Should You File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Homeowners’ insurance is designed to protect you from financial ruin when the worst happens to your largest asset. If a plane crashes into your house, it is obvious that your insurance company will need to become involved. However, for less serious losses, should you file a claim? Here, we answer some commonly asked questions on this topic:

Does my policy provide coverage for the damage that occurred?

Perils such as fire, smoke, and explosion are usually covered. Coverage for foundation, water damage or slow seepage will depend on the kind of policy you have. Flooding due to rising waters is never covered in a home insurance policy. If you attempt to file a claim for something that is not covered, you will not only be wasting your time, but you will also end up with a claim against your record. The golden rule is to ask your agent what your policy covers, before making that call to the claims department!

What is a deductible, and how much is mine?

The deductible is the portion of the loss that you pay out of pocket before the insurance steps in to take care of the rest. On your homeowners policy, your deductibles will usually be listed as percentages, or sometimes dollar amounts. Typical deductibles for homeowners insurance in Houston are 2% for wind and hail (including hurricane), and 1% for all other perils. In other words, on a $300,000 home policy, you would pay the first $6,000 of a weather-related claim, and the first $3,000 of all other claims. If you can’t find the numbers on your policy, or if you are unsure, give your agent a call and they will be happy to explain.

It looks like the damage will probably be more than my deductible. What next?

You should get an estimate from a licensed contractor for the total cost of the repairs. In fact, you’ll want to do this anyway, regardless of whether you plan on filing a claim.

So …. the repairs will cost $7,000, and my deductible is $6,000. I’m good to file a claim, right?

Not so fast. All claims, even those where little or no money was actually paid out, will show on your record. Claims often lead to premium increases – particularly if more than one claim is filed over a three or five-year period. If you have a lot of claims, you may even be “non-renewed” by your insurance company, and will have to seek inferior coverage elsewhere. In other words, it may be cheaper in the long run to pay for the damage yourself, even if the repair bill exceeds your deductible. So the best advice is speak to your agent, do the math, and don’t rush to file a claim when something happens.

My house burned to the ground, so should I file a claim?

Of course. Major disasters are what your home insurance is there for. This is the moment you’ll be glad you opted for the Replacement Cost policy, instead of an Actual Cash Value one which depreciates your roof and personal property every year.

My neighbor fell down in my driveway and broke her leg. Should I file a claim?

Yes. You never know when a liability claim can become a full-blown financial and legal disaster, so it is wise to file these kinds of claims as soon as possible.

My old fence finally fell down in last week’s storm. It was due for replacement anyway. Will my homeowners’ insurance cover it?

No. Your side of the bargain with the insurance company is to maintain your home to a reasonable standard, and your homeowners policy is not designed to cover routine maintenance or wear-and-tear issues. This means that any related claims will be denied.

Reasons to Get Flood Insurance in the State of Texas

Standard home insurance policies don’t cover floods. In fact, it’s the most excluded type of peril. You should consider getting flood insurance if you live in an area that’s regarded to be high-risk for this kind of disaster. The state of Texas has specific areas that are considered to be “flood zones,” but it doesn’t mean that they can’t happen elsewhere. The state of Texas has experienced more flooding than what’s considered to be statistically probable, and it has put more homes in danger than what was expected.

How Flood Insurance Can Help You

The flooding that resulted from Hurricane Harvey led to more than 87,000 flood insurance claims that have been filed by Texas homeowners, business owners, and renters. But some of the victims didn’t have coverage. Flood insurance can keep you from bearing the financial burden that can come from this kind of damage. Even a few inches of water can lead to thousands in repairs. But as long as your area participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you can be covered for the building and contents of your home in case this kind of event occurs.

FEMA encourages people to buy flood insurance before it occurs because it can’t pay a claim if you don’t have a policy in-force when it happens. A flood insurance policy goes into effect 30 days after you buy it, so it’s important to get one as soon as possible. And you don’t have to own your home to get a flood insurance policy. Renters are encouraged to participate in this program so they can get their contents covered in case of a flood. Be sure to speak to someone at Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston, TX for more information.

A Great Choice for Flood Insurance in Houston, TX!

If you want a reliable choice for flood insurance in Houston, TX, Memorial Insurance Agency has a team of people who can help you get a great policy for your budget. We have been serving this area for a long time, so we can help you get the coverage you need at a price that you can afford. If you want to get a flood insurance policy for your home or place of business, please get in touch with us today!

Why You Should Take Photos Of Everything You Own

Apart from having adequate flood insurance coverage, one of the most valuable lessons that emerged from Hurricane Harvey was the importance of documenting your possessions. Just one hour spent photographing your belongings now could save you a lot of time and stress later.

If your possessions are damaged, displaced, or destroyed by fire or flood, it can be surprisingly hard to remember what you had. Not only that, but your insurance company is going to want copies of receipts or photos in order to prove you actually owned the items in the first place.

Here is how to do it right:

  • Use your cellphone, iPad or digital camera to take high quality images in daylight.
  • Open drawers, cupboards and closets and take photos of the contents.
  • Take photos of valuable items separately, with a card alongside them showing price and date of purchase.
  • Back up your photos to a cloud server, to make sure you can access them even if your computer, phone and camera are destroyed.
  • Don’t forget to update your photo inventory when you make a new purchase!

Why not take this opportunity to make sure you have enough personal property coverage on your homeowners’ and flood insurance policies? Be sure to call your account manager at Memorial Insurance if you need expert guidance.

Be Sure to Get Boat Insurance This Summer!

You wouldn’t even consider driving off down the road without auto insurance, so why take to the water without boat insurance? Although certain kinds of small boats may be covered under your homeowners’ insurance policy, for most watercraft with a motor you’re going to want a separate boat insurance policy. The good news is that boat coverage is usually surprisingly affordable.

Boat insurance coverages are broadly similar to car insurance, and can include collision damage protection, compensation for theft or damage to your boat, bodily injury and property damage liability, medical payments, additional equipment …. and even roadside assistance (probably best referred to as waterside assistance!).

As with auto insurance, it is important to include uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage. That way, if you get hit by an uninsured boater while out on the water, or if that boater doesn’t have enough insurance, your own boat policy would step in to cover the damages.

The cost of your boat insurance will vary depending on where you live, the type of boat you wish to insure (especially how fast/powerful it is), whether you use your boat on inland waters or the open sea, and which coverage options you select.

As always, your independent insurance agent is on hand to not only give you expert guidance about which coverages you need, but also to shop your requirements with a variety of different carriers to find the policy that works best for you.

Happy boating this summer season!

6 Reasons Why You Should Purchase Flood Insurance Right Now

As of July 2016, just 15% of homeowners in Houston carried flood insurance. This number has increased since Hurricane Harvey, but far too many homeowners in this bayou city are still without flood protection. Here is why you should purchase flood coverage:

Flood insurance is not included in your home insurance policy: Some people don’t even realize they are without coverage until the worst happens. Your home insurance carrier will deny all claims relating to rising waters entering the home.

Flood insurance is not expensive: With rates starting at just $349 a year for $100,000 in building coverage and $40,000 in contents coverage, flood insurance is the best value insurance that money can buy.

Disaster assistance is not enough to rebuild or elevate your home: Even a few inches of flood water can cause devastating and costly damage, and a handout from the government will likely cover just a small fraction of your expenses.

Flooding is unpredictable: Many homes that flooded during the Memorial Day floods in Houston in 2016 were unaffected by Harvey …. and vice versa. Urban development, weather patterns, and other factors mean that literally anywhere in Houston is at risk of flooding.

You’re grandfathered in: Flood maps in Houston are expected to change as more severe weather events become the norm. Buy a preferred zone flood policy now and keep it active, and you’ll keep the same low rate even if your neighborhood gets rezoned and premiums double.

Flood season is coming: June through October is when the most severe weather events occur in Houston. There is a 30-day waiting period after you purchase flood coverage before the policy takes effect, so get your protection in place before the rain arrives!

Seven Things Your Home Insurance Policy Really Should Include

 

1. Replacement Cost This means that the insurance company will pay to replace your roof and contents. If your quote does not include the words Replacement Cost, you’ll be stuck with an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy, which factors in depreciation before paying out on a claim. Memorial Insurance offers only Replacement Cost policies.

 

2. Low deductibles The deductible is the portion of the claim you pay before the insurance company takes care of the rest. Common deductibles are 2% for wind and hail, and 1% for all other perils. Any higher than this, and you’ll be paying a lot of money out of pocket before the insurance kicks in.

 

3. NO policy fees Some insurance agents charge a policy fee to their customers, over and above the commission they already receive from the insurance company. Why pay $150 to your agent to do a job that other agents offer for free? Memorial Insurance never charges policy fees.

 

4. Adequate coverage If your home isn’t insured to the full cost of rebuilding, you are going to find yourself seriously out of pocket in the case of a total loss. Remember that even if you have an older home, the cost to rebuild it will be at 2018 prices, so you’ll want a 2018 insurance policy to match!

 

5. Water backup This is when a blocked drain causes sewage and waste water to back up into your home. Coverage is inexpensive, but not included in a standard home insurance policy, so make sure your insurance agent adds it!

 

6. Reputable company Hopefully you never have to put this to the test, but some carriers routinely outperform others when it comes to paying out on claims. Ask your agent for impartial advice on which carriers are best when the worst happens.

 

7. Flood coverage Protection against flood is not included in any home insurance policy – it must be purchased separately. No home in Houston should be without flood coverage, so ask your agent about purchasing a flood insurance policy today!

 

Three Reasons for Home Insurance You Haven’t Considered

Owning a home can feel liberating and fill you with pride, but it also comes with its unique set of anxieties. Living in Houston, TX, you get plenty of reasons to make sure you have adequate insurance on your home. Still, many people underestimate just how useful their policy is. That is why Memorial Insurance Agency has put together this short list of fairly typical claims that many people don’t know can be covered.

1. Mold

When you own a home, mold can be a scary threat. Once it gets a foothold, it can be incredibly difficult to eliminate. And, because it offers sincere threats to health, it’s important to kill the mold at any cost. While every policy is unique, there have been plenty of instances where mold removal was covered by insurance. The rule of thumb is that the mold growth has to be the result of something that is typically covered — like a pipe bursting.

2. Refugees

No, this isn’t a specific policy that protects you from refugees (whatever that means). Instead, most home policies include some form of coverage to help you with temporary housing if you are displaced. Folks in Houston, TX, might have some idea of this concept. It isn’t the government paying for hotels or other temporary living situations; insurance companies tend to bear the brunt of that expense. As always, this type of coverage varies by policy, so don’t assume it’s there.

3. Animals

Pet owners often do know that some levels of the havoc wrought by their furry friends can be covered by insurance. But, even if you don’t have pets or even live anywhere near the wild, animals can still cause expensive damage. As an example, birds will occasionally fly into a window or damage a power line. If that happens to you, your insurance might be able to help.

There are more reasons to investigate your insurance policy than can fit in a short post like this. It’s always best to have a chat with your Memorial Insurance Agency representative and make sure you know exactly how they are protecting you.