JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The damage caused by Hurricane Ian is highlighting another crisis: homeowners insurance. As people file claims after Hurricane Ian, experts with Moody Analytics warn it could push some insurance companies into insolvency, making it harder for people to collect.
Since January 2020 at least a dozen insurance companies in the state have gone out of business. And nearly 30 others are on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s “Watch List” because of financial instability.
Florida is already home to the highest insurance premiums in the U.S.
According to an early estimate from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Florida’s largest property insurer, claims could cost up to $3.8 billion.
Filing a claim
If you need to file a claim, try to document the damage as soon as possible, this includes pictures and videos.
The more documentation the easier it is to file.
Make sure you document all expenses related to necessary repairs, including any clean-up.
As far as expenses go, you want to save every receipt, including receipts for hotel stays if you are unable to live in your home.
AAA also advises:
- Prevent further damage. Do only what’s necessary to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows with plastic or getting a pro to cover the roof with tarps to keep rain out.
- Contact your insurance company immediately to begin the claims process.
- Be leery of contractors who go door-to-door offering repair services and promising to file an insurance claim on your behalf.
- Hire a licensed contractor to do the repairs after an insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.
In cases of extreme damage…
If your home is destroyed or uninhabitable, find a safe place where your family can stay while your home is repaired. The loss-of-use coverage in a standard homeowners insurance policy typically helps pay for your family’s lodging as long as the damage is part of a covered claim. Check your policy or ask your insurance agent to make sure you have this coverage and to determine its monetary value and time limits. If you need help locating temporary housing options, here is more information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Be Leery of Unlicensed or Deceptive Contractors
AAA cautions residents about the potential of contractor fraud. The aftermath of a hurricane or other severe storm creates the opportunity for scammers and unlicensed contractors to take advantage of those who need help.
Dishonest contractors may try to profit by:
- Accepting payment then never completing (or even showing up for) the job.
- Using inferior materials or performing work that’s not up to code.
Red Flags to Watch For:
- Contractor shows up unsolicited.
- Points out damage you have not previously noticed.
- Asks for full payment up front and/or in cash only.
- Promises services at no charge to you or offers to waive your insurance deductible.
- Pressures you to encourage your family, friends, or neighbors to hire them for services.
- Offers you a discount for letting them use leftover materials from a previous job.
- Before hiring someone to make repairs, contact your insurance company to file your claim and ensure the damage is covered by your policy.
- Get itemized written estimates from at least three different licensed, insured contractors.
- Before you sign any paperwork and before a contractor starts work, allow your insurance company to come out and inspect the damages first.
- Work only with licensed and insured contractors.
Check the Contractor’s Credentials
Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property, including your roof, until you have verified that they are licensed and insured.
- Verify the contractor has an active, valid Florida license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Check for complaints filed against him or her on the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.BBB.org.
Get a Free Homeowners Insurance Review
An agent will review your policy—from any company—so you know exactly what’s covered and which discounts you qualify for.
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Dealing with flood-damaged vehicles
Widespread flooding will likely result in significant damage to vehicles. Flooding is often covered by “comprehensive” auto insurance policies. However, because Floridians are not required to carry this coverage option, some may not be protected.
When a car has been partially or completely submerged, AAA recommends the following:
- Do not attempt to start a vehicle if the water level rose above the door opening and the interior of the car is wet. Doing so could cause major problems if flood water has contaminated the engine oil or other vehicle fluids.
- Take photos from the exterior of the vehicle. Do not open the doors if the water levels are still high.
- Once the waters have receded, take photos of the interior.
- Contact your insurance provider.