Homeowners learn lessons about flood insurance coverage after Hurricane Irma

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:
A political party banner waves over a home damaged in the passing of Hurricane Maria, in the community of Ingenio in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. President Donald Trump is planning to visit the U.S. territory on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

In the days after Hurricane Irma that only way to get to Melissa and Justin Holland’s home in a neighborhood off Buckingham Road was by boat.

Four feet of water had entered the home, destroying nearly all of their possessions.
“The first thing you noticed was the smell,” said the Kindergarten teacher and mother to two young girls.

Months later, the Hollands home has been completely repaired with a brand new open-concept kitchen.

But they had to rely on donations from family and friends to replace their furniture, clothing and other possessions that insurance coverage did not cover.

The Hollands did not have content coverage on their flood insurance policy so their claim only paid to repair the actual structure of the house.

“If you have a mortgage and you are in a flood zone, typically lenders could care less about the furniture inside the home, they really only care about the structure,” said Kagen Cooksley, the owner of Regency Insurance.

Cooksly said he had customers who got rid of content coverage as a way to save money, who learned the hard way what that entailed.

Others he said raised deductibles or dropped flood policies all together when their mortgages were paid off.

He said he saw customers without enough insurance in high-risk areas like the Hollands, and others in low-risk areas with thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“If you live in Florida. You should have flood insurance,” he said.

Most insurance companies require flood and homeowner’s policies to be in place prior to a storm threatening. Read our tips for insurance prior to hurricane season.

DOWNLOAD: Printable insurance tips

10 Insurance Tips before Hurricane Season

1. Purchase policies and make all changes before or at the beginning of storm season. Some companies won’t let you make changes after a storm is threatening

2. Most homeowners policies do not include coverage for flooding. If you are in a high-risk flood zone your mortgage carrier will likely require flood insurance. If you are in a low-risk area you should consider getting a flood insurance policy in conjunction with your homeowner’s policy

3. Flood insurance policies may not contain content coverage, so your furniture, appliances, clothing and other possessions would not be covered. Check your policy and ask to add content coverage to have protection for these items.

4. Part-time residents may be able to save money on flood insurance policies by looking for coverage sold on the private market separate from the National Flood Insurance Program. Federally backed NFIP policies require an assessment fee for part-time residents where private policies do not.

5. Homeowner’s policies may not include coverage for pool cages, lanais and other outdoor room. Check your policy and ask about having this additional protection added

6. In most policies, there is a separate hurricane deductible. Check yours to see what you will have to pay for hurricane damage before insurance kicks in

7. Raising your deductible to save money every month could hurt you if you have major damage from a hurricane. A $10,000 deductible could mean you will have to pay to replace your entire roof out of pocket

8. If you had a claim paid out from last storm season and have not yet made repairs, do those repairs before your policy renews. Insurance companies may choose not to renew a policy if repairs from an old claim have not been made

9. Know how to access your insurance documents online and file a claim online. Insurance companies and agents were flooded with calls during Hurricane Irma. Getting a claim filed online can save you time and get your claim handled faster.

10. Keep all your policies and documents in one place that you can easily access or evacuate with if a storm threatens

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