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Insurance Questions and Answers- Frequently asked Insurance Questions

FAQ

Over the year we’ve been asked  a lot of questions. Below we try to answer some of those questions that seem to be on everyone’s mind.

What is an independent agent?

Independent agents do not work for one specific insurance company like Allstate or State Farm, but typically represent a number of insurance companies, or carriers, thus giving them more opportunity to find the appropriate insurance product at a competitive price.  Independent agents should be well trained and knowledgeable of the complexities of the insurance market.  Independent agents often work with insurance brokers or intermediaries, which obtain quotes from multiple insurance providers, and deliver them to the agent. Click here to view a video about this topic.

What is an insurance deductible?

A deductible is the amount of expense that must be paid by the insured before an insurance company will pay any expense.  Depending on the policy, the deductible may apply per covered incident, or per year.  This amount can further be expressed as a fixed dollar amount, or as a percentage of the coverage available.  Be sure and compare deductibles when shopping for insurance.

What is the definition of a flood? Can I get Flood Insurance?

The partial FEMA definition is:

  • A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area, or of two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder’s property) from the Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or Mudflow
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above

Yes. Everyone can purchase flood insurance. Some areas with more risk designated A or V zones typically pay a higher premium.

Why does my lender require Homeowners Insurance?

When mortgage companies agree to lend money, they want to be sure their investment is protected.  Most home mortgage companies in our area require replacement cost policies and a maximum All other Peril Deductible of $5,000 and Wind Deductible of 5%.

What is a Surplus Lines Carrier?

Surplus lines insurance carries are regulated in the state or country where they are domiciled or located, but they are not regulated under the same set of regulations as licensed or admitted insurers.  They are generally free from the rate regulations imposed on licensed insurers, thus giving them the freedom to maintain broader internal guidelines for accepting risks.  They have more flexibility to design and price their policies as they see fit, thus allowing them to accept risks that are often declined by licensed or admitted carriers.

What is a COBRA ZONE/ CBRA ZONE / OPA ZONE/ Coastal Barrier Resources Act?

“The Coastal Barrier Resources Act” (CBRA) of 1982 and later amendments, removed the Federal government from financial involvement associated with building and development in undeveloped portions of designated coastal barriers (including the Gulf Coast).  These areas were mapped and designated as Coastal Barrier Resources System units or “otherwise” protected areas.  They are colloquially called COBRA zones.  CBRA banned the sale of NFIP flood insurance for structures built or substantially improved on or after a specified date.  For the initial COBRA designation, this date is October 1, 1983.  For all subsequent designations, this date is the date the COBRA zone was identified.  COBRA zones and their identification dates are shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).

Properties located within these designations can only obtain flood coverage though carriers in the private market, thus the cost of these policies is often quite expensive compared to coverage offered through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).

What is Replacement Cost? How is it different from Actual Cash value?

A replacement cost policy ensures that your loss settlement is based on the dollar amount to repair or replace the damaged property at current market prices.  An actual cash value policy reimburses you for the property’s depreciated value.

For example, your 10-year-old roof is completely destroyed and you find that it is a covered claim that will cost $15,000 to replace.  A replacement cost policy pays you the $15,000.  An ACV policy will depreciate your roof at 5% per year for its 10 years of existence and only pay you 50% of the cost to replace, or $7,500.

We have produced a brief, yet informative video to explain the difference:

What can I do to reduce my Homeowners Insurance premium?

Below is a list of some actions that you can take to lower your Homeowner’s premium depending on the carrier:

  1. Reduce your coverage amounts
  2. Increase your deductibles
  3. Update/replace your roof, wiring, plumbing, or HVAC
  4. Install engineered storm shutters
  5. Install a monitored fire and burglar alarm
  6. Install an architectural shingle or metal roof  
  7. Build or retrofit to Bronze, Silver, or Gold Fortification

Take a moment to watch this brief, yet informative, video sharing 7 factors that can affect your homeowners insurance premium:

Why can’t I insure my home for less than the replacement cost?

Lenders require that you insure to full replacement value as they want to be sure that their investment (in the form of a loan to you) is fully protected.  If you are obtaining a Replacement Cost policy, the carrier is going to require full replacement value because their rates are actuarially based on receiving premium for the full replacement value.

If you are obtaining an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy, you can insure for the depreciated value of the home.  This is not recommended as there are often large coverage gaps in ACV policies, and they are not often deemed acceptable by a lender.

How do I document my assets before a loss?

There are several ways to document your assets and possessions prior to a loss:

  1. Make a list
  2. Make a video of your house, assets, and all your belongings
  3. Take still pictures of your entire house including your belongings and any other assets

Be sure to store these lists, videos, or pictures in a safe location and off-site so that they are not destroyed in the event of a loss.

What is a minimum earned premium?

A minimum earned premium is the amount of premium that a carrier will retain in the event of an early cancellation. Minimum earned premiums are often expressed as a percentage of premium.  Please also note that any fees charged are often non-refundable in the event of an early cancellation. 

Is my home in a flood zone?

Yes!  Every property in the US is in a flood zone.  Some flood zones are considered Hazardous (AE & VE), while other zones are not considered hazardous (X).  Please note that all zones, whether deemed hazardous or not, are susceptible to flooding.

What is the Alabama State Guaranty Fund? What does it offer?

The Alabama State Guaranty Fund is a fund designed to help pays claims up to $150,000 in the event a standard lines carrier insuring in the state of Alabama becomes insolvent.  All standard lines carriers writing business in Alabama must contribute monies to the fund in proportion to their market share.  Surplus lines carriers do not have to contribute to the State Guaranty Fund and do not get to participate in the protection it provides.

What is a Condo Association?

The Condo Association consists of the owners, and a board chosen to represent the owners. This board typically includes a President, Vice President, Secretary and a Treasurer. Protecting the best interest of the owner and the complex is the sole purpose of the association. Decisions that the association make determines how the money collected from condo fees will be dispersed. Before you, as the potential buyer, make a final decision, it would be a good idea to review the financial records of the association and whether or not they have adequate insurance coverage.

Can I get discounts for my homeowner’s insurance?

Yes. Many of our companies offer discounts for the following;

  • New roof discounts because research shows new roofs typically perform better when the wind blows.
  • Metal roof discounts- metal roofs are typically rated to withstand higher wind speeds than shingle roofs.
  • Storm Shutters discounts- as they protect windows and other openings from airborne debris.
  • New construction discounts- homes built to the latest code typically are built to a more robust standard.
  • Monitored fire and burglar alarm credits- increase response time and mitigate loss potential.
  • Roof Geometry credits-  the shape of the roof impacts wind uplift and a steep pitch (26.5 degrees)  hip roof typically performs the best.
  • Fortified Bronze, Fortified Silver, Fortified Gold  all can reduce premiums. Fortified Gold discounts can be as much as 50%.
  • Military, First Responders, and Teachers all deserve more thanks than we can offer, but 5% off their insurance premiums is an easy way for us to say thank you

What geographical areas do you insure in?

We currently service the entire Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast including Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, Daphne, Fairhope, Spanish Fort, Mobile, Biloxi,Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis. However we have aspirations to bring our helpful service to Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina.

We hope these insurance questions and answers have been helpful. If you have a questions you want answered click here and we will respond within twenty four hours.

Hurricane Disaster Tips

The following information was provided courtesy of FEMA.  For more information, visit their website http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.