Many homeowners don’t realize just how convoluted the rules and exceptions of their policy are until they call up their insurer to file a claim only to be told, “Sorry, that’s not covered.”
The first step to figuring out what is and isn’t covered by your policy is finding your insurance contract – especially the sections on coverage and losses.
You likely get a lot of mail from your insurance company. A lot of policy holders don’t keep everything, including updated homeowners policies. Luckily, you can probably download a copy of your policy online if you log into your insurer’s website portal.
That’s about the last easy step – things get complicated from there.
What you’ll want to focus your attention on – from a hurricane damage perspective – is the Section I – Property Coverages. A big chunk of your policy will be related to liability, which generally isn’t relevant to claims related strictly to property damage.
The property coverage section starts with a list of coverages. It usually looks something like:
And so on.
This section provides general definitions of the property that is covered as well as how that property is covered. For example, Dwelling might explain that the insurance company covers all the materials and supplies located on or next to the premises for use in the construction or repair of the structure.
Not every explanation in this section is easy to understand, but it should hopefully give you some insight on what your policy covers, in broad terms.
The next part of Section I that will be relevant to your search is “Losses Insured.”
This is the section that starts explaining the types of damages that will be covered. For examples, Dwellings in this section may explain that the insurance company covers accidental physical loss of the property described in the Section I – Property Coverages Dwellings description – except for those losses listed under “Section I – Losses Not Insured.”
Which leads us to the next section – Losses Not Insured.
In this section you’ll find language that essentially says the insurance company won’t pay for losses of property described in Coverage A (Dwelling) if it was caused by one of the losses “listed below in sections a through m” – or something to that effect.
There will likely be a lot of damage causes listed in your Losses Not Insured section, including things like:
A lot of the loss causes listed will in fact be covered so long as you took the necessary precautions to prevent the loss. We’ve written a blog in the past about water damage caused by plumbing leaks and how the insurance company may deny a claim because, “You should have noticed it sooner, so the loss is your fault.”
Those types of claim-denial excuses are essentially what the Losses Not Insured section lays out. Some of these things may be covered if you took steps to prevent the damage from occurring but it occurred anyways.
Floridians who need to file a claim related to moisture, leaks or wind should read the relevant Losses Not Insured sections related to those damages very carefully.
The other relevant document to Florida homeowners will be your insurers’ “Florida Amendatory Endorsement.” Every state has some kind of unique list of amendatory endorsements that will lay out a bunch of additional state-specific policies that overrule, adds to or amends those listed in the previously discussed sections.
For example, here is Travelers’ Florida Amendatory Endorsement. You’ll find things like the Earth Movement and Settlement exclusion, listing out virtually every “earth moving” event you can imagine.
When you’re reading through your company’s Florida Amendatory Endorsement, you’ll likely want to pay special attention to windstorm and hurricane-related conditions, as well as specific language regarding nonrenewal and cancellation protections for homeowners affected by hurricanes.
These documents vacillate between very vague in some descriptions to hyper specific in others. If you’re having trouble making heads or tails out of all the contract legalese, you’re not alone. Before a storm hits it will likely be in your best interest to take a few hours and do your best to understand the relevant coverages, losses insured, losses not insured and exclusions.
If you discover your coverage isn’t adequate for your needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to your insurance company or shop around for an insurer who offers more comprehensive coverage options.
Knowing your rights as a policy holder may help you negotiate with the insurance company and their claims adjusters if a loss does occur.