Windstorm Crisis Worsens

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Long-time Miami Beach resident Lidia Schwartzbaum says she’s  hearing about more and more of her neighbors having to move out of their homes and explains ” They are going to sell the house and they are moving out because of the insurance, they cannot afford it.”

So how bad was Lidias’ latest insurance bill? She says when she got it a few months ago, she thought it was a bad joke.

She couldn’t believe the new bill and read it out loud, “$9,979 that’s what it says here”

Lidia thought the $4,425 she paid last year for homeowners’ insurance was bad enough.

But it turns out this years’ bill from the states’ Citizen’s Insurance Program was more than double!

The long time Miami Beach resident says the rate hike made her laugh, explaining “126% more! I laughed I looked at it and said this is it. I am not going with insurance anymore. And the deductibles were raised also.I have more deductible than I had before”

Since Lidia’s mortgage is paid off, she’s not required by her bank to carry any homeowners’ insurance. So she’s dropping it.

But what can most other insurance customers do to afford their growing bills or keep their same coverage and deductibles?

Miami insurance agent Dulce Suarez Resnick says homeowners face very tough choices.

She says “Those customers are going to have to decide which coverages to keep and which coverages they have to keep, which coverages they want and what do they have to have in order to keep the premiums about the same because the rates have gone up.They’re going to have to increase deductibles. They’re going to have to eliminate coverages that may be considered a frill. They’re going to have to go bare bones in order to stay about the same as last year.”

And what if you have to slash your insurance bills as deeply as possible?

She says there’s no easy answers. ” It’s going to mean really making some choices like do I keep a homeowners policy or do i try to find an alternative type of policy such as a dwelling-fire policy. It gives you the bare minimum coverage under a homeowners policy but keep in mind..that replacement cost is not included, theft is not included depending on the carrier.

And if you have a mortgage, you’re probably required to have a seperate flood insurance policy too. Don’t forget, there’s a mandatory waiting period before coverage kicks in.

Dulce says “There’s a 30 day wait on flood insurance, so if you don’t have flood insurance in place now, now’s the time to do so for hurricane season because you will wait 30 days, you will apply today, you will pay today but coverage will not be effective for 30 days.”

2012 has already seen insured losses totaling $2 billion dollars because of all the tornados and disaster claims in other parts of the country.

Those losses have hit the insurance industry hard.

Insiders say re-insurance costs for the Industry are skyrocketing too and that’s why our rates are rising.

Resnick says as soon as a storm threatens South Florida, the problems get even worse for homeowners because “There will not be anything cheaper if we have an active year. The minute the first storm is shown on television, where you see the cone coming to florida…you wil see companys start to shut down..zip codes, by counties and say we are no longer writing for the rest of the season until further notice. this happens every year.

And that’s the last thing consumers like Lidia Schwartzbaum want to hear “It’s an abuse of the consumer..that’s it..it’s an abuse..tremendous abuse.”

The Insurance Industry has these tips for Homeowners facing getting ready for Hurricane Season and making sure their coverage is the best they can afford:

From the Property Casulty Insurers Association of America:

may 21, 2012

PCI provides steps to take before and after hurricanes

Chicago–With hurricane season officially beginning june 1st, the property casualty insurers association of america (pci) is offering home and business owners an important and useful list of steps to take immediately prior to and following a hurricane.

PCI wants to help residents in hurricane-prone states make preparations for the threat of devastating storms. it is easy to underestimate the risk we face, but the national oceanic and atmospheric administration (noaa) is predicting a very active storm season with three to seven major hurricanes, and we recommend that homeowners, businesses and public policymakers take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone is prepared. the following tips and brochures will help consumers reduce exposure to losses and make certain that they have adequate insurance coverage to recover from the economic damage after a catastrophic event.

1. review your property insurance policy, especially the declarations page, which summarizes the coverage you have purchased.

2. talk with your agent/insurer to make sure you have the right policies with adequate limits. your agent or insurance company can assist you in determining the type of policies you should have and the correct limits of coverage.

3. get flood insurance. inland flooding can occur as far as 500 miles from the site of a hurricane. flooding is not covered in standard homeowners insurance policies. however, it may be purchased through insurance agents from the national flood insurance program (nfip), which is administered by the federal emergency management administration.

4. make sure you know the amount of your deductible. the deductible is the amount of loss that the homeowner must pay. it may be based on the value of your home or a fixed dollar amount.

5. purchase insurance well in advance of a storm. most insurers will not offer insurance after a hurricane watch or warning has been issued. the nfip also has a 30-day waiting period before the policy is effective.

6. inventory household items now to speed up claims processing after the storm.

7. store important documents where they will stay safe and dry.

8. develop an emergency plan before the emergency. determine escape routes, establish a meeting place, stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a disaster supply kit with enough food and water for three to seven days. when severe weather is approaching your area, listen carefully to local authorities and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

9. perform routine home maintenance now to avoid major repairs later. mitigation is a critical component in reducing the amount of damage that may occur when a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall.

10. don’t make your house a target for debris. protect your property by covering all windows with plywood or shutters, moving vehicles into the garage when possible and placing grills and patio furniture indoors.

pci’s “six steps to storm safety” series the first brochure, “the seven ways to safety,” discusses the seven most important features that home and business owners should inspect to ensure that their structures are wind-resistant. these include: roof-deck attachment, secondary water barrier, roof covering, gable end bracing, foundation-wall-roof connections, opening protection and garage doors. this first brochure can be found on the web at: www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/431/$file/7_ways.pdf                 <http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/431/$file/7_ways.pdf>                .

the second brochure, “a do-it-yourself wind inspection,” provides detailed information on the three key steps involved: inspecting roof shape, inspecting roofing, and inspecting windows, doors and garage doors. it can be found online at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/438/$file/diy_042612.pdf.

the third brochure, “three ways in three days,” provides three simple and effective storm-proofing techniques that can easily be done in a weekend. they include: picking up items that could become wind-borne debris, trimming trees and using a caulking gun to adhere trusses to roof decking. it can be found online at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/438/$file/3_ways_050312.pdf.

the fourth brochure, “insurance coverage,” defines key terms such as deductibles, actual cash value, replacement cost coverage, functional replacement cost and also reiterates that flood damages are not covered under standard homeowners policies. it can be found online at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/431/$file/insurance_coverage.pdf.

the fifth brochure, “blowing away the myths,” addresses four common myths about what individuals should do immediately prior to or during a storm. it can be found online at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/431/$file/myths.pdf.

the sixth and final brochure, “steps before and after a storm,” provides very practical steps to help individuals stay safe and quickly return to daily life after a catastrophic event.  it can be found online at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/431/$file/before_and_after.pdf.

please also visit the pci hurricane headquarters, which can be found at: http://www.pciaa.net/web/sitehome.nsf/lcpublic/438?opendocument.

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