Let’s Set The Record Straight About – Customizing Your Insurance

Today’s clever insurance commercials are a necessary evil. They provide more information about bundling and saving, and less about the coverages you, your family, and your business really need.

We can change that by simply asking the right questions.

Customizing Your Insurance

There is no insurance company that owns a monopoly on helping you customize your insurance.

None.

Commercials, Commercials, Commercials

Commercials are designed to increase brand awareness using gimmicks including celebrity spokespersons, animals, car crashes and chases, and well, anything they think you will remember when it is time to buy insurance.

Does Every Company Allow You To Customize Your Insurance?

You can customize your home, life, auto, renters, co-op, condo, disability, long term care, personal umbrella, and yes, even your flood insurance with any company licensed to do business in the State of New York as well as every other state in the Union.

Every company gives you the ability to customize your insurance.

Every single one.

Problem is, most consumers aren’t served by most of the television commercials aired today.

They are simply goaded into a perpetual state of dissatisfaction with their current carrier, even when their current carrier is doing a good job for them.

It’s What Consumers Don’t Know About Their Insurance Which Hurts Them

Each year, I make at least 25 insurance-based presentations for HUD-approved housing agencies and organizations such as Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, Harlem Churches for Community Improvement, and Impacct. I always ask those in attendance to tell me what their automobile insurance coverages are. Inevitably, 14 out of 15 give the same answer, “Full Coverage.”

Not 25/50/10.

Not 250/500/100.

Full coverage.

And when I ask them how much their policies cover in the event of an accident, they usually reply that they’re not really sure, but they did save money by bundling their home and auto.

Yay,

Buying What You Need Is A Two-Edged Sword

As long as the policy or policies quoted for you meet your state’s required minimum coverages limits, buying the cheapest policy or bundle possible is actually all you need.

What if though, you just struck and killed a pedestrian, or lost control of your vehicle and totaled a house. Will your policy provide you with the actual amount of money you will need when the jury hands down some obscenely massive award against you?

Imagine coming home to find;

  • Your home on fire.
  • Two (2) feet of toxic sewage water sloshing about your finished basement.
  • Burglars paid you an expensive visit while you are at work or the market.
  • Your good dog had a bad day.
  • There are three feet of floodwater in your home and you don’t own a flood insurance policy.

What Questions Should I Ask?

  • What, if any hoops must I jump through in case of a claim?
  • Are policy coverages or exceptions more important to know?
  • Why do I have duties after a loss?
  • In the event of a covered cause of loss, how easily will my claim be settled?
  • Is your claim service fair?


What Should My Insurance Company and/or Independent Agent and Broker teach Me?

  • Why buying home insurance based on your home’s replacement cost is essential.
  • How to determine your condominium and cooperative apartment “walls in” insurance coverage based on what a licensed contractor would charge to completely repair fire or water damaged walls, ceilings, and floors.
  • The importance for renters to complete a personal home inventory, down to the last sweat sock.
  • How owning Life and Disability insurance will prevent financial disaster should death or disability destroy the earning power of a family breadwinner.
  • Reasons why every property policy should include Water and Sewer Backup coverage. And why every cooperative and condominium apartment owner should add the Loss Assessment endorsement to their coverage.
  • Why buying flood insurance, even when their home is not in a high-risk flood zone, is a smart financial move.

And, of course, what coverages do I actually need to protect my family and home from most disasters?

The other day a woman asked me for my honest opinion of who I felt was the best insurance company out there.

My answer?

The one with whom you secured the proper policies, with sufficient coverages, which is in force at the time of your claim.

A company that won’t make you jump through hoops to settle a  claim fairly. An independent insurance agent and broker willing and able to service your policies. With premiums accurately reflecting the coverages your policies provide.

Nothing else matters.

As for the commercials, well, give my regards to Broadway.

At least until we can enjoy live theater again. Until then, stay healthy and safe.

 

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker, licensed to conduct business in New York State. Contact Eustace at 718-783-2722, 718-489-2218, by email at eustace@insuremeeg.com or by completing the contact form on this page, or  one of the many contact forms on his website, https://greavesinsurance.com.

 

 

Live Life Fully Covered

One of the best things you can do in life is to “Live Life Fully Covered.”

It’s time to just be honest and admit many bad things, gruesome tragedies and heart-rendering losses don’t always happen to “The Other Guy or The Other Woman.”

You Can Be “The Other Guy”

One day you could be “The Other Guy or The Other Woman” who;

  • Loses their husband or wife whose income helped meet mortgage payments, to cancer;
  • Suffers a life-changing heart attack which requires you to stay home to recuperate for six (6) months to a year or more;
  • During their prime working years finds themselves as the primary care-giver for a parent, other elderly relative, or even a sibling who lacks long-term care coverage;
  • Experiences the pain of  burying a child;
  • Watches as their house containing all their treasured belongings accumulated over a lifetime burns to the ground;
  • Comes home after a hard day at work to discover they’ve been burglarized;
  • Needs money to secure a new place to live while your home, co-op or condo is being rebuilt;
  • Gets sued by the cyclist, pedestrian or other driver who can prove you were at fault;
  • Gets sued by the cyclist, pedestrian or other driver who can’t prove you were at fault, but you must engage the services of an attorney to defend you against a baseless suit;
  •  Watches as their home is inundated by two (2) to ten feet of floodwaters even though you bought your home in a non-Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).
  • Owns the sweet and gentle nice old dog walking off the leash who rears up and mauls or takes a bite out of your neighbor’s child;
  • Wonders who stole their new car;
  • Never gets their wedding and bridesmaid dresses because the bridal shop went out of business unannounced, and the owners didn’t return your deposit.

It doesn’t always happen to “The Other Guy or The Other Woman.” It’s also amazing how these types of tragedies frequently happen yesterday, last night or while you were thinking about taking action to put the proper coverage in force.

Can Life’s Tragedies Be Stopped?

You can’t stop life’s tragedies. You can, however, take intelligent, adult steps to control their outcomes using;

  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Long Term Care Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Renters Insurance
  • Co-op Insurance
  • Condominium Insurance
  • Flood Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Personal Umbrella Liability Insurance
  • Wedding Insurance

In over 37 years of helping my clients reach successful life outcomes using insurance and related financial services and products, I’ve realized for me it all comes down to one simple phrase:

“Live Life Fully Covered.”

I would be honored to help you reach your desired outcomes. Call me at 718-489-2218, or reach me by email at eustace@insuremeeg.com .

Let’s work together to make sure you “Live Life Fully Covered.”

Hurricane Season Preparation

There is no substitute for Hurricane Season preparation

With the 2019 hurricane season underway, we would like to remind you of the importance of preparing for potentially destructive storms. Here are some things you can do today, before a storm approaches, to help keep you and your family safe throughout the hurricane season.

How do Hurricane Watches and Warnings differ?

Understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch means that a hurricane may occur within the next 24 to 36 hours. A hurricane warning means that a hurricane will probably strike your area within the next 24 hours.

Prepare a storm survival kit.

  • A complete list of essential supplies is available on Ready.Gov.
    Certain preparations must also be made for disabled persons, senior citizens, and pets.
  • Taking any medications? Ask your pharmacist and physician for an increased prescription package so you will always have an additional 30 days of medication available in waterproof containers.
  • Make complete front and back copies of drivers licenses, identification cards, and all credit and affinity cards. Other important documents such as mortgages, deeds, birth and death certificates should be copied and the originals should stay in a safe deposit or a water and fireproof security chest.
  • Plan your evacuation route in advance of the storm.
    Arrange for a family or friend who lives far away from the danger zone to act as a central communications hub so family members who may be split up can call and confirm where they are and their condition.

Create Your Family Communication Plan

  • Establish a safe location for family members to reconnect.
    Make sure you have at least one credit card with the full credit limit available to you should you need to rent hotel or motel accommodations until you are able to return home.
    Secure storm shutters and board up all windows.
    •Stock up on drinking water and non-perishable goods.
    •Have a supply of batteries and be sure you have flashlights and a hand-chargeable portable radio in good working condition.
    •Keep your cars gas tank at least 3/4 full just in case you are forced to leave your home or town immediately.
  • Purchase a five-gallon gasoline or diesel fuel container (Yes, they are different. The gasoline containers are usually red in color, while the diesel containers are yellow.), and fill them at the first mention of a Hurricane Warning or Hurricane Watch to prevent the possibility of your running out of fuel.

Don’t Forget Your Flood Insurance

The typical home, dwelling fire,renters, co-op or condo insurance policies do not cover losses caused by a flood. And unless you’re buying your coverage for a closing, you will have to wait 30 days for your coverage to become effective, so purchase your flood insurance coverage today.

Please remember, we are here to help. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

Check your local weather

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is a New York State licensed independent agent and broker. parYou can reach him through email at eustace@insuremeeg.com, or by phone at 718-489-2218.

Floodplains Outside Your Front Door

Unfortunately, for many homeowners, the answer they receive from their agent or broker will be “No, you don’t have flood insurance. You’re three and one-half miles from the nearest coastline. And if you recall we discussed adding flood insurance coverage to your insurance portfolio and you refused to spend money on a flood insurance policy when you lived in what you considered a very safe flood zone.”

Floodplains in Bedford-Stuyvesant? Bushwick? Brownsville? Park Slope? Fort Greene / Clinton Hill? Carroll Gardens? Getouttahere!

Floodplains are everywhere?

Who knew?

Picture this. It’s another beautiful day in the wonderful city of Brooklyn, New York. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and that annoying depression in the middle of the street halfway down the block (which happens to be right in front of your house), suddenly erupts into the most glorious of geysers. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water burst into the air,  land on the street and your sidewalk, and begins to pour into the first floor, garden level, and basement of your beautiful home.

Well, your formerly beautiful home. I mean, you can still use the upper floors.

You hope.

Strange how you never noticed your block is one of three forming a shallow valley. No matter which point you turn to on the compass, you realize adjoining streets and avenues all slope down to where you stand. In fact, it reminds you of the pictures you’ve seen of floodplains around the country. So that geyser spewing tens of thousands of gallons of water each minute from a broken underground water main, is filling up yours and the surrounding blocks as though they were one huge swimming pool.

And the water is getting deeper by the minute.

You suddenly realize what floodplains are, and your existence in one.

Thank Goodness For City Services

One real positive about living in New York City is how quickly the Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP), reaches your block and shuts off the main which gave life to the geyser, just an hour or two. Once they shut the water off, they set about pumping out the water which collected underground. After that they’ll invite each local utility with underground pipes, tubes and wires in the general vicinity of the water main break to come and check their equipment, making any necessary repairs.

Once this and other work, including repairs to the water main, are completed, the giant crater in the street is repaired, the water service restored, and all will be well with the world again.

Well, almost. You see, several major problems remain.

Property Owner, We Have A Problem

As the water poured into your home, you quickly called your homeowners insurance company to report the claim, only to learn your loss isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

Flood, as your insurance company’s customer service representative explained, is not covered by the typical homeowners insurance policy. This is clearly discussed in the Exclusions section of each homeowners insurance policy which reads,

“WATER DAMAGE, MEANING:

a.    Flood, surface water, waves, wave wash, tidal water, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not a result of precipitation; or driven by wind … “

So, even though your property located miles from the coast, and you are not in a high-risk flood zone, you suffered a loss caused by a flood.

Your basement is a disaster. You need to rip out and replace floors, ceilings and walls, and replace your hot water heater and boiler and the freezer. Where will you find the money going to come from for all of these unexpected expenses?

The customer service representative asks you a frightening question. “You don’t have a flood insurance policy with our company. Do you have a flood insurance policy with any other company?”

Will You Get Good News or Bad News?

Now comes the moment of truth. You call your insurance agent to see if you have a flood insurance policy.

Unfortunately, for many homeowners, the answer they receive from their agent or broker will be “No, you don’t have flood insurance. You’re three and one-half miles from the nearest coastline. And if you recall we discussed adding flood insurance coverage to your insurance portfolio and you refused to spend money on a flood insurance policy when you lived in what you considered a very safe flood zone.”

If you think this is wrong, look at the situation in Baton Rouge, where they recently suffered heavy rainstorms which lead to wide-spread flooding. In Baton Rouge and its surrounds, some 82% of the houses suffering flood damage lacked flood insurance.

To make matters worse, some 7,000 plus businesses in the affected area suffered severe flood damage, causing them to at least temporarily, close their doors.

Over 73,000 employees are now unemployed until the affected businesses can secure bank and federal loans to reopen. If they ever reopen.

And some 80% percent of the affected homes and businesses are located in “X” flood zones, the zone where you should only have to worry about floods every 500 years.

Climate Change, Anyone?

This and other past and future flooding events prove there is a new model of what is a “safe” flood zone. Here’s a hint: There are none.

New construction which places concrete and macadam on what was permeable ground, changes the very nature of a community, increasing the flood risk.

Aging infrastructure in the shape of bad roads places more stress on underground water pipes, which themselves are in serious need of replacement, causing more and larger water main breaks.

For properties closer the shore, rising sea levels, and a warmer Atlantic Ocean create hurricanes packing increasingly greater destructive power, resulting in more damage to sandy beaches and dunes, and the homes they were designed to protect.

And the hurricane season, which is ‘supposed’ to only run from the first of June until the first of November, seems to start earlier, and end later, each year.

So please take this simple bit of advice: “Hurricane Season” is no longer just a season, it is a year-round event.

Flood zones are just lines on a piece of paper, and water is no respecter of lines on a piece of paper.

We are all at risk from the danger of flooding, and the rebuilding costs which follow.

Stay dry.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker based in Brooklyn, NY. Call him today at 718-783-2722 to make an appointment for your personal insurance review of your home, auto, flood, renters, coop, condo, life and disability insurance policies.

You can also reach Eustace with an email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

New York City’s Three Rivers

This, unfortuately is when any business and property owners and renters learn they have absolutely no coverage for the foot or two of water which found it’s way into their living spaces.

What, you think Pittsburgh is the only town with three rivers? Trust me, New York City’s three rivers can beat that!

I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce my BrooklynCovered.com series on Flood Insurance, than using the actual example of what happened during and after a water main break on the night of July 31, 2015.

It proved what Rich Slevin of H2O partners, America’s  leading Flood Insurance education providers loves to say:

“If it can rain there, it can flood there.”

The series will answer questions about, but not limited to:

  • What is a flood?
  • What is a FIRM (and no, it’s not a new fitness gym)?
  • What does a flood insurance policy cover?
  • Why doesn’t my homeowners insurance policy cover flood?
  • What’s an Elevation Certificate?
  • What does Remapping have to do with me?
  • What’s this mandate I keep hearing about?
  • What are the requirements I must meet to buy a Preferred Risk Policy?

and other aspects of this little-understood, but oh so necessary coverage.

Our story begins on the evening of July 31, 2015. It was a peaceful, warm and pleasant summer’s night, when suddenly, all hell broke loose.  A twelve-inch (12″) water main burst at the intersection of Flatbush and St. Marks Place at or around 8 pm, shutting down train, bus and car traffic beneath, on, and through the Flatbush Avenue corridor from Grand Army Plaza, all the way down to just before the Barclay’s Center complex.

While the MTA, National Grid, and Consolidated Edison worried how this would affect their subways, gas and electrical services, businesses along Flatbush Avenue, and homeowners and renters on Saint Marks, Prospect Place, and even Bergen and Dean Streets  were even more concerned about how much, if any, water would wind up in their basements and garden level apartment spaces.

This,  unfortunately is when any business and property owners and renters learn they have absolutely no coverage for the foot or two of water which found its way into their living spaces.

So before we begin the Flood Insurance series in earnest, take a minute to watch a brief video of what lies beneath a typical new york city street.

What lies beneath. Sounds like a monster movie.


While I will do my best to work through the intricacies of flood insurance first, I will be touching on other subjects in the coming months. I plan to have Tax Tuesdays, Flood Insurance Fridays, and other insurance and defensive driving posts the rest of the week.

Stay dry,

Eustace

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., is a New York State licensed insurance broker, qualifying income tax preparer, and defensive driving instructor. He is based in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, with most of his clients residing in the Downstate New York Region. You can reach him at his office by telephone, 718-78–2722, or by email, Eustace@insuremeeg.com .

 

New Changes to Coastal Homeowners Insurance

Now the insurance situation, is more dire not just for new homebuyers but for existing homeowners too. In between bites, I reminded Anne-Marie about how Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the big momma, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, gave insurance companies greater insight into number of homeowners risks they insured in certain areas. And it is these new insights which have given rise to newer realities in homeowners insurance.

It’s amazing. Whenever I read or make a presentation about the new changes happening in coastal  homeowners insurance here in New York State’s Downstate Region, (Brooklyn and the four boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester counties), I usually run into one of Brooklyn’s leading real estate brokers the very next day. And they wrangle a free lunch out of me.

Talking Coastal Homeowners Insurance with Anne-Marie Stanislaus of Reserved Realty LLC

Late last month, I had the pleasure of enjoying another terrific pizza with Anne-Marie Stanislaus, one of New York City’s leading independent Real Estate Brokers, and the Owner and Principal of Reserved Realty LLC.  We met at the number-one Italian restaurant in Prospect Heights, the world-famous Cataldo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, at 554 Vanderbilt Avenue, between Dean and Bergen Streets. The first question she asked was “Eustace, I know we talked about this last year, but what’s going on with the coastal homeowners insurance business in Brooklyn? Companies are not just refusing to write certain types of houses. I’m getting calls from clients complaining their insurance companies, after decades without claims or late payments, are cancelling policies in certain areas like they had the plague! And not just in Brooklyn, mind you, but throughout the Downstate region.”

We’d had a similar discussion back in November of 2012, right after Hurricane Sandy, which I detailed in an earlier post, “Coastal Homeowners Insurance, Part 2.9.” Back then, when life seemed simpler,  we were more concerned about changed real estate practices as it pertained to new sales.

The Latest Twist In Coastal Homeowners Insurance

The insurance situation is becoming more difficult not just for new home buyers but for existing homeowners too. In between bites, I reminded Anne-Marie about how Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the big momma, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, gave insurance companies a major case of the willies and greater insight into the number of coastal homeowners insurance risks they insured in certain now-hazardous areas. It is these new insights which created newer realities in coastal homeowners insurance.

Take It Back A Mile

First, when certain companies decided they no longer wanted to insure risks within one (1) mile of a tidal coastline, they just sent the affected policyowners a letter which basically said, “Thank you for being our homeowners client for the past  15, 20, or even 30 years. We also appreciate your not presenting us with any claims during your years with our company. We changed our underwriting guidelines, and since you no longer fit or match them, you’re no longer one of our homeowners insurance clients effective (You fill in the date.).

“Thank you, and don’t worry, you can still keep your auto, life, and whatever else you have with us. We just don’t want the house anymore.”

Now, just for the record, while most insurance companies pulled their coastal boundary line to a distance of at least one mile from the tidal coastline for dwellings, there are those companies who will continue to honor their commitment to their clients, so long as they don’t lapse their policies, submit some really dubious claims, or decide they can make some side money by turning their legal two-family home into an illegal three, four, or even more family house.

Many companies, however, are simply dropping their clients, and, just like that, the homeowner must seek and secure new coverage for their home.

There’s a new twist in this tale of woe, however: Now some insurance companies are cancelling policies if they are within one mile of any body of water.

For example, I’ve recently written a new policy for a homeowner who lives more than one and one-half miles from the tidal coastline, but within one-half mile of the tip of Brooklyn’s Paerdegat Basin.

A property on the western side of Flatlands Avenue. One which suffered absolutely no wind or flood damage during Hurricane Sandy.

He recently received a cancellation letter letting him because of changes to what the company felt was a coastal risk, his policy was being non-renewed. A policy he’d had for 28 years. Claim-free.

And now, I’m going to write his neighbor a policy, since the same company just sent him his non-renewal letter.

So Anne-Marie looked at me like I had two heads. “So wait a minute,” she asked. “Now we’ve got to know how far a property is from any body of water before we try to market it? When will this madness end?”

“Who knows? Probably when enough disaster-free and thus heavy-claim time passes. ”

She looked at me and said, “Well, that’s not so bad then.”

“Sure”, I said, “Even though when FEMA finishes remapping this region, probably either in late 2014 or by mid-2015,  mandatory Flood Insurance policies with premiums in excess of $2,000 and $3,000 will create new problems for homeowners now remapped into AE and VE zones…”

“Enough!” she yelled. “For that Greaves, I want more pizza! And no more insurance talk!”

And the second pie was even tastier than the first.

You can reach the beleaguered  Anne-Marie Stanislaus at 917-887-7468. She and her team at Reserved Realty will do a fantastic job of  either helping you find your dream home, or marketing your current home and apartment rentals. You can always reach Eustace Greaves Jr., LUTCF  by telephone at 718-783-2722, or send him an email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

Read Your Homeowners Insurance Policy | Brooklyn Covered

Why did they think their flood losses were covered? I’m sure their insurance agent didn’t tell them they were covered. Heck, I inform each and every one of my clients about the need for flood insurance, even if they live in the middle of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, or Prospect Heights. The usual response? I usually get a “Oh, I don’t need that. I’m not near the water.”, or “Why are you trying to take more money out of my pocket? I can’t deduct you on my income taxes!”

Read Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy.

It’s amazing. We nearly go over the fiscal cliff, people are still without heat, hot water, or even a home,  and lawmakers in New Jersey propose legislation to make insurance companies produce a single-page summary of a homeowners insurance policy.

This bill, A-3642, produced by the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, would require insurers writing homeowners insurance policies in New Jersey to provide each and every insured with a consumer-information brochure “written in a simple, clear, understandable, and easily readable way”, explaining the hurricane deductible and the need for flood insurance.

What a bunch of garbage. Just read your homeowners insurance policy.

Now, I don’t know about homeowners insurance policies in New Jersey, but here in New York, the second page of the homeowners policy covers Policy Deductibles, including the Hurricane Deductible, and tells the client their homeowners or dwelling policy does not provide coverage for losses caused by flood or mudslide.

It even gives you the short definition of what a flood is.

Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the renewal homeowners insurance policy of one of my long-time clients:

Homeowners Insurance Declarations Page One
Homeowners Insurance Declarations Page One

 

Homeowners Insurance Policy Declarations Page Two
Homeowners Insurance Policy Declarations Page Two

My client and I speak every year, and every year I remind them of the need to purchase Flood Insurance. (Heck, we’ve got to increase the Liability Insurance too.) As you can plainly see, page two of the policy clearly describes the Policy Deductibles, including the Hurricane Deductible, and even states there is no coverage for losses caused by flood or mudslide in the bottom half of the page.  It even reminds you who your insurer and mortgagee are.

It’s not that it isn’t there. Policy owners just don’t read it.

After 30 years in the insurance business, I know one hard truth: Ninety-five percent of all policy owners will never read their policy (ies) until, and only when, they suffer a loss. And they’re told they’re not covered for what caused the loss. Then, and only then will they actually take an interest in their policy coverages.

Oh, and this is when they tend to get really ticked off.

Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy. How many people, either while evacuating, or remaining trapped in their homes, shared the mistaken belief their homeowners insurance policy covered them for losses caused by flood? Only to get the shock of their lives when they learned their homeowners insurance policy offered them zero (0) protection for their losses?

Too dang many.

Why did they think their flood losses were covered? I’m sure their insurance agent didn’t tell them they were covered. Heck, I inform each and every one of my clients about the need for flood insurance, even if they live in the middle of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, or Prospect Heights. The usual response? I usually get a “Oh, I don’t need that. I’m not near the water.”, or “Why are you trying to take more money out of my pocket? I can’t deduct you on my income taxes!”

I remind them they’re not covered for flood, which includes the water flooding your basement after a heavy rainstorm, or when the 90 year-old water main running down the middle of your street finally decides to burst and send hundreds of thousands of gallons of water cascading into your basements and cellars.

What’s really sad is it’s not just insurance policies which consumers don’t read. Recently, a client purchasing a condo came in for insurance. During the conversation, the client made statements leading me to believe they thought didn’t have to pay for any necessary repairs  done in their unit.

Luckily, the client had Offering Plan with them which provided not only a drawing of the unit, but the condo association rules and regulations as well.

With minimum effort, I showed the client where repairs to their unit were their responsibility.

Lord, why did I do that?

“They didn’t tell me anything about that!”

“Didn’t you read this Offering Plan from cover to cover?” I asked.

“Man, I couldn’t be bothered to read that whole book. You’re looking at it. What does it say?”

And therein lies the problem.

Real Housewives of Atlanta or L. A.? We’re all over it.

The Voice and American Idol? We’re watching every stupid episode.

Watching virile athletes vie for athletic glory? Sure, while filling our kegs with booze from a keg.

Reading trashy romantic novels, getting all sweaty over the sex, while your sexually frustrated man (or woman) is lying next to you, waiting for you to read their pages?

Heading for divorce court.

But ask someone to read, question and understand their condominium association’s Offering Plan? Or read the two (2) pages of their policy called the Declaration Pages?

Can’t be so bothered.

Hated it. Two snaps down in the deepest, dankest, dungeon.

Now, this sad state of affairs does not apply to every client. It just applies to too darn many.

I am blessed with more than a few clients who meet with me every year for their annual  homeowners insurance policy review. They want to make sure they own all the coverages they need to be fully indemnified in case of a loss. They may not enjoy being told it’s going to cost them a little more, but most of them upgrade their coverage.

Most important, they know what is covered and what is not.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what counts?

So, don’t make insurers kill more trees. Tell policyowners it’s their responsibility to read their policies. If they don’t understand what they are reading, then they should call their agent and set up an appointment to review their insurance policy (ies). Heck, they should do that every year.

So, save the trees! Read your policy!

 

Wind vs. Water: Like Floods, A Debate Rages|Brooklyn Covered

You are literally better off having the 80-foot tree in your front yard fall into and cause part of the front wall of your home to collapse. Then, as the rainwater pours into and further destroys your home, you can rest easy in the knowledge it is a covered loss. Why? Because the covered cause of loss (the falling tree), preceded the additional loss from an outside source of water. If, however, a flood surged through your neighborhood and ripped the front wall away from your home first, you wouldn’t be covered, unless you owned a flood insurance policy with adequate coverage.

 

Wind vs. Water Equals Hurricanes vs. Floods

 

By my estimation, at least 50% of the losses faced by those who lost property in Hurricane Irene’s aftermath are not insured. Why? The losses they faced are directly attributable to flooding, not the hurricane-force winds. And many people in the Northeast don’t own a flood insurance policy.

Former Hurricane and Tropical Storm Lee will bring similar financial pain to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other Southern states. For insurance purposes, the damage suffered by most will be considered  caused by water, not wind, and thus not insurable.

The wind vs. water rages on.

 

What’s The Difference?

 

Most people will ask, “What’s the difference?” or “I have a homeowners policy and I suffered a loss to my home, so this should also be covered.” Unfortunately, damage by flood is not covered by your typical homeowners insurance policy.

Many communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Jersey are monitoring the rivers, streams and levees with trepidation. Many home and property owners will face the double whammy of losing everything, and not having the means to rebuild.

Insurance Policies Make Good Reading. Seriously.

Most people don’t really read their homeowner or auto insurance policies until they suffer a loss, whether the loss is insured or not. Take a moment, find your homeowners policy, and give it a good read. While most people feel they know what’s covered under their policy, they really don’t.

You are literally better off having the 80-foot tree in your front yard fall into and cause part of the front wall of your home to collapse. Then, as the rainwater pours into and further destroys your home, you can rest easy in the knowledge it is a covered loss. Why? Because the covered cause of loss (the falling tree), preceded the additional loss from an outside source of  water. If, however, a flood surged through your neighborhood and ripped the front wall away from your home first, you wouldn’t be covered, unless you owned a flood insurance policy with adequate coverage.

Your homeowners policy specifically excludes coverage when damage to your home results from a source of water from outside your home.  This is why every homeowner should own a flood insurance policy, with limits equal to at least 80% of the homes Replacement Cost Value. (I’ll be discussing just what Replacement Cost Value is in a future post.) Renters, and co-op and condominium owners whose units are below the third floor in an apartment building should also own a flood policy, as well as those who rent or own townhouses.

So, before the next hurricane comes a-calling, this is a great time to purchase flood insurance equal to at least 80% of your homes Replacement Cost Value. Also, arrange an annual homeowners insurance policy annual review with  your insurance representative to guarantee you own, at minimum, 100% of the Replacement Cost Value of your home in your Homeowners Insurance policy.

Hurricane Irene Was No Bo Derek|BrooklynCovered

When a storm forms off the west coast of Africa, it begins life as a Tropical Cyclone. Once the Tropical Cyclone reaches sustained winds of 39 mph, it becomes a Tropical Storm, and remains so until the sustained winds exceed 74 mph.

Once the sustained wind reach 74 mph, we now have a Hurricane. These are categorized according to what is known as the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale which measures wind velocity and based on this measurement, places a hurricane in one of five Categories.

If Hurricane Irene Was A “10”…

Remember the 1979 movie “10” starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek? In this movie, Moore’s portrays a man stupefied by a woman whom he considers the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth. A woman he considers a perfect “10.” Well, Hurricane Irene was no “10.” 

Affected property owners who wondered if and how much their homeowners insurance would pay for wind damage should thank their lucky stars Hurricane Irene was either just a Category 1 or a Tropical Storm.

Isn’t A Higher Number Better?

Only if you think a Class A felony is better than a Class E. The Class E felony actually carries a lot less jail time than a Class A.

Cyclones work much the same way, where you’re punished for getting a higher grade.

What Are Hurricanes, And How Do We Measure Them?

When a storm forms off the west coast of Africa, it begins life as a Tropical Cyclone. Once the Tropical Cyclone reaches sustained winds of 39 mph, it becomes a Tropical Storm, and remains so until the sustained winds exceed 74 mph.

Once the sustained winds reach 74 mph, we now have a Hurricane. Hurricanes are categorized according to what is known as the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. The Saffir-Simpson scale measures wind velocity and based on this measurement, places a hurricane in one of five Categories:

  • Category 1 has wind speeds ranging from 74-95 mph. It’s damage potential is minimal. Hurricane Dolly in 2008 was a Category 1.
  • Category 2 has wind speeds ranging from 96-110 mph. Its damage potential is extensive. Hurricane Frances in 2004 was such a storm.
  • Category 3 has wind speeds ranging from 111-130 mph. It’s damage potential is devastating. Also in 2004, we had Hurricane Ivan.
  • Category 4 has wind speeds ranging from 131-155 mph. It’s damage potential is extreme. Hurricane Charley, another 2004 hurricane, wreaked havoc in Punta Gorda, Florida.

The year 2004 was a hot mess, wasn’t it?

  • And finally we have Category 5, which has a catastrophic damage potential. It’s wind speeds? Anything over 156 mph. I’ll never forget Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and neither will anyone else who lived in Miami-Dade County then. Andrew’s devastation was so great, building codes in Florida, like many of the houses, were strengthened.

How Does This Affect What My Homeowners Policy Will Pay?

Your homeowners policy contains two (2) deductibles for windstorm-related damage. Any  damage caused by either a Tropical Cyclone or a Category 1 hurricane will have a deductible equal to the higher of your all-perils deductible or $1,000. So, if your all-perils deductible is $500.00, you’ll pay $1,000.00. If however your all-perils is $2,500 or higher, that’s the deductible

Should the damage be caused by a Category 2 or higher hurricane, you’ll pay a deductible equal to anywhere from two (2) to five (5) percent of your Coverage A, or Dwelling Coverage. So, if your Coverage A amount is $500,000, and you have a 5% windstorm deductible for Category 2 or higher hurricanes, your deductible, or the part you’ve contractually agreed to pay for this loss, will be $25,000.00.

Yes, I’m serious. $25,000.00. Now you see why so many people become angry with their particular insurance company after a Category 2 or higher windstorm. They, like many homeowners, didn’t know how their policy covered different causes of loss. It really pays to read your policy and ask questions of your agent or broker if there is something you’re not quite sure of. Better safe than sorry, or, better covered than uncovered.

What Coverages Are Affected By Windstorm Deductibles?

The following Section I coverages of your policy: Coverage A (Dwelling); Coverage B (Other Structures); and Coverage C (Personal Property). Check your policy as different companies apply these deductibles to other policy coverages differently.

What Are Coastal Counties?

No matter where your property is located, should both Category 1 and Category 2 hurricane force winds exist during the same hurricane deductible period anywhere in any coastal county, the deductible for a Category 2 or higher hurricane will be in effect.

In New York State, the coastal counties are the Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, New York, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. So a Category 2 in any of the coastal counties means you’d better have significant dollars in the bank to handle your deductible.

So again, let’s be thankful Hurricane Irene, in New York State at least, was just a Category 1, and dropped down to a Tropical Storm and eventually a Tropical Cyclone. Based on the amount of wind-related damage in several states, the devastation could have been far worse.

 

 

Get Ready For Irene|BrooklynCovered

“No matter where Hurricane Irene makes landfall, if she does so as a Category 4 Hurricane, she’ll be packing winds ranging from 131 to 155 miles per hour. The potential for damage from a hurricane like this is extreme.”

Cue Winston Desmond…Or is it Desmond Winston?

Tony Powell, the original “Soul Man” of the Imus in the Morning radio show has several laugh out loud characters he plays. One of my favorites, (along with Congressman Charles Rangel), is when he imitates a proud Jamaican. When Imus introduces him, he always says, “Everyting irie, I-man, everyting irie.”

Well get ready because Hurricane Irene is coming, and we don’t really want the everything she’s bringing. The National Weather Service is projecting a storm track where Irene will “kiss” Bermuda (talk about your weather cooties).  According to the experts, while the entire east coast will be affected, Irene will probably make landfall anywhere from Miami, Florida to North Carolina.

Yeah, right.

To quote the Weather Girls,  have I got news for you. Based on the rainfall of biblical proportions we’ve “enjoyed” here in the New York Metropolitan area, Irene is coming to New York. Why, you ask? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe she wants to see “Memphis” on Broadway.

No matter where Hurricane Irene makes landfall, if she does so as a Category 4 Hurricane, she’ll be packing winds ranging from 131 to 155 miles per hour. The potential for damage from a hurricane like this is extreme.

Gee, no kidding.

Folks, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to prepare.

Your home

In  my of recent video posts, I demonstrated, using a little paper house, several of the ways to move water away from your home. Take the time either today or tomorrow to perform the following checks:

  1. Make sure your gutters are absolutely clear of any and all debris. Anything in your gutter will serve to impede the flow of water toward the downspout. You can go to your local hardware store, Home Depot, Lowes and buy mesh-like covers and screens which attach to your gutters. These devices will allow water to flow through and leaves, branches, baseballs, and beer cans to fall off the roof.
  2. Check to make sure your gutters are firmly attached to the roof. And make sure those roof edges are sealed or else water could seep under the shingles and into the house.
  3. Make sure the downspouts are also clear. And install a mesh screen in open downspout openings.
  4. Add at least a 2-3 foot or even longer extension to the end of each downspout not routed directly into your main drain or drywell (And when’s the last time you had them checked or cleaned?). The further away from the building water is carried, the better.
  5. Check the landscaping around your home. Make sure the land, ground or cement which meets the walls of your home slopes away from the house, not towards it. It doesn’t make sense to do numbers 1-4, only to have the water pool around the foundation so it looks like you’re having folks over for a pool party.
  6. If you own the type of home which sits on a slab, and/or has a roof attached to the walls by clips, check to make sure these connections are tight and waterproof. Hurricane Andrew, the Irene of 1992, showed too many people their houses weren’t as well constructed as they thought.
  7. Sump pumps. Every home should have at least one sump pump.  Just one thing – test it/them to ensure operational integrity. In other words, make  sure it/they work.
  8. Inspect your roof and make temporary repairs to loose shingles, cracked tar paper and similar defects. Or, even better, secure a tarp to the roof.
  9. Hopefully, you’ve purchased flood insurance, and are past the normal 30-day waiting period. Should the flood waters rise, the land fall, or the mud slide, you’ll be glad you bought it.

You And Your Family

You and your family must have a family emergency plan. While you’ll find a more detailed list at www.Ready.gov (click on Get A Kit and Make A Plan), here are some basic ideas:

  1. Each family member should know exactly where everyone will reunite after a disaster.
  2. If you can’t use the first designated spot, make sure you have a backup site where you’ll meet.
  3. Know how to get out of your home and neighborhood. And practice using these escape routes.
  4. Have an out-of-state friend  or relative everyone can call to tell of their well-being and location.
  5. Purchase a water and fireproof security chest or safe and keep copies of your important documents there. When at all possible, keep originals in a safe deposit box.
  6. Make copies of the front and backs of all credit and debit cards, and drivers licenses.
  7. Have emergency cash, if the ATMs are not functioning.
  8. Make sure every family member has a Go Bag. Go to www.Ready.gov to see what should be in your bag.
  9. Prepare a stash of emergency supplies for your home. For example, non-perishable canned foods, one gallon of water for each person for each day for at least 4 days. Some other items are a first-aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries, whistles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and feminine hygiene products.

You’ll find videos on preparing for emergencies at https://insuremeeg.com/Emegency_Preparedness.html. Actively use this information and you and those you love will increase your chances of better surviving a local or national disaster.

And about the earthquake we had earlier, I apologize for making the earth move as I did. Carry on.