Insurance tips

APPRAISALS

You can’t sue your insurance company, in most cases, for underpaying a hurricane claim (a no-sue clause is in most contracts). But most property insurance companies have a required alternative procedure called an “appraisal.” This could occur after a mediation process, but a policyholder can go to appraisal directly. The policyholder and the insurance company hire an appraiser and they attempt to agree on damages.

ADJUSTERS

Homeowners unable to resolve their claims with their insurer can also hire a public adjuster or a lawyer specializing in homeowner insurance litigation. The public adjusters and lawyers work on assignment, meaning they only collect a fee if they are able to get a settlement for you.

Lawyers are usually able to recover their legal fees from the insurance company, while adjusters would claim a fee from your settlement.

DEDUCTIBLES

A non-hurricane deductible on your property policy could apply to hurricanes. Florida law fixes the hurricane deductible per season, not per storm.

In case of a second event, Florida law allows insurers to require you to meet your second deductible, the so-called all-perils deductible. It is usually $500 or $1,000.

CHECKS

What if you aren’t happy with the size of your insurer’s hurricane offering? First, many lawyers advise that you cash the check. A policyholder waives no rights by doing so. Florida law allows homeowners to file supplemental claims.

If you are not happy with your settlement, you are entitled to participate at no cost in a state-sanctioned, confidential mediation program.

OTHER ISSUES

Mold infestation. If water enters your house from a storm, mold could grow on the wall, ceilings and carpet. Some insurers won’t cover the mold removal, others will, but only if you buy optional coverage. In any case, coverage usually is limited to $10,000.

Inflation guard protection. Many insurers automatically increase the value to replace a house each year to compensate for inflation; check to see whether your insurer offers this coverage. Also, it is your responsibility to report any additions or renovations that could increase the replacement cost.

Not all policy benefits are the same. Take a common feature of many South Florida homes such as the pool screen enclosure. Some insurers won’t pay any more to replace a hurricane-damaged screen enclosure unless you buy optional coverage. Others cap coverage or have varying rules depending on the county.

Law and ordinance coverage is important. The coverage will pay the cost of rebuilding your house to the most current building code.