Homeowners ask: "Where is the Money?"by Gerri Willis
New Jersey officials today are applauding the fact that 95% of insurance claims in the wake of superstorm Sandy have been settled. What they aren’t telling you is that one in four of those claims resulted in no settlement. According to a study of claim filings by the New Jersey Star-Ledger, 100,000 claims for settlement (of private policies) got no money at all. What’s more, attorneys representing Sandy victims say some insurers are overestimating the amount of flood damage and underestimating the amount of wind damage. As you probably know, the government pays out flood claims from its National Flood Insurance Program, while private insurers cover wind damage.
And, according to those in the industry, all of that may bode ill for victims of the mega tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, eight days ago. They say that the industry has been limiting its exposure to storms based on the ground – tornadoes and intense thunderstorms – after damage from those storms hit a new high in 2011 of $25 billion.
For some time, now, insurers have been instituting higher deductibles on homeowner policies. Forget the $250 or $500 dollar deductible. These days you are likely to face a deductible that is one to five percent of the insured value of your home. In addition, insurers are doling out lower reimbursements for roof damage, saying that roofs lose value over time. Also expected is a limit on total reimbursements for people whose homes were demolished in the storm. Caps on the amount of money provided for rebuilding may well be put in place in cases where costs are higher than the property’s insured value.
Both Sandy and the Moore tragedy should be a call to action for homeowners. That’s because most of us are woefully underinsured. You may think you are safe because housing prices have come down in the last few years but what you need to consider is replacement value not market value. Replacement value is what it would cost in terms of labor and materials to actually rebuild your home – and that can be more than the market value. More than half of the nation’s 80 million homes are underinsured. To find out if your home is one of them, check out accucoverage.com, or consult an reliable agent to help you determine an appropriate level of coverage.