Blown Away by the Small Print: Tips on Florida Hurricane Insurance

Florida seems synonymous with hurricanes. In fact, 7 out of the 10 most costly hurricanes in the United States affected Florida. Within just over a decade (2004-2005), a whopping four hurricanes occurred: Charley, Frances, Ivan, Katrina (the most well known), Rita, and Wilma. While there’s been a lucky streak of no damaging hurricanes since Wilma, no one knows the future. And even though weather forecasters are generally correct, the key point is “generally”. As with any insurance, better to pay Florida hurricane insurance premiums and be covered, rather than be wiped out completely should your home be brought to the ground.

As a Floridian, you’re likely to be required to have some kind of hurricane insurance. But as always (and especially with insurance) – it’s buyer beware. Here are some tips for Florida hurricane insurance coverage.

#1. Hurricane insurance is not flood insurance. Hurricane insurance might only cover wind damage. You need separate flood insurance.

#2. Flood insurance also doesn’t cover all of the water-caused damage. Flood insurance does not cover flooding from within the home (that’s plumbing insurance). Neither does it cover landscaping, swimming pools, files, nor stowed money.

#3. You might be able to lower your hurricane insurance premiums with the following adjustments to your home:

a) Newer home construction. Depending on the insurance company, homes built after a certain year may have lower premiums.

b) Wind-resistant roofing

c) Secondary roof water protection: An extra layer between roof sheaths and shingles.

d) Storm shutters

e) Braces on garage doors

f) Certified roof tie-downs: Hurricane belts/clips/anchor belts

#4. The devil is in the details of lower premiums with a higher deductible. This is always a question with insurances. You forgo a larger payout if you choose lower premiums with a higher deductible, so weigh your options based on the value of your home and your routine budget.

Your home is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime, and that’s why the various types of home insurance are critical to preserving its value. Since the risk of hurricanes in higher in Florida than most other states, the decision about hurricane insurance is that much more important. Do your research, know what you’re covered for, and should you need to make a claim, contact LMR Public Adjusters in order to secure the best hurricane damage payout.

Why Do I Need Florida Smoke Insurance If I Already Have Fire Insurance?

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  
 

The problem with this adage is that it’s not always true, because when the fire’s out, the smoke still lingers.  Sometimes for hours.  Seeping into everything. Your carpets, your curtains, your wall cracks. Not to mention your lungs, and anyone else’s lungs who breathed it in.

But shouldn’t fire insurance cover the smoke damage? Not necessarily. It’s common for insurance companies to go by the letter in order to claim they owe nothing. The financial advisory site Financial Web, points out these two examples of fire insurance not covering smoke:

  1. Items heavily damaged by smoke are rendered unusable. The insurance company claims it is not liable to replace the items because they were not directly damaged by fire, but rather by the resultant smoke.
  2. Human respiratory issues, or even deaths, are due to smoke inhalation. Insurance companies often claim it was the smoke, not the fire itself, that caused the medical problems.

Due to this conundrum of definition-sensitive fine lines about what is “fire-caused” and what is “smoke-caused,” the best solution is to make sure to have your Florida home or workplace covered by both Florida fire insurance and Florida smoke insurance. This way, you can claim smoke damages separately should you need to.

What Causes Fires & Smoke?

While you’re making sure your insurance is enough to cover you,  in parallel, take precautions to prevent fires and smoke in your home or other building. Not only will you help save lives and property damage, you might get a discount on your insurance, to boot.

  1. Smoke detectors. Many fires could have been prevented with the sound of the smoke detector – unfortunately, many people don’t consider that this small purchase is a worthwhile safety investment. Each room in the home or other building should have a smoke detector, and there are several different types of installations from which to choose.
  2. Smoking. Best not to smoke inside the home and have ashtrays available to put out the fire at the end of a smoke.
  3. Electrical wiring. Old or otherwise faulty electrical connections often cause fires in homes across the United States.
  4. Cooking. This run of the mill, every day activity is associated with fires all the time. Learn how to be careful and keep a watchful eye on all dishes on the stove and in the oven.
  5. Space Heaters. Items accidentally fall on heaters, and within seconds a fire can ensue. Or heater vents are blocked, causing a fire. For safety’s sake, operate heaters only according to their instructions.

Fire and smoke damage are nothing pretty, but if they do happen to you, at least have the peace of mind to be covered well by insurance. Should you need to make a claim, LMR Adjusters will work to ensure you get the amount of coverage you deserve.

 

 

Quicksand Phobia? How to Deal with the Florida Sinkholes

Florida is replete with sinkholes.  Why? Because the entire state has an underlying layer of carbonate rock, which, when mixed with the acidity from rainwater, erodes quicker than many other ground substances. Therefore, in theory, the entire Florida region is at risk for sinkholes. However, certain regions have a considerably higher risk than others, particularly those with limestone bases. (You can assess your worry factor by checking out the Dept. of Geology’s 2014 Florida Sinkhole Map, here.)

Feeling a little anxious, now? On the one hand, no one wishes for sinkhole problems – they can be highly dangerous, even causing fatalities. In addition to possible danger, you need to be aware of the structural status of your property – after all, who should pay for the repairs? Specifically, if your home, office, or other property ends up with structural damage, you will need to find out whether the cause was a sinkhole in order to pursue insurance coverage.

Below are warning signs and instructions for sinkholes.

Sinkhole Warning Signs

The Southwest Florida Water Management District provides a guide to sinkhold warning signs, as follows:

  • Structural cracks – wall cracks, floor cracks, and pavement cracks.
  • Ground surface cracks.

  • Fence posts, home foundations, or trees start to look brightly new at the bottom, just above ground.
  • Trees, fence posts, yard sundials, garden sculptures, or other objects embedded in the ground start to slump, sag, or slant.

  • Windows or doors need adjusting in order to close properly.

  • Ponds start to form where they had not been before. Called ponding, you’ll start to see small ponds of collected rainfall.

  • Circular areas of vegetation start to wilt, whereas before it would grow fine.

  • Well water starts to look murky or grey.

What to Do?

If you see any of these warning signs, rope off the area, and call your insurance adjuster immediately. If the warning signs are inside the home, you may need to evacuate. Here are an additional two key instructions from the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection:

1. If the hole is directly impacting a house, and sinking, sagging, or cracking walls are apparent, stay out of the dwelling.

2. Report the incident to the appropriate Subsidence Incident Report Form and submitted to the Florida Geological Survey. 

Many Florida sinkholes are not dangerous – they are just part of the natural landscape, and can be filled with clayey sand in order to impede further water movement in the area. But it’s hard to distinguish, so it’s best to leave the area alone until you get an expert opinion. Call LMR Public Adjusters to assess your particular situation – better safe than sorry.

Controlling Mold, Wonderful Mold: Solving It At the Source

You know it when you see it: That smattering of spotty, amorphous-shaped grey-black growths slowly but surely creeping up, down and around your wall, often behind shelving or in the corners.  Mold. It’s not only ugly, it is associated with illnesses such as acute asthma, allergic reactions, and even chronic respiratory ailments. How can you know where the mold is coming from, and then, how can you get rid of it and prevent it?

For getting rid of, and preventing mold, below is a summary of tips from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as what to do before you get rid of it.

Determining the Source of Mold for Insurance Purposes

Before we begin with tips on controlling mold, we want you to make sure you are prepared with the right information in case the mold damage can be claimed by your or your neighbor’s insurance company. In order to claim insurance for mold damage, you will need to identify its source. To do so, you need to assess where the moisture is stemming from that is causing the mold. We recommend you call in an expert to do so, and it’s best if they provide written documentation detailing their opinion about the mold’s source. After you acquire an expert opinion, take photos of the mold for evidence sake – only after you take photos should you proceed to get rid of the mold.

Controlling Mold

The below is a summary of the EPA’s tips on removing, and preventing mold.

  1. Try not to breathe it in. Ventilate the room you are cleaning by opening doors and windows. Wear gloves and goggles. For those particularly sensitive, strongly consider an N-95 respirator – they’re available online or in hardware stores for around $12-25.

  2. Fix leaks immediately. Whether plumbing or rainwater leaks, fix it now.
  1. Use detergent and water to scrub mold off hard surfaces.
  1. Replace tiles, panels, and carpeting which have become moldy.
  1. For all of the above, it is crucial to dry the surfaces completely.
  1. Do not repaint or re-caulk surfaces until they are completely dry after mold cleanup.

Preventing Mold

Here are the EPA’s tips for preventing mold.

  • Clean and/or repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Restructure homes where the ground or roofs are allowing water to collect and slope inward. All water flow should be sloping outward.
  • Make sure A/C drip pans and drain lines are clean to allow for proper airflow.
  • Keep indoors at 30- 50% relative humidity.
  • Have an outside vent for all appliances that produce moisture: Dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters.
  • Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers if condensation persists.
  • When showering or running a warm bath, make sure the bathroom fan is running and/or a window is open.
  • When cooking or running a dishwasher: Run exhaust fans and/or open windows.
  • Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical. Use fans as needed.
  • Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.
  • Increase air temperature in order to stop condensation from forming. Run a heater in a colder room that is susceptible to condensation.

Mold is common, but needs immediate care. If you encounter a problem, gather evidence about the mold’s cause and then swiftly rid yourself of the mold. In the meantime, take steps to prevent future mold, and hopefully you will reduce, if not completely remove, mold in the future.

Florida Home Decor: White Is In – With a Caveat

Just purchased a Florida home and want to design it well? Or perhaps you’ve lived in your Florida home for a while, and are looking for a change in design to spice things up. Home decorating, like clothing fashions, has trends. Of late, a survey of Florida home decoration suggestions yields one sweeping truth: White is in. Just be sure to splash it up with color.

When we think of Florida, we think sun. We think sand and sea. We think vegetation, and we think light blue skies.  All in all, a smattering of brights, pastels, and deeps can serve you well in your Florida home, and lately the recommendation is to place the color all against a background of the open, airy feel of white.

Here’s how to combine a white base with the life of color in your Florida home decor.

  1. An oft-repeated suggestion is to choose one wall in a room and paint it a single color. This “wall of difference” offsets the other white walls, and even gives the illusion of depth to the room, making it feel larger than it is. Deep or pastel greens are particularly popular these days. Depending on your furniture and/or accessory colors, you will choose a color to suit your tastes best.

  2. Choose one piece of furniture in the room that you want as a focus for all who enter. It could be your 3-seater sofa, your dining room chairs, or a display shelf.  The furniture’s colors should stand out in a way which draw attention warmly and pleasantly, as if the viewer smiles inside just by looking at these focused pieces. For example, to accentuate a display shelf, place it against the wall that you painted a single shade of blue, and paint the display shelf a pastel yellow. Then, border it with a wooden design in white in order to pick up the surrounding white walls.
     
  3. It’s all in the throw-pillows, throw-blankets, and throw-rugs. A quick trip to Costco, Target, or Pier 1 Imports, and you’re set to accessorize any inside room or even covered deck.  The accessory colors can pick up on the single-colored wall as well as the accentuated furniture.

Whichever colors, furniture, and accessories you choose, the idea is to really make it your own. Don’t just decorate because the neighbors are, or because you’re bored, or because you feel like you need to impress company. Decorate to make yourself fall more in love with your home. This feeling will exude to all of your home’s residents and visitors alike, and will provide you the feeling of hominess you so deserve.