One of the most common Homeowners insurance claims we see in Florida is water damage loss. With our rainy climate and many homes built in the 1950s and 1960s with aging plumbing throughout St. Petersburg and the beaches, water damage is a coverage many Floridians should have. However, your Homeowners policy may not cover all the water damage losses you think it should.
Because of many fraudulent assignment of benefit claims (see our 2015 blog, Water Damage… The New Sinkhole), insurance carriers in 2016 saw a significant uptick in insurance claims. Many carriers are reporting non-hurricane loss increases of almost 50%, and insurance carriers are now working to respond to these fraudulent claims.
Popular Florida Homeowners carriers such as Heritage, Security First, Federated National, Tower Hill, and People’s Trust have begun to exclude water completely from homes that are over 40 years old. Insureds are given the option to buy back $10,000 in “limited water damage” coverage for an additional premium, but one must read the policy language to see what is covered. For example, limited water damage endorsements typically exclude damage because of pooling water on a roof, which is covered under most Homeowners policies.
Other carriers, like Citizens and United, have begun to implement new policy wording into their policies. The new policy wording limits reasonable emergency measures made after a loss to $3,000 or 1% of the building limit (whichever is greater) from being made prior to an inspection by the company’s loss adjuster. The wording also states that there is no coverage for permanent repairs before either of the following conditions: 72 hours after a loss is reported to the carrier, the loss is inspected by the carrier, or verbal or written approval is provided by the carrier to make permanent repairs (see our May blog, Fraudulent Claims Bring About New Citizens Policy Language for more info).
Still other carriers, like Frontline, who wish to still offer Water Damage coverage, have begun to inspect every risk and have become stricter on their underwriting guidelines. For example, Frontline recently stopped writing any home with a flat roof over living space and has limited the maximum age of water heaters to 15 years.
It is important to note that your standard Homeowners policy does not cover flood, surface water, waves, tidal water, overflow of any body of water. These losses should be covered by a Flood policy, and this coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and through private market carriers which Insurance Resources has access to.
If you have any questions about your current Homeowners policy and what coverages are provided, please contact Brian T. Ford, CPCU at [email protected]