Ohio residents affected by the recent severe weather are getting relief when it comes to deadlines for paying their insurance premiums.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor issued a bulletin on Monday, July 2, 2012 to Ohio insurance companies asking them to be patient when receiving late insurance premium payments from those who are trying to recover.
“Thanks to cooperation from Ohio’s insurance community, we are giving residents some additional relief so that they can focus on cleaning up and repairing their properties instead of worrying about a pending insurance premium payment,” Taylor said.
This request to insurers derives from the Federal Emergency Declaration for the state due to storms that occurred on June 29, 2012 and is applicable to all Ohioans who have experienced a loss.
The bulletin, 2012-02, states that insurance companies are to give those who have been directly impacted by the storms 60 days from the date the premium was due to pay their premiums, interest free. The bulletin expires on September 30, 2012.
The full bulletin and a Severe Weather Recovery Toolkit, which includes information about how to safeguard your property, vehicle and possessions, tips on the claims filing process, FAQS about windstorm damage and insurance, and tips on protecting yourself from a deceitful contractor, are available on the Department’s website, www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is advising Ohioans impacted by recent severe weather on how they should attend to damaged property and offered tips on the insurance claim filing process. Taylor also cautioned residents to beware of fraudulent contractors trying to take advantage of people in need of property repairs.
“We want to provide information to help those impacted understand the insurance claim filing process so they can get their lives back in order,” Taylor said. “Most homeowners and business insurance policies provide coverage for repairing damage caused by a windstorm, hail and tornado after the applicable deductibles are met and up to certain dollar amounts. Your agent or insurance company can help you understand the particulars of your policy while Department staff are available to help consumers experiencing problems with their claims.”
She added that protection for vehicles against damage caused by windstorm, hail and tornado is provided through an auto policy’s “other than collision” or “comprehensive” coverage. The Department has created a Severe Storm Recovery Toolkit under the Featured Links section on its website, http://www.insurance.ohio.gov. It includes claims filing tips, FAQs about windstorms and insurance, and tips on how to avoid a deceitful contractor.
Taylor said that if you have suffered damage from a storm, you should:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim.
• Back up claims with written estimates.
Taylor offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.
Heavy rain and gusty winds from June 29th storms serve as reminder that many of these losses are covered by insurance. Common losses that are typically covered by insurance include damage caused by downed-trees and damage to roofs, walls and ceilings caused by wind and downpours. Some losses are covered under a homeowners policy and others may be covered by policy endorsements.
The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) advises checking with your insurance agent or company regarding coverage questions and limitations, especially those related to water. Some weather-related damages are covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy; some are covered to a specific limit; while other coverages may be excluded but can be added through a policy endorsement or a separate flood insurance policy.
OII provides the following insurance coverage information.
WATER COVERAGE – HOME
Coverage for sewer drain backup is available through many insurance companies as a homeowners or renters policy endorsement. Coverage limits and costs vary by carrier so it’s important to understand what is – and isn’t – covered under this endorsement.
Based on a recent OII survey, most insurers offer a water backup endorsement. Coverage limits range from $1,000–$100,000 with costs varying from $30–$485 annually depending on the type of coverage and limits selected. Some insurers offer options for this coverage with a basic endorsement covering major appliances (furnace, water heater/softener, washer/dryer, sump pump) while a broader endorsement extends coverage to finished basements including carpeting, furniture and electronics.
Wall and ceiling water leaks
If roofs and gutters have been damaged by a covered loss (i.e. wind, tornado, hail) interior wall and ceiling leaks from seeping rain are covered by homeowners insurance. Deductibles apply.
Damage caused by flooding is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies. This protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company for specifics or visit http://www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, estimate the cost for a flood insurance policy and locate a flood insurance agent in your area. There’s a 30-day waiting period before new or modified flood insurance policies go into effect. Click here for additional info on flood insurance.
WIND (TORNADO) COVERAGE – HOME
Damage caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree due to wind or lightning strikes – whether it’s your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Tree removal costs are also covered when being removed from the damaged structure. Deductibles apply.
Typically the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances:
• The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances and
• The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
• The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.
Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.
Damage to trees
Residential trees, shrubs, plants or lawns are not covered when damaged by wind or hail. Limited coverage is provided if damages are caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is typically 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.
If severe weather threatens, move your car under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding are covered under the “other-than-collision” (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn. Deductibles apply.
Consumer insurance tips
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
• Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
• Secure property from further damage or theft (save receipts and provide to your insurer).
• Contact your insurance agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim.
• Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim as repair costs may not exceed your deductible. If the loss amount is close to your deductible, you might consider absorbing the loss on your own.
• If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses (like motel & dining) up to a stated amount.
• Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date. A free downloadable program is at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.
• Schedule an ‘annual insurance checkup’ with your insurance professional. Review all your insurance needs (such as a new teen driver in the household or new home improvements/remodeling, etc.). Be sure to ask what’s not covered by the policy to avoid confusion should a loss arise in the future.
Preventing Water Damage
• Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can’t afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.).
• Do not store items near basement drains.
• Check storm drain lines to make sure they’re clear of debris, like roots and dirt.
• Make sure your sump pump and/or dehumidifier are in working order.
• Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
• Make sure your home’s downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
• Grade the property around your home to drain water away from the house.
• If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential of major water damage losses.
Hiring a Home Contractor
• Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. OII suggests checking with family and friends for referrals and contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.
• Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number. Click here to view OII’s home repair tip sheet.
Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.). Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies. The Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.
The OII is a trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for the property/casualty insurance industry. Its primary objective is to help Ohioans achieve a better understanding of insurance and safety issues.