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 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.

Renters Are Property Owners Too | E. Greaves Jr.

“Suddenly, reality sets in and they realize they could actually need to insure their belongings for at least $40,000 to $50,000. And what would it cost them for this coverage? In most cases, especially should you maintain a great credit score, usually no more than one (1) or (2) dollars a day.”

While The Renter Slept…

A Monday morning about three (3) years ago came with a huge surprise.

A slightly frantic business associate called first thing that morning. During the weekend, while taking a middle-of-the-day nap in her home, she awoke to find herself face-to-face with a burglar. Thankfully he didn’t harm her physically, but he stole her laptop. It took a while before she felt comfortable and safe in her own home again.

The first and most painful question she asked me was, “Eustace, Does my landlord’s insurance cover this loss?” Sadly I had to tell her, “No, your landlord’s insurance literally stops at your door.  If you don’t own a Renters Insurance policy, you have no coverage.”

Then she asked if this was the coverage I tried to convince her to purchase when she first moved into her apartment. Again, sadly, I told her yes. But the upcoming vacation was more important than paying for Renters Insurance.

To her credit, she didn’t say, “That’s not fair.” She simply accepted she lacked coverage. We spoke for a while and then ended the call.

I Don’t Like Those Calls

Losses to the property of renters many times each day and, based on current economic conditions, will continue to increase. The losses are caused by burglaries, robberies, fires, building collapses and lawsuits. All renters must understand this fact: Your landlord’s policy protects them should they lose their property to fire theft and negligence. Why don’t you do the same for your property and way of life? If you don’t own Renters Insurance, you stand to suffer disruptions to your daily life without the benefit of receiving the money you’ll need to rebuild your life.

Usually, when I speak to clients about their Renters Insurance needs, they think they only need about $10,000.00 of coverage. So I play a game of I created called “How much Renters Insurance Will I Really Need To Replace Everything I Own?” with them.

I take out a piece of paper, and ask them, for example:

  • How much did the fur coat cost?
  • What about the new Nikon or Canon camera with all the gadgets?
  • What about your laptop, big screen TV, and home theatre and stereo systems?
  • What kind of clothes do you have in your wardrobe and what is the value of all of your clothing, down to the last sock?
  • Do you sleep on bed sheets? If so, what would you need to replace every sheet, pillowcase, bath towel, face cloth?
  • What about the china, silverware, flatware, and regular dishes.
  • How much did you spend on the furniture in your home?
  • How much did you spend on your laptop? (My friend lost a top-of-the-line MacIntosh.)
  • How much jewelry do you own?

Special Questions For The Ladies And The Men

Ladies must answer questions about the value of their shoes and handbags. And don’t worry, men have their own special questions about the value of all the replica football, basketball and baseball jerseys in the closet, in their dresser drawers, on the chair, and under the bed. And their baseball caps. And the expensive sneakers. And no, I don’t believe sneakers should be addressed with proper names until they can have their lifts replaced like Loubitinis (Yes, I know that isn’t how you spell it!).

Guess what? I didn’t even mention your possible need for off-premises theft. You know, for when someone snatches the valuable electronics out of your hands on the street, or when you “just take a minute” to get another latte at the coffee shop and return to your table to find your laptop, phone and wallet stolen.

The Game Is Really Easy To Master

Suddenly, reality sets in and they realize they could actually need to insure their belongings for at least $40,000 to $50,000. And what would it cost them for this coverage?  In most cases, especially should you maintain a great credit score, usually no more than one (1) or (2) dollars a day.

Just $365.00 to $730.00 each year.  And some people, like college students on a budget, even less. Think the cost is too high? Well, how much do you spend everyday on coffee you could make at home? Could you eat out at least one or two less meals each week?

Some Tips On Securing Your Home and Your Possessions:

  • Do a complete, ‘Down to the last sock,’ inventory of all of your personal belongings. If you don’t have Renters Insurance and try claim your losses on your income tax return, the IRS will need you to provide proof of ownership.
  • Go to your local police precinct and see what anti-crime products are available to you. The best part is, they tend to be free. You need simply ask.
  • Make sure that all of your electronic devices, be they I-Touches, smart phones, or laptops, have strong passwords.
  • Buy “Lojack for Laptops” and install it on your laptop. It only costs about $29.99.
  • Purchase and use a security cabling system for your desk computer at home and laptop computers, whether at home, on campus, or at the local library.
  • In case of loss to your computers, keep up-to-date backups in a secure location.
  • Secure your home against illegal entry using Fire Department approved window gates.
  • If you can, install a fire and burglar alarm system.
  • Keep windows and doors when you are away, and secured when you are at home.
  • It’s nice to be neighborly, but don’t feel obligated to invite the neighbors in for a party. Some of them may want to continue the party while you are at work.
  • On occasion, vary the times you leave for work and come home.
  • Don’t put your vacation plans on Facebook or any of the other social media. Thieves love to troll these sites to see just who is dumb enough to tell them when they can come and steal.
  • Finally, buy Renters Insurance. Lots of it.

For guidance in setting up a personal home inventory, feel free send me an email at Eustace@insuremeeg.com,  or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with 86¢ postage addressed to my office, The Bridge Insurance Agency, 651 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11238, for a copy of Travelers Personal Inventory brochure. You can even stop by the office and ask for a copy of the brochure.

While it was too late for my friend to benefit from owning this coverage, your luck may have held out until now. Call me at 718-783-2722 and I’ll be glad to give you a Renters Insurance quote designed to fit your needs, and your budget.

Eustace L. Greaves Jr., is a business owner providing his clients with insurance and income tax strategies strategies and solutions. To reach Eustace by telephone, just dial 718-783-2722. Or, you can send an email to him at Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

Covered For Plane Crashes? |E. L. Greaves Jr.

When I realized I was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Worrywarts, I asked them if a plane crashed into their home. They confirmed their lovely home was still in one piece, and I calmed them down. When I asked them why in the world they were worrying now, after living in their home for several years, about plane crashes, they told me about the tragic accident in Indiana.

Is Your Home Covered For Plane Crashes?

A private plane crashed into a residential neighborhood in South Bend, Indiana on Sunday, March 17, 2013. The plane which appeared to suffer mechanical malfunction clipped two (2) houses before crashing into a third home.  At last report no deaths were attributed to this disaster.

I learned of this disaster yesterday evening when a client, whose home lies in one of the flight and landing paths for JFK airport called.

Meet The Worrywarts

“Greaves! Am I covered if a plane crashes into my house? Am I covered, or what?”

My immediate response was, “Huh? What happened? Who calling, please?”

So he, calling to his wife yells out, “Honey, Greaves say we don’t have coverage if a plane crash into the house.”

“What?! Oh Lord, what we going to do then?”

When I realized I was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Worrywarts, I asked them if a plane crashed into their home. They confirmed their lovely home was still in one piece, and I calmed them down. When I asked them why in the world they were worrying now, after living in their home for several years, about plane crashes, they told me about the tragic accident in Indiana.

You should have heard their joint sighs of relief when I told them “Yes, your home is covered,” should an airplane crash into their home. Of course they asked me if I was sure about that. So I asked them to take out their homeowners insurance policy and turn, in this case, to pages five (5) and six (6) for a list of Specific Perils covered by their Homeowners 3 -Special Form policy. And yes, they keep it handy in their waterproof, fireproof, everything proof portable safety box.

Covered Peril number five (5) of fourteen (14) concerns “Aircraft, including self-propelled missiles and spacecraft.” So if little Rupert next door, who fancies himself a future rocket scientist, fires a model rocket through your window, and the subsequent fire burns your home, rental, coop or condo to the ground, you’re covered.

They were happy to hear that. Turns out they do have a little rocket scientist living next door. Kid’s name is Philbert.

Now I’m the one who’s worried.

 

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!

 

Your Duties After A Loss | Brooklyn Covered

If your policy includes coverage for additional living expenses (and if it doesn’t, go out today and buy a policy with this important coverage), you must again keep accurate records of your expenses for housing, food, and transportation.

Whether you rent or own your home, your insurance policy, in the Conditions section, lists your duties after a loss. Should you fail to comply with the duties which follow, your insurance company could deny you coverage.

  1. You must immediately notify your Broker, Agent, or your insurance company’s claims department of how, when and where the loss happened. Make sure to include the names, addresses and contact information of any witnesses and other injured parties.
  2. Notify the local authorities.
  3. You must protect the property from further loss or damage. This is where many people endanger their full indemnification after a covered loss. For example, if your roof has suffered damage, take as many photos as possible. Then, make reasonable and necessary repairs to prevent further damage. When this is done, take more pictures.
  4. Keep an accurate record of the expenses you incur to protect the property from further damage.
  5. If your home suffered water damage when the roof was compromised, make an inventory of the damaged property before you toss things out on the sidewalk, for example. Your inventory should include describe each item, and it’s cost. Again, take as many pictures as possible to prove your loss. Original receipts, and/or instruction manuals, are a terrific source of proof of ownership. I always tell my clients to prepare a complete Personal Home Inventory using a Travelers Insurance brochure as a guide. Your work at preparing a claim will go a lot faster and easier when you already have a prepared inventory.
  6. If your policy includes coverage for additional living expenses (and if it doesn’t, go out today and buy a policy with this important coverage), you must again keep accurate records of your expenses for housing, food, and transportation.
  7. Remember, you will be required to sign a sworn statement about all the damages and costs you’ve incurred. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to inflate your loss and expense amounts. These are acts of fraud, and your company could refuse to provide coverage for any insured engaged in these acts.

Suffering a loss is tough, but you can make your recovery easier by following these tips.

Eustace L. Greaves Jr., LUTCF is a New York State licensed independent insurance agent and broker. To get a copy of the Personal Home Inventory Brochure, send Eustace an email to eustace@insuremeeg.com. Or, stop by his office at 651 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11238, for a hard copy. Just give him a call at 718-783-2722 so he can tidy up the office before you stop by

Coastal Homeowners Insurance, Part 2.9 | Brooklyn Covered

While these and many of the usual features are important, they now take a back seat to a new and sobering reality; the ability to purchase affordable and good insurance coverage is first based on a property’s proximity to an insurance company’s recognized coastline.

Finding Coastal Homeowners Insurance Is The New Normal

When it comes to purchasing affordable and comprehensive coastal homeowners insurance, your home’s proximity to the coastline is the most important location characteristic.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with prominent Brooklyn real estate broker Anne-Marie Stanislaus. Anne-Marie, who can be reached at 917-887-7468, holds national certification as a Certified Distressed Property Expert. We spoke about which factors, or characteristics make a home more desirable.  According to Anne-Marie, a property’s location to certain amenities can sometimes be what makes or breaks the sale.  Anne-Marie listed several characteristics of  good property location:

  1. Transportation: In New York City, being near a dependable subway line, especially one with express service into Manhattan, and to Brooklyn’s Downtown Business Hub is a no-brainer. Unlike those commuters in say, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, or from points of origin in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you eliminate the absolute need for a “station car” just to get to the first leg of your transportation day. When you throw in  an express station, and good surface bus service, you’ve got the makings of a winning property.
  2. Shopping:  Proximity to good supermarkets and farmers markets is desirable. This can also eliminate or reduce the need to use a car for food shopping. Add a mall or shopping center where you can get everything for your home, your clothes dry-cleaned, your shoes repaired, and your prescriptions filled,  and the property often becomes even more desirable.
  3. Some home buyers opt for the solitude or isolation of a more remote destination. They may own a home-based business requiring only a few trips into the city for client meetings each month.
  4. Good schools: This ranks high on the list of many young couples. Access to  excellent local public schools permits families to save more for their children’s college educations.

The New Normal

While these and other features are important, they now take a back seat to a new and sobering reality; the ability to purchase affordable and good insurance coverage is based on a property’s distance from the coastline.

You always wanted to buy a home with ocean, lake,  or river views. Ah, you thought, the peace of mind and serenity such views and lifestyle would afford me. Until you live and suffer through natural events like Hurricanes Irene and Sandra and Tropical Storm Lee. Then living near a surging ocean, or overflowing lake, or raging river won’t seem so peaceful.

Many homeowners insurance carriers now understand the risk of insuring coastal properties.  Agents and brokers for these companies will no longer bind homeowners or dwelling insurance coverage for properties within one mile of the coast.  (The coastal rules for condo, coops, and rental units are usually less onerous; ask your broker for their companies rules for these properties).

As an independent agent and broker, that requirement doesn’t pose any real problem for me.  I am able to  place my coastal homeowners insurance business with several good companies who are comfortable with this type of risk. One caveat: you will pay, on average, anywhere from one-half to two times as much for a coastal homeowners insurance policy as you would for the exact home more than a mile away from the coast.

Remember, in insurance, it’s all about the amount and type of risk a company will accept. So, should you present a greater risk, you will pay more for coverage. This is just a new reality many homeowners and home buyers must accept for homes in certain locations.

Companies’ Right To Decide

Every insurance company has the right, , with state approval, to decide where it will and will not offer coverage.

When an insurance company changes its underwriting policies for coastal properties, and then non-renews customers with homes are now in the exclusion zone, those former clients may face difficulty securing new coverage. (See my upcoming blog post about the ” Rule of 60/3 and 2/5″). The same customers who placed their auto, and in some cases, life insurance with a company they thought would be their insurer for a lifetime.

I think it’s wrong to simply dump loyal customers. My suggestion? Let those who are now insured with your company keep their coverage, so long as they pay their premiums and have a good claim history. Adjust premiums and require larger hurricane deductibles to account for the increased risk. If a client chooses to not agree to these changes, they can search for new coverage. Otherwise, replacing homeowners insurance policies in the coastal regions of Brooklyn and the rest of this region will be absolutely devastating for many homeowners. Personally, I don’t mind driving a few miles to reach the  beach. During the last decade, while watching ocean levels rise, and protective wetlands disappear, I tried to warn against the folly of  building and buying coastal properties. To me, it was always a game where Mother Nature ultimately wins.  Some homeowners will always choose a seaside, lakeside, or riverside home. They will, however, pay higher homeowners insurance premiums for their choice. 

For insurance purposes, your first location characteristic question should be  “Is this house at least one to one and one-half miles from the coastline?” Also, make sure to ask the agent or broker who’ll be insuring your home whether the homeowners  insurance company providing coverage will honor renewals should their coastal underwriting rules change.

If you now own a home within more than one and less than two miles from the coastline, you are entitled an answer to the latter question. If the answer is either an emphatic “No”,  or a weak “Yes, I think so”, now’s the time to start searching for a new homeowners insurance company. Otherwise, you may face the task of  buying a new coastal homeowners insurance policy sooner than you realized.

Then, as I mentioned to Anne-Marie Stanislaus, you can worry about schools, transportation, shopping and the like.

Location, location, location, indeed.