your current policies. So, as you get your children ready to head off to school in the fall, there’s one vital “to-do” to add to your list (other than writing that tuition check): a review of your insurance coverage.
It's important to keep in mind that policy language varies from state to state, and there are never "one-size-fits-all" situations, but below is a guide to the language in Florida policies. If you have questions, or want to go over your insurance needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!
Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy
Coverage of personal property: Florida homeowner’s policies provide 10 percent of Coverage C (Personal Property) for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s. For example, if the contents of a policyholder’s home are insured for $100,000, a student’s property up to $10,000 would be covered if living in a dormitory – provided the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured.
For apartments or houses off-campus, the same coverage applies. Certain items, such as jewelry or expensive electronics, may require special coverage, or a “rider.” Renters insurance is strongly recommended if a particular policy does not cover a student’s personal property.
Liability coverage: There is an exclusion for damage to property rented to an insured, so damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.
Ensuring adequate coverage: Contact us to get specific answers and information about your coverages. Also, it’s a great idea to create an inventory of the items your student is taking to school, as is keeping photos of and receipts for the items.
Renters insurance: If your student’s needs can't be met under your current policy, don't forget renters insurance. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters.
Your Auto Insurance Policy
Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, the policy may qualify for a distant-student discount.
Coverage with a car at school: A car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a listed student away at school. But you should make sure that your insurance carrier writes coverage in the college’s state and location. And note that a change to the principal location of the vehicle could result in a change in premium.
Driving a friend’s car at school: Students would be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.
Coverage discounts: In addition to the possible distant-student discount, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, most insurance companies require that a student must be enrolled in at least four courses per term as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications. Also, drivers under the age of 21 who complete a driver education course may be eligible for a policy discount.
Going away to school is an exciting and challenging time for both students and their parents. Making sure you have the right insurance coverage to protect your assets as you invest in your child’s future. We’re happy to discuss your coverage and options, so just give us a call or come by.
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY
Insuring a condominium unit can be more complicated than insuring a single-family home. Owning a condominium involves two policies: your own condo insurance policy and a “master policy”.
Your own insurance policy provides coverage for your personal possessions, structural improvements to your condo and additional living expenses if you are the victim of fire, theft or another disaster listed in your policy. Your own condo insurance policy also provides you with liability protection.
Condominium insurance--also referred to as an HO-6 policy--differs from typical homeowner's insurance. Most condo associations tackle the responsibility for insuring exterior building walls and common areas in the complex, as well as insuring for property damage and liability protection for accidents occurring in shared areas such as stairwells or walkways. Typical condominium insurance covers your personal property, offers personal liability protection and covers most of the interior structures of the home.
To make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage for your condo, you should ask the following five questions.
1. What does the master policy cover?
Your master policy should explicitly say what areas of the complex are and are not insured by association dues. Don’t jump to conclusions as to which is your responsibility and what is the responsibility of the condo owner's association. In order to make sure you’re not either under or over insured, determine exactly what is covered by your policy – this way you are only insuring those things that actually need to be covered.
Sometimes the association is responsible for insuring the individual condo or co-op units, as they were originally built. If there have been any alterations, you are responsible for insuring those. For example: if you or a previous owner remodeled the kitchen or bathroom that would be covered by your individual policy, not the one your association maintains.
Other times, the association is responsible only for insuring the bare walls, floor and ceiling. So you have to insure things like kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances, plumbing, wiring, bathroom fixtures, etc.
2 How much is the condo association deductible?
Your condo association will usually have commercial insurance coverage for shared building and common areas. These policies come with an association deductible. Thus, if a disaster struck your complex, this deductible would be split among the unit owners. This is not a major concern if the deductible is only $5,000, but some deductibles can range up to $50,000. Also, if the association does not have enough coverage and assesses each unit owner for the deficiency, you want to be sure you have loss assessment coverage which would provide coverage for your portion of the assessment in the event of a covered claim.
3. How much coverage is needed?
After you know what parts of your condo you must insure on your own, you need to decide on how much coverage is appropriate. To estimate the coverage you need, pay attention to how much other unit owners are paying for recent upgrades, such as new cabinets, flooring, or countertops.
4. Cash value vs. replacement cost coverage?
The difference between these two coverages is massive in some cases. Cash value coverage reimburses you only for the present cash value of the item less depreciation. Replacement cost coverage reimburses you for what it would cost to replace the item with a new model. For instance, if you lost a TV that was three years old, cash value coverage would only give you what the TV is worth today, which might be next to nothing. Replacement cost coverage would pay for you to buy a new model.
5. Did you insure interior structure and contents?
When getting condo insurance, you need to get coverage for both your personal belongings and the actual structure of the building. Remember that you only have to insure the structural items for which your condo association's master policy holds you responsible.
And don't forget, your condo policy doesn't insurance flood insurance. It your lender requires flood insurance for your loan, let us review the options with you.
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY
Considering that around 90% of all insurers underwriting homeowner's insurance subscribe to the CLUE service, it's certainly something that you should know about. Many home buyers have at least a basic understanding of the process such as their credit, pre-approval, and a home inspection. However, most buyers don't have a clue what a CLUE report is, much less what an important element it ti when buying and insuring a new home.
About CLUE Reports
The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, is a database that allows auto and homeowner insurers to exchange information about property loss claims. Unless your state specifically requires it, prior notification isn't required before your information goes into the system. In Florida, CLUE reports are used for automobile homeowner's insurance policies.
Here's a simple example of how the exchange system works:
What does a CLUE report say about me?The CLUE report includes personal information such as your name and date of birth. Tied to your identifying information is a record of any homeowner property loss claims you have submitted to an insurance company for the past five years, including:
The CLUE database may also include notations of property "damage" - even if the insurance company didn't pay out a cent. Any hint of water damage to a property, for example, is likely to trigger a negative mark on the property's CLUE report. Well intended consumers who call an insurer to merely inquire about coverage for water damage have been shocked to have their insurance cancelled. Your chance to get new insurance at a good rate could be affected.
Why do insurers use CLUE reports? CLUE reports are a way for insurers to share information about your record of filing insurance claims. Insurance companies are by nature in the business of assuming risk. The more that a company pays in property claims, the less it profits. CLUE reports are one of the ways an insurer assesses how much of a risk it is assuming by selling you an insurance policy.
The theory is that an individual's history of filing insurance claims is a good indicator of how likely that person is to file future claims. Taken to the extreme, this process of risk analysis translates to "use it and lose it". If you file a claim against your policy, report damage without filing a claim, or even inquire about your coverage, you may not get new insurance at a good rate - or at all.
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY
Many of you are astounded when they buy a home for $175,000 and your insurance agent wants to insure it for $300,000 or more. The reason an agent would (and should) recommend the higher amount is because the cost to replace your home after damage from a fire, storm or some other tragedy is higher than the cost to buy another similar home on the market. This assumes, of course, that you have replacement cost coverage on your homeowner policy.
Following are several reasons that explain why rebuilding costs could be 30-40% higher than new construction.
We recommend checking with your agent every two to three years to request a new rebuilding cost estimate. If you don’t have replacement cost coverage on your homeowners policy, you should speak with your insurance agent about getting it. Not having replacement cost coverage could mean you end up with huge out of pocket expenses.
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY
With the high costs associated with home improvement projects, it’s a good idea to check in with your insurance agent to let them know your plans before starting a project. Depending on the improvements, you may find you need to update your homeowners’ insurance coverage.
Here are four tips from the Insurance Information Institute to keep in mind before you tackle your next big project:
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY
Cecil Williams -